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Weekly News Roundup: Shifty GOP Tactics Evoke National Reaction

Speakers line up to speak at a rally on Thursday decrying the NCGOP’s veto override vote. (Photo by John Autry)

House Democrats React to Unannounced GOP Vote on Veto Override

The North Carolina Republican Party is back on its bullshit, landing the state legislature (NCGA) in the national news for all the wrong reasons yet again on Wednesday. Early that morning, Republican legislators held a vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the Republican-backed state budget while many Democrats were absent, some of whom were attending 9/11 memorials on the anniversary of the infamous terror attacks. 

When Rep. Deb Butler (D) of Wilmington realized that the Republicans planned to vote on the veto override despite GOP leaders reportedly telling Democrats and journalists there would be no votes on Wednesday, she stood and yelled at House Speaker Tim Moore (R) in protest. Her repeated exclamations of “I will not yield” became a hashtag throughout the week and landed her on national news shows. 

When Moore threatened to have Butler removed from the floor, her fellow Democrats literally rallied around her, preventing police from arresting her, as shown in a video tweeted by N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson (D). 


Democrats have repeatedly stated that Republicans assured them there would be no votes on Wednesday morning. Moore has said there was no such promises made. According to Republican legislators who spoke with the Raleigh-based News & Observer, the GOP’s second-in-command Rep. John Hardister (R) texted 10 GOP legislators on Tuesday telling them to be in their seats by 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Republicans have said the texts were sent in case the Democrats tried to sneak something through regarding the ongoing issue of redrawing district maps (more on that below).

Republicans outnumber Democrats 65 to 55 in the North Carolina House. Since Democrats broke the supermajority last November, Republicans can no longer easily override Cooper’s vetoes. The GOP has placed discussion of the override on the calendar every day since the Governor vetoed the budget on June 5, but had not voted on it because they did not have the three-fifths supermajority needed to override it. They have apparently been patiently waiting for an opportunity like Wednesday when enough Democrats were away for the GOP to pass a vote. 

“Republicans called a deceptive surprise override of my budget veto,” Cooper said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, it’s the people of North Carolina who lose.” 

At a rally held outside the State Legislative Building on Thursday, Butler said she believes her reaction to the vote struck a chord because it signified what many critics of the Republican-led legislature are feeling.  

“North Carolina is better than this; we deserve better than this,” she said. “Our citizens deserve representatives with integrity, decency, respect for the rule of law. What happened yesterday was a shameful, shameful display.” 

The N.C. Senate will still need to vote on the override, at which time it will also need a vote from three-fifths of the legislators present to pass. 


N.C. Senate Goes Balls to the Wall in Redistricting Implementation

While the N.C. House of Representatives continued its foolish ways this week, “Hold my beer” could be heard from elsewhere in the Legislative Building, as the Senate used a state lottery machine to select new district maps that would serve as the basis for a redrawing of districts. The redrawing was ordered by the courts after the existing maps were found to be unconstitutional. The deadline for completion of the new maps is September 18. 

North Carolina Education Lottery officials helped load five balls — all weighed and certified by state officials — into the machine at a meeting on Tuesday, each ball representing one of five maps decided that day to be the best five selections from 1,000 computer-drawn maps. Legislative staff picked those five maps based on which ones were most effective and least disruptive in terms of compactness, fewest precincts split and fewest municipal boundaries split. 

 

The algorithm for the 1,000 maps was designed by Jowei Chen as part of a lawsuit that eventually proved the current district maps to be unconstitutional. But alas, Democrats still have issues with the 1,000 maps that served as the basis for Tuesday’s selections.

As part of the lawsuit, Chen developed two sets of 1,000 maps. The set that was used on Tuesday took into account where incumbents live, so as not to set them against each other in elections using the newly drawn maps. Critics have said that the incumbents’ addresses should not be taken into account since those incumbents were voted into office using unconstitutional maps. 

The N.C. House will also be using a similar system to pick a map to serve as a basis for redrawing districts. Both legislatures have been ordered to abide by the Sept. 18 deadline. 


Incumbents Face No Serious Threat in Local Elections

The Charlotte City Council primary elections were held on Tuesday, with incumbents seeing success across the board and three new candidates moving forward in districts where the incumbent was not running for re-election. Mayor Vi Lyles effectively won a second term with an overwhelming primary win and no serious contender from the Republican side come November. In the at-large election, the four incumbents kept their seats as four-term council member LaWana Mayfield lost her effort to win an at-large seat after vacating her District 3 spot.

Braxton Winston was the top vote-getter in the at-large race with more than 19% of the vote, paving the way for him to take Julie Eiselt’s seat as Mayor Pro Tem. Despite being the top at-large vote-getter in 2017, Eiselt was fourth on Tuesday behind Winston, James Mitchell and Dimple Ajmera. 

Other incumbents with comfortable wins on Tuesday included Larken Egleston (District 1), Matt Newton (District 5) and Ed Driggs (District 6), none of whom will face opponents from the opposing party in November. 

Victoria Watlington will be the new District 3 representative on Charlotte City Council. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Watlington)

In District 2, which covers the Beatties Ford Road corridor and much of west Charlotte, former city council member and state senator Malcolm Graham won comfortably and will face Republican Jacob Robinson. Victoria Watlington will represent District 3, which covers southwest Charlotte, after winning a close race against Terry Brown. There is no Republican running in District 3. In District 4, which covers University City and much of north Charlotte, Renee Perkins Johnson won relatively comfortably in a field of six candidates. She will now face Republican Brandon Pierce in November.  

In North Carolina’s Congressional District 9 — a race that attracted Donald Trump to rally in support of Republican HB2 author Dan Bishop after a special election was called due to election fraud on the part of Republicans — Bishop defeated Democratic candidate Dan McCready with 50% of the vote, compared to McCready’s 48%. 


Suspect Arrested for Sexual Assaults Over Span of Two Decades 

On Thursday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police announced the arrest of Henry Black Jr., chair of the CMPD watchdog Citizens Review Board, on charges of sexual assault that dated back to the 1990s. 

Henry Black Jr.

According to CMPD, one of Black’s victims, now an adult, came forward on Sept. 3 to report that she had been sexually assaulted by Black from the time she was a child until recently. During the investigation, police identified a second victim, also now an adult, who made similar allegations that she was sexually assaulted by Black over a long period of time. According to CMPD, the crimes happened between 1996 and 2018. 

Black was arrested in Myrtle Beach on Thursday morning and will face charges of statutory rape, statutory sex offense, indecent liberties with children, child abuse by sexual act and incest upon his extradition and transfer into custody of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.

Black’s charges disqualify him from serving on the Citizens Review Board. He is also the co-founder of the Genesis 1 Project, a foundation with a stated goal of providing “a professional and confidential setting for the psychological, emotional and developmental support of families.” Officials with Genesis 1 told WCCB that Black has not been involved with the organization since 2008. 


No Homicides in Charlotte This Week

That’s never a bad thing. 

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