WUNC Politics

The WUNC Politics Podcast is a free-flowing discussion of what we're hearing in the back hallways of the General Assembly and on the campaign trail across North Carolina. 

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This week:  Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and his Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham had their first debate. The Democrat's answer to a hypothetical question about the COVID-19 vaccine caught some attention. 

On the reopening front, Gov. Roy Cooper announced elementary schools could welcome back all their students soon — as long as they wear masks and practice social distancing. Meanwhile Cooper's opponent, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, said face covering requirements would be dropped come January if he were to win the governor's race.

Offering insight and making their debut as our commentators are Aisha Dew of Higher Heights and Clark Riemer, former chair of the North Carolina Young Republicans and a staffer in the state House.
 


When Lanisha Jones went to vote in the 2016 election, she didn’t think she was doing anything wrong. She thought she was simply exercising her right to vote. But in 2019, the district attorney in Hoke County charged her with voting illegally because at the time she was still on probation from a felony conviction.

Since then, Jones has been fighting the charges, and says she was unfairly targeted for committing a crime she didn't know was a crime when she voted.

On this episode of the Politics Podcast, host Jeff Tiberri joins colleague Leoneda Inge, co-host of WUNC’s podcast Tested, to talk with Jones about the charges, and how her experience fits into a larger story of disenfranchisement in North Carolina.
 


This week: A Washington Post story alleged Postmaster General Louis DeJoy cajoled GOP campaign donations from employees of the logistics business he ran in Greensboro. 

Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch and Becki Gray of the John Locke Foundation consider whether the latest controversy surrounding DeJoy will affect Republican candidates in North Carolina this year.

Also, census watchers are sounding the alarm to Congress about a potential undercount in the state, and the major party candidates for U.S. Senate have their first debate next week. 


As COVID-19 cases climb at many colleges and universities in North Carolina, schools are maintaining dashboards to track and present different data and terminology. But are the dashboards enough of a resource to keep students and faculty informed about the virus on their campus?

On this edition of the Politics Podcast, we're featuring an episode from Tested, a podcast at WUNC that takes a hard look at how North Carolina and its neighbors are facing the day's challenges.

Tested host Dave DeWitt talks with WUNC education reporter Liz Schlemmer about the role of dashboards in tracking COVID-19 cases at colleges and universities.
 


This week: State legislators gaveled in for a brief two-day session and don't intend to return until next year — that is, until after the elections are over. Their singular charge was to allocate North Carolina's remaining pandemic relief funds from the federal CARES Act.

Becki Gray of the John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch discuss the good – and the bad – in the latest relief package. And they react to President Trump's visit to Wilmington, where he tacitly encouraged people to vote twice.
 


As an investigative reporter for Carolina Public Press, Kate Martin has been persistently reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina for months.  She’s determined to uncover the answers to questions others are not asking and hold officials accountable. 

As she’s pressed on with her reporting, Martin has been grappling with personal hardship. Her father passed away in late May.

On this episode of the Politics Podcast from WUNC, Martin discusses the grind of reporting in a crisis, her father’s death, and a recent public moment when her family and profession collided.


This week: American political history was made as Joe Biden introduced U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate in the presidential race. Her presence on the ticket might impact voter turnout in North Carolina. Then again, it might not.

Meanwhile, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest dropped a lawsuit against his gubernatorial opponent, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Mitch Kokai of the John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield from NC Policy Watch discuss those developments, plus: what Postmaster General Louis DeJoy means for 2020, and signs of relief for North Carolinians who are still out of work.


Jim Hunt was first elected Governor of North Carolina in 1976 when he was just 39 years old. He served four terms in the Executive Mansion, spanning four different decades. 

During his time in office, Hunt remained a steadfast supporter of public schools and prioritized education policy. In 1984, Hunt also set his sights on the U.S. Senate, and lost a bitter race to longtime Senator Jesse Helms.

On this episode of the Politics Podcast from WUNC, Hunt discusses his legacy as a governor, recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and a time he hitchhiked to the Midwest.


 

This week:  Governor Cooper criticizes President Trump and Lt. Governor Forest over their pandemic responses. And close to 150,000 voters have requested absentee ballots for the November election. This week a federal judge ruled that a witness requirement will remain in place, however, voters will have a chance to correct administrative errors on their ballots. Becki Gray and Rob Schofield discuss Cooper's criticisms, the latest in mail-in balloting, as well as a troubling video released by the Forsyth County Sheriff's Department. 


This week:  North Carolina played host to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Meanwhile, David Lewis, a powerful state legislator, will not be on the ballot, as previously expected. And with the State Fair canceled for the first time since the second World War, Becki Gray and Rob Schofield ponder whether college athletics can realistically take place this fall. 

Anthony Jackson has been an educator for more than 30 years, but there's never been a school year that’s begun like this one.

Jackson is the superintendent of Vance County Schools, and like many other districts across North Carolina, his decided to start the upcoming semester with all-remote instruction. 

On this episode of the Politics Podcast from WUNC, Jackson discusses the state of education in his rural district, whether there will be a "COVID-19 slide" for students, and how he stays centered during this unprecedented time.


This week in state politics: The effects of the pandemic continue to be felt in wide and various ways. From touchscreen voting machines to an annual bar exam, there are questions about risk and necessity.

In their weekly review of state politics, Becki Gray and Rob Schofield discuss remote learning, elections preparations, and President Donald Trump’s decision to roll back plans for the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville.

This week in state politics: More remote learning became a reality this week when Gov.  Roy Cooper announced North Carolina public schools will not return like normal next month as COVID-19 cases have been on the rise.

Rob Schofield and Becki Gray discuss the governor's choice to recommend a mix of online and in-person schooling for K-12 students. 

Meanwhile, the latest campaign finance reports show Democrats are building a financial advantage. And in Asheville, city council members unanimously voted to provide Black residents with reparations.

 


Aisha Dew first volunteered on a political campaign 30 years ago, when she was a young girl. In 2016, she was leading Bernie Sanders' campaign in North Carolina. Today, she works with Higher Heights, seeking to mobilize Black women and increase their participation – and representation – in politics.

On this episode of the Politics Podcast from WUNC, Dew discusses her focus for 2020, and whether one institutional hurdle for Black candidates is getting any lower.
 


This week in state politics: North Carolina lawmakers failed to override the governor's vetoes so that gyms and skating rinks that were shutdown because of the pandemic could reopen. But in court, a group of bowling alleys won their argument that they're no riskier than resturants operating at limited capacity. 

Meanwhile, the tension over how Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is calling the shots during the COVID-19 emergency brought an abrupt end to a meeting of top state elected officials. 

Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch and Becki Gray of the John Locke Foundation discuss those developments, plus record-breaking fundraising in the U.S. Senate race, and one early outcome of protests over police misconduct. 
 


This Week In State Politics: the Governor delayed a decision about whether public schools would open in the fall.

As Democrat Roy Cooper said he needed more time, he was also served with a lawsuit. His political opponent, Republican Dan Forest, contends that the Governor is implementing too much unilateral authority.

And with lawmakers away for a little while, news trickled out of the General Assembly that a lobbyist tested positive for COVID-19. Rob Schofield and Becki Gray discuss those stories, as well as their fireworks plans for this weekend.


Democratic state Rep. Deb Butler made national headlines last September when, following a surprise and controversial veto override vote, she grabbed a microphone and lit into Republican House Speaker Tim Moore.

Gerrymandering, she says, has polarized lawmakers and it's nearly paralyzed the General Assembly. She'd rather they were legislating on middle ground. 

On this episode of the Politics Podcast from WUNC, Butler talks about the hope for redistricting reform. She also reveals the pulse of Wilmington as North Carolina and the nation faces a racial reckoning. And, she explains why she reached for a little champagne last week.
 


Another bustling week in North Carolina politics included the toppling of Confederate monuments in the state capitol and elsewhere, the governor's decision to mandate face coverings statewide because of the coronavirus, and an after-hours marathon session at the General Assembly.

Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch and Becki Gray of the John Locke Foundation discuss executive actions, legislative inaction, and what the addition of GOP donor and policy wonk Art Pope may mean for the UNC Board of Governors.
 


North Carolina lawmakers this week approved a plan to provide teachers with a one-time bonus. Meanwhile temperature checks at the General Assembly building were halted — albeit briefly — as the capital city moved to require masks to curb COVID-19. And a group of lawyers sent a letter to the governor and legislative leaders arguing Confederate monuments violate the state constitution. 

Becki Gray of the John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch discuss those developments, and two major rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court.


Journalist Paul Woolverton was covering the protests in Fayetteville the last Saturday in May when he was attacked. He suffered a concussion, and still doesn’t remember some of what transpired outside the Cross Creek Mall.

On this episode of the Politics Podcast from WUNC, the longtime Fayetteville reporter discusses how the unrest has played out in his city, the local landmark that was set on fire, and some of the fallout. 
 


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After weeks of unrest over police brutality and systemic racism, North Carolina lawmakers turned attention back to two pieces of legislation: One would ease expungement of criminal records, another would let judges avoid some sentencing mandates. 

Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch and Becki Gray of the John Locke Foundation talk about how significant these bills are, and where they come down on the idea of renaming military bases named for Confederate generals. 

Also, did they feel any relief with the announcement this week that the RNC is officially heading to Jacksonville, Florida for President Trump's renomination?


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As protests took place across North Carolina and the nation, calling for justice after the killing of George Floyd, President Donald Trump called for a greater use of force.

In North Carolina two task forces were announced —one by the governor, one by lawmakers — aimed at trying to help bridge the racial divide.

Meanwhile, it looks less likely that the Republican National Convention will take place in Charlotte this August.

Becki Gray of the John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch review what was a historic week in the state and country.
 

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How does a campaign fundraise during a pandemic? If the RNC departs from Charlotte, does that give anyone a political advantage? Will we see the customary election-year rallies this fall?  

North Carolina political strategist Jonathan Felts offers his answers on this episode of the WUNC Politics Podcast. And he talks about working with future candidates for office in Afghanistan. 


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This week began with President Trump trying to lure Gov. Roy Cooper into a tussle on Twitter.

It concluded with North Carolina's health secretary pressing for more details about how the organizers of the Republican National Convention plan to safely hold the event in Charlotte this August. 

Becki Gray of the John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch ponder that, and also state lawmakers' bipartisan agreement on an elections bill and discord over letting bars reopen sooner rather than later while COVID-19 remains a threat.  
 


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As restaurants, salons and pools reopen (partially) in North Carolina over the Memorial Day weekend, there are varying levels of worry about the coronavirus. 

Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch and Becki Gray of the John Locke Foundation chat about the loosening of public health restrictions, more record-setting unemployment numbers, and the news that there will be no criminal charges against the chemical manufacturer Chemours for contamination in the Cape Fear River. 


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Among the political disputes playing out in North Carolina these days is how best to hold elections this November. 

There are safety concerns for casting ballots in person, and financial considerations for elections officials expecting a significantly larger contingent wanting to vote by mail because of the coronavirus. 

Author David Daley joins the WUNC Politics Podcast to talk about the perils for democracy during a pandemic. And he discusses his 2016 book about gerrymandering, "Ratf**ed". 
 


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Several sheriffs across the state signaled this week they won't enforce North Carolina's ban on church services held indoors. 

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are getting ready to meet in Raleigh again next week for a session where the coronavirus pandemic will still be looming large. 

The John Locke Foundation's Becki Gray and Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch consider those developments and whether it's a matter of if or now when U.S. Sen. Richard Burr steps aside as he's dogged by an insider trading investigation. 


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North Carolina is entering the first phase of reopening after the coronavirus-related shutdowns. Outdoor church services are OK now, shoppers can return to malls, and the gates on state parks are coming up. 

As they review the week's political news, Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch and Becki Gray from the John Locke Foundation say wheher they'll be venturing out. 

And they offer their reactions to more outbreaks of COVID-19 at meat processing plants, the governor signing a pair of coronavirus relief bills, and the state transportation agency getting a scathing audit report. 
 


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Since the coronavirus pandemic swept into North Carolina a couple of months ago, Dr. Mandy Cohen has become a familiar figure.

The state health and human services secretary appears in near daily briefings with the governor and other officials leading the response. 

The decisions are hard, she says, especially when the science around COVID-19 is still evolving. 
 
On this episode of the WUNC Politics Podcast, she talks about balancing public health protections with the consequences, how worried she is about reopening the economy, and how much sleep she's getting (hint: not much). 
 


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This week in state politics, lawmakers returned to the North Carolina General Assembly to deliberate how much of the available federal aid should be dolled out immediately.  

Meanwhile, another wave of unemployment claims rolled in as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

And a giant of the state Legislature died. 

Becki Gray of the John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch discuss balancing economic health and public health, and the legacy of the dry-witted former Sen. Tony Rand. 


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