WUNCPolitics

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The WUNCPolitics 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 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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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a couple of tough calls this week in the face of increasing frustration with social distancing restrictions.

He extended his stay-at-home order. And he declared public school buildings will stay shut for the rest of the academic year. 

Becki Gray of the conservative John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield of the progressive NC Policy Watch discuss what lessons could be learned from online learning, and what decisions state lawmakers should make in response to the coronavirus crisis when it's their turn next week.
 


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As the Republican leader of the state Senate, Phil Berger is the most powerful man in North Carolina politics. For weeks, he's been pushing for random COVID-19 testing so the state can get a handle on the outbreak and reopen for business. 

Meanwhile, the legislative leadership decided to close the doors of the General Assembly to the public, just before lawmakers are set to reconvene for an in-person session. Berger says that wasn't an easy call. 

The senate leader talks about protests against the governor's stay-at-home order, social distancing, and missing baseball on this episode of the WUNC Politics Podcast. 
 


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There were new calls this week for the reopening of business across North Carolina — there was even a protest in Raleigh against the governor's stay-at-home order. 

The General Assembly will soon be convening to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, but top leaders in the state House and Senate have announced the legislative building will be closed to the public. 

Becki Gray of the conservative John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield of the progressive NC Policy Watch discuss the growing discord and whether the evidence suggests the state is ready to ease social distancing restrictions. 
 


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Unemployment claims surpassed half a million, and various industries across North Carolina asked for help this week.

The coronavirus outbreak took dozens more North Carolinians and led to a hot spot in Orange County. In their usual review of the week's political news, Rob Schofield, of NC Policy Watch, and Becki Gray, from the John Locke Foundation, address some recent pushback to the stay-at-home order, and share how they will celebrate the holiday weekend.


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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. 
 


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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. 
 


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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. 
 


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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.


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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.
 


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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. 


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A two-for this week, recorded at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill in front of a live audience. 

Since the last census a decade ago, urban areas in the state have gained the population and the power. Patrick Woodie, head of the NC Rural Center, explains the push for rural broadband, Medicaid expansion, and for every last North Carolinian to be counted in 2020. 

Then, our WUNCPolitics Podcast regulars on the left and the right — Rob Schofield of the progressive NC Policy Watch and Becki Gray of the conservative John Locke Foundation — discuss the crowded races on the Super Tuesday primary ballot ... besides the Democratic presidential contest. 


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The insurance tycoon accused of trying to bribe the state insurance commissioner with $2 million in campaign donations went on trial this week. 

And a new poll came out showing Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg, and Joe Biden essentially tied in North Carolina as we barrel toward Super Tuesday. 

Rob Schofield of the progressive NC Policy Watch and Mitch Kokai of the John Locke Foundation review all that news and mull whether the North Carolina House Speaker would be a good chancellor for East Carolina University. 
 


Pints & Politics

Feb 19, 2020

*EVENT AT CAPACITY*
We have reached capacity for this first edition of Pints & Politics and are no longer accepting new reservations. The event location has been moved to The Carolina Inn.

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Jim Blaine is an unapologetic and self-identified political hack. He is also one of the most respected political operatives in North Carolina. He was chief of staff to the Republican state senate leader before starting his own consulting company in 2018. 

On this episode of the WUNCPolitics Podcast, Blaine discusses his personal political evolution, why Bernie Sanders makes him trepidatious, and why Republicans should be more worried about the dark horse in North Carolina's Democratic senate primary. 

 


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A judge this week reversed a settlement between the UNC System and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, making the fate of the mangled Silent Sam statue again uncertain. 

The state superintendent, who's campaigning for lieutentant governor, blasted 540,000 text messages to parents and educators voicing his opposition to Common Core and soliciting responses to an online survey. 

And, Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg returned to North Carolina as they're rising in the polls. 

Rob Schofield of the progressive NC Policy Watch and Becki Gray of the conservative John Locke Foundation process the developments. 


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Morgan Jackson has been a Democratic political tactician in North Carolina for more than 20 years. He is one of Gov. Roy Cooper's closest advisers.

He doesn't plan on sleeping much in 2020, and he might skip dinner. 

On this edition of the WUNCPolitics Podcast, Jackson explains what's keeping him so busy this election season and why he thinks the Tar Heel State should have a larger role in the national primary process.

  


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Problems with the Iowa Caucuses dominate discussion about the Democratic presidential contest ahead of the New Hampshire primary. And in North Carolina, we get a look at the candidates' campaign finance reports.

Becki Gray  of the conservative John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield of the progressive NC Policy Watch dissect the presidential race and campaign fundraising.

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U.S Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer purportedly imagined a Democrat would have to lock himself in a "windowless basement" and fundraise nonstop to beat incumbent GOP Sen. Thom Tillis in North Carolina. But, Cal Cunningham's campaign office has plenty of natural light. 

Cunningham got the stamp of approval from the DSCC's national recruiters. His primary campaign has benefitted from lots of outside money, including millions from VoteVets. Though the candidate wants to see an end to dark money. 

On this edition of the WUNCPolitics Podcast, Cunningham discusses the money in politics, who's supporting him, and why he should be North Carolina's next senator. 
 


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While U.S. senators (and our airwaves) were occupied with an impeachment trial, former Vice President Joe Biden picked up a couple of endorsements from notable North Carolinians. 

Becki Gray  of the conservative John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield of the progressive NC Policy Watch weigh in on the questions of witnesses and impeachable offenses and the significance of endorsements these days. 


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State Sen. Erica Smith says she's the progressive, credentialed, electable choice, even if the Democratic Party establishment isn't backing her campaign for the U.S. Senate.

On this edition of the WUNCPolitics Podcast, Smith talks about her fundraising and who she likes in the still-crowded presidential primary race. 

She also discusses what role race plays as she tries to become just the third black woman ever to earn a seat in the world's greatest deliberative body.  
 


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Republican candidate for governor (and current lieutenant governor) Dan Forest claimed that Planned Parenthood was created to, "destroy the entire black race," during a Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. Then on Wednesday he compared abortion to slavery. 

This week in North Carolina politics also included an allegation of illegal coordination between a senate campaign and a friendly PAC, and a new order in a decades-old lawsuit over public education funding. 

Becki Gray of the conservative John Locke Foundation and Billy Ball of the progressive NC Policy Watch review the developments. 


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WBTV reporter Nick Ochsner doesn't hesitate to confront a subject who he feels is ducking his questions. He has a reputation for being quick to file a lawsuit when it seems officials aren't following public records laws. 

On this edition of the WUNCPolitics Podcast, Ochsner explains his aggressive approach and whether being from a Gold Star family has influenced his reporting. 


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