Politics

Political news from around NC and beyond.

Empty public space in downtown Raleigh.
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

North Carolina's elected officials on Tuesday pledged cooperation and prepared for prolonged social distancing restrictions as COVID-19- related deaths jumped by a third statewide. Worries also deepened about the growing number of infections behind prison and jail bars.

"We will get through this, particularly we will get through this if everyone does his or her part," Gov. Roy Cooper said during the regular monthly meeting of the Council of State, composed of the 10 statewide executive branch leaders.

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Republican Greg Murphy represents eastern North Carolina's 3rd District in the U.S. House. He's also a urologist, and the only doctor on Capitol Hill still seeing patients. 

He's been on social media in a lab coat or scrubs often lately to update constituents on the coronavirus outbreak. He's delivered a mea culpa about one claim: sunlight, he'd said, can kill the virus — several fact checks rated that false. 

On this edition of the WUNC Politics Podcast, Rep. Murphy talks social distancing, the federal response to COVID-19, and being both a physician and a politician in the middle of a pandemic.


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North Carolina is rounding out its first week under a statewide stay-at-home order. 

Two years' worth of unemployment applications have suffocated the state agency charged with handling them. 

And the coronavirus pandemic has now reached into the state's nursing homes, prisons, and even the legislative building. 

Becki Gray of the conservative John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield of the progressive NC Policy Watch discuss what's transpired, what lawmakers should do to prepare for the inevitable budget shortfalls, and the conundrum of political fundraising during a crisis. 
 


North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

North Carolina has seen more than 50 times the typical number of people applying for unemployment in the past two weeks. Nearly 90% say they're jobless because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Gov. Roy Cooper ordered North Carolinians to stay at home for thirty days starting 5 p.m. Monday, March 30. Healthcare providers worried about being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients cheered his decision. Businesses not necessarily. 

Meanwhile, lawmakers this week began meeting, telephonically, to consider things like how to provide tax relief and get money to all the people who are suddenly out of work because of the coronavirus crisis. 

From a safe social distance, Rob Schofield of the progressive NC Policy Watch and Becki Gray of the conservative John Locke Foundation, weigh in. 
 


The State Board of Elections on Thursday asked legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper to make it easier for people to vote absentee by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.

https://twitter.com/ncgop

The North Carolina Republican Party's state convention is being delayed by three weeks due to the new coronavirus emergency.

Tables sit vacant and pollen-covered at Kabab and Curry
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

State legislators have gathered remotely this week as they consider ways to help North Carolinians affected by the coronavirus crisis. The first tele-meeting was held Wednesday, as lawmakers convened for the first time – from a distance – in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

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It's been three weeks since Super Tuesday. Dozens of winners in federal, state, and local races were celebrating that night. But the vast majority of candidates who were on North Carolina's packed primary ballots lost. 

Greg Gebhardt is an Iraq war veteran, once a staffer for powerful state House Rep. David Lewis, and father of three. 

He spent months traversing the state, raising and spending money to improve his name recognition in the crowded race to be the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor.

But he came up short. And losing, he says, is a lonely place. 
 


U.S. Congress

A week before the U.S. stock market started to slump, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr sold off a significant portion of his portfolio — while reassuring the public that the nation was prepared for a pandemic. 

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As a global pandemic continues to spread throughout the country, a prominent North Carolina politician landed in the crosshairs on Thursday. Richard Burr, the senior U.S. Senator from North Carolina, gave a grim warning about the virus to a private audience, while striking a different message in public. Reporting this week also revealed he made 33 transactions, dumping as much as $1.7 million in stock as COVID-19 prepared to wreak financial havoc.

Becki Gray, a senior vice president with the conservative John Locke Foundation, and Rob Schofield, director with the progressive N.C. Policy Watch, join WUNC capitol bureau chief Jeff Tiberii to discuss the week's news. In a first for this series, which has run every week for three years, Gray, Schofield, and Tiberii were in three separate locations, in order to maintain safe social distancing.


This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
Alissa Eckert, MS / CDC

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker hosted a call-in town hall Tuesday evening for people to pose questions about the spread of coronavirus. The North Carolina Republican praised the work Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and his administration have done confronting the outbreak.

Follow WUNC & NPR's live coverage of the 2020 primaries in Ohio, Arizona, Illinois and Florida, including live results and analysis.

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North Carolina's response to the coronavirus is changing every hour. Gov. Roy Cooper has strongly advised against gatherings of more than 100 people. And the courts will largely postpone hearings, beginning next week. 

Rob Schofield of the progressive N.C. Policy Watch and Becki Gray of the conservative John Locke Foundation discuss what more government can — and should do — and how the state response compares to how federal leaders have handled this global pandemic.

UPDATE: Since initial taping of this podcast, the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) has suspended performances through March 29 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
 


(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

How will the coronavirus pandemic affect voting? The public and the media are closely watching how incumbents respond to the crisis.

File photo of North Carolina State Representative Yvonne Lewis Holley at her home in Raleigh, N.C.
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

North Carolina voters are poised to make history in November electing an African American as lieutenant governor for the first time now that a legislator won the Democratic nomination.

Courtesy of CrossComm, Inc.

What if the winning coach of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament chose the height of the hoop and the distance of the three-point line for the next year? Here in North Carolina, winning the majority in the state legislature lets lawmakers do something similar with the state’s electoral maps.

Updated at 10:19 p.m. ET

President Trump said Monday that the White House is planning to ask Congress to pass a payroll tax cut and relief for hourly wage earners in order to assist workers who may be feeling the financial pinch amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump said that top administration officials will be meeting with Republican members of the House and Senate on Tuesday to discuss the possible payroll tax cuts and help for hourly workers.

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Presidential primary voters in North Carolina gave Joe Biden a decisive win on Super Tuesday after he'd been lagging in recent polls. 

The primaries also confirmed that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will face off against Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in the general election. 

In previous races, Forest's campaigns have benefited from insurance tycoon Greg Lindberg's big dollar contributions. A federal jury found Lindberg guilty this week of attempting to bribe the state insurance commissioner. 

Becki Gray of the conservative John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield of the progressive NC Policy Watch discuss the diversity — or lack thereof — of the candidates who will be on the November ballot and whether Forest should disavow Lindberg's money now. 


Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP Photo

 

Super Tuesday voters gave former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign new life as the candidate won 10 states — including North Carolina. Biden now leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the overall delegate count, but the race is far from over. 

Russia's trolling specialists have evolved their disinformation and agitation techniques to become subtler and tougher to track, according to new research unveiled on Thursday.

A cache of Instagram posts captured by researchers showed that the Russians were "better at impersonating candidates" and that influence-mongers "have moved away from creating their own fake advocacy groups to mimicking and appropriating the names of actual American groups," wrote Young Mie Kim, a University of Wisconsin professor who analyzed the material with her team.

Black voters holding Biden for President signs wait to attend a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in Los Angeles.
Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo

Joe Biden's presidential campaign spent the past month on the verge of collapse after disappointing finishes in the overwhelmingly white states that launched the Democratic primary. As he watched the turmoil unfold from Gadsden, Alabama, Robert Avery thought the race would change dramatically when it moved into the South.

Updated at 1:15 p.m. ET

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ended her bid for the presidency on Thursday, acknowledging her place as the last major female candidate in the race "and all those little girls who are gonna have to wait four more years."

A map of North Carolina showing which counties went for former Vice President Joe Biden and which went for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
North Carolina State Board of Elections

Super Tuesday narrowed the Democratic presidential field to a race between two men: former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The majority of Democratic North Carolinians cast their ballots for Biden, giving him the state and adding fuel to his comeback after a landslide win in the South Carolina primary. And today former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he is suspending his campaign and endorsing Biden.

Updated at 10:58 a.m. ET

Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City who had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on ads during a 100-day presidential campaign, announced on Wednesday he's suspending his bid and is endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden.

"Three months ago, I entered the race for President to defeat Donald Trump," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Today, I am leaving the race for the same reason: to defeat Donald Trump — because it is clear to me that staying in would make achieving that goal more difficult."

Father and son, Allen and Joshua Crockett, celebrating primary night at the state GOP HQ, in Raleigh. Joshua cast his first vote today.
Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

  The mood was triumphant on primary night at the Republican Party headquarters in Raleigh. U.S. Senator Thom Tillis won his GOP primary and will run for re-election against Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham.

Despite a rainy afternoon, LaDonna Clark hands out a candidate brochure at Parkside Elementary School in Morrisville, NC, on March 3, 2020.
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

Dozens of nominations for federal, state government and legislative seats appeared on primary ballots below the high-profile choices for president that brought massive candidate operations and advertising to North Carolina in recent weeks.

Courtesy Duke University Hospital

Voters in North Carolina's Democratic primary ranked health care as the most important issue facing the country, well above climate change, the economy, race relations, foreign policy and many other social issues.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper (left) will face Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (right) in the November general election.
Ben McKeown for WUNC / AP

Updated 10 p.m.

Three North Carolina members of Congress with challengers from their own party this year all won primaries on Tuesday.

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