Rusty Jacobs

Political Reporter

Rusty Jacobs is a politics reporter for WUNC. Rusty previously worked at WUNC as a reporter and substitute host from 2001 until 2007 and now returns after a nine-year absence during which he went to law school at Carolina and then worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Wake County.

As a reporter, he has covered a wide array of topics including military affairs, sports, government and damaging storms.

Ways to Connect

A picture of a poultry house.
Joe Valbuena / USDA

Flood-prone counties in eastern North Carolina, already home to vast swine farms, have seen massive growth in the size and volume of industrial-scale poultry operations over the past eight years, according to a new a study released by a coalition of environmental advocacy groups.

File photo of polling worker as she enters a polling place in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, April 24, 2019 as early voting began in the Republican primary election for the North Carolina 9th Congressional District, a special election that was forced after l
Chuck Burton / AP

Anne Moebes signed up to work at a polling site in Buncombe County for the March 3 primaries, just before the coronavirus pandemic really hit the United States. It was her first time volunteering as a poll worker and she ended up serving as a precinct judge.

A masked woman looks out her window.
Victoria Bouloubasis for Enlace Latino NC/Southerly

According to a recent poll from Elon University, Governor Roy Cooper has way more support among Democrats for his mandate to wear masks in public.

Ninety-one percent of Democrats who responded to the survey -- versus 57% of Republicans -- support such a policy. But the poll results are less clear when it comes to reopening schools this fall.

Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

North Carolina is just one of five states this year with concurrent races for the presidency, U.S. Senate and the governorship. Protesters demanding police reform and racial justice, and the pandemic from the coronavirus, could impact how these elections turn out.


Protesters and police in riot gear face off at demonstrations on Sunday night in Raleigh.
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Images and video from Saturday and Sunday nights in Raleigh have ricocheted across the internet. Cameras captured heavily armored police and sheriff’s deputies pushing protesters with sticks, the air thick with tear gas. On Sunday, Raleigh Mayor Mary Ann Baldwin criticized the rioting and looting that took place.

Vote Here sign
Erik Hersman / Creative Commons https://bit.ly/1ezRl1S

North Carolina is accustomed to deep partisan divisions over elections law. Republicans and Democrats, along with voting rights advocates, have been battling at the Legislature and in court over issues like redistricting and voter ID for most of the past decade.

Dan Meyer, left, of Raleigh, NC, waits one hour to pick up a Mother's Day brunch on Sunday at Flying Biscuit in Raleigh's Cameron Village.
Kate Medley / For WUNC

A Friday morning meeting of the state's popularly elected department heads had a partisan edge to it as members of the Council of State's GOP majority questioned Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen on their plan for easing coronavirus-related public health restrictions.

Creative Commons / PxHere

Back in January, Joyce McKinney had things all worked out for her 10-year-old daughter, Amelia.

Duke Health's Raleigh Hospital
Duke Medicine

Hospitals in North Carolina are ready to start seeing more non-COVID-19 patients as state public health restrictions are slowly being eased.

Hospitals paused certain elective procedures and clinic visits back in mid-March. All part of the effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus and to conserve limited supplies of personal protective equipment, like gowns and masks.

Protestor holds a sign that reads 'end the tyranny.'
Kate Medley / For WUNC

State lawmakers are working out details − and their differences − on legislation to distribute more than $1 billion dollars in coronavirus relief funds.

State lawmakers began session Tuesday as REOpenNC protesters gathered on Jones Street in downtown Raleigh.
Jeff Tiberii / WUNC

The state House and Senate are split over how much COVID-19 relief to provide in the immediacy. The discord may be typical, but it's hardly business at usual on West Jones Street in Raleigh.

The General Assembly will need to reach agreement on the amount to earmark for small business loans and whether to provide COVID-19 medical coverage for those in the healthcare gap.

Protesters rally in downtown Raleigh, calling on Governor Roy Cooper to reopen the state.
Kate Medley / For WUNC

A few hundred people gathered Tuesday in downtown Raleigh for a "ReOpen NC" rally. They were protesting Governor Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order, which was put in place to limit coronavirus infections in North Carolina.

sedar virtual coronavirus Passover
Kathy Willens / AP

Jews around the world celebrated the holiday of Passover this week, gathering around dinner tables to retell the biblical story of being led out of slavery in Egypt by Moses. As with many people of different faiths, Jewish people had to adapt their rituals to the constraints of living amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Social gathering apps enabled Jewish families to come together virtually for traditional Passover meals, called Seders – at least those who do not adhere to strict religious rules limiting the use of technology on certain holidays.

Courtesy of April Dudash/Duke Health

A few weeks ago, as Duke Regional Hospital prepared for its first coronavirus cases, the unit headed by Dr. Megan Brooks was tapped to handle incoming patients suspected of having COVID-19.

UNC Emergency Department
Courtesy of Diana Dayal

Just a few weeks ago, Diana Dayal was hitting the books hard, preparing for the first of two medical licensing exams. The fourth-year UNC Chapel Hill medical student's clinical knowledge test had been scheduled for March 19.

"That's one not happening," Dayal, who wants to go into emergency medicine, said with a chuckle. "And then the other one was scheduled for mid-April."

The exam sites have been closed to contain the spread of coronavirus. And clinical skills tests, which involve the use of actors posing as patients, have also been postponed indefinitely.

Even as the number of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina climbs – and local governments begin issuing stay-at-home orders to contain further spread of the pathogen – evictions continue in some counties.

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.

Downtown Raleigh
Mark Turner / Wikipedia

Public health concerns over COVID-19 could mean reduced customer traffic for small businesses in North Carolina cities and towns. Economic development boosters are trying to help.

Credit: Raleigh Police Department

The Raleigh Police Department released body camera footage on Wednesday evening of an officer’s non-fatal shooting of Javier Torres. A judge authorized the release of the body and dash camera footage of the incident earlier on Wednesday.

Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

A Raleigh police officer's shooting of a man near a strip mall off New Bern Avenue earlier this week sparked angry protests and rampant rumors in a city that has grappled with community-law enforcement tensions.

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.

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.

In North Carolina's 2016 primaries, about a third of voters cast ballots early, with the remaining two-thirds turning out on election day.

"If that pattern holds, we could be talking about a million registered voters participating on Tuesday.  That would be pretty substantial," said Michael Bitzer, professor of political science at Catawba College, noting that North Carolinians cast just under 800,000 early votes by absentee ballot and at one-stop polling sites this year. There are more than 6.9 million registered voters in the state.

Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

Gov. Roy Cooper is running for re-election this year and, with more than $8 million raised and a little known challenger who has raised just over $1,500, he is highly likely to win his Democratic primary. The more significant contest is on the GOP side, between Lt. Gov. Dan Forest or State Rep. Holly Grange.

Rusty Jacobs, WUNC.

Not too long ago, a Democratic primary in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District was little more than an exercise in futility: picking a candidate to run a losing campaign against an entrenched Republican incumbent.

After three days of one-stop, early voting, which started on Thursday, the number of accepted ballots cast in Democratic primaries is 44,189, over 13,000 more than the 30,539 Republican primary ballots. 

In this image from video, presiding officer Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts listens during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 30 2020.
Senate Television via AP

The battle over whether to call for additional witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial is expected to come to a head today with all indications rank-and-file GOP senators – excluding, perhaps, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – will stick with their party and vote no.

Four Republicans would need to join all Democrats for the simple majority needed to approve the appearance of witnesses such as ex-Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Mecklenburg County Elections Director Michael Dickerson demonstrates a new touch-screen voting unit.
Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

Michael Dickerson’s voice rippled with the excitement of someone showing off a new sports car.

"This screen will now come up with every ballot, every precinct, every ballot style on it, and I can tap that screen and that gives that person that ballot," he said, his voice trailing off to a hush full of wonderment.

Rusty Jacobs, WUNC.

State lawmakers adjourned today without taking up a vote on overriding Governor Roy Cooper's budget veto. 

Updated on 12/27/19: A federal court is expected to issue an order next week to block a new North Carolina voter ID law from going into effect for the  primary elections in March. The law requires voters to show a photo ID to cast a ballot. A full trial is still needed to determine if the law should be permanently struck down.

State and county elections officials have been scrambling to educate voters as well as poll workers about the new photo ID law going into effect for 2020. A 12-page informational mailer put together by the North Carolina State Board of Elections will be printed and sent out to the more than four million households across the state.

Pages