Carolina Democracy

Rage Cycles, It's All They Have!

October 11, 2022 JD Wooten Episode 40
Carolina Democracy
Rage Cycles, It's All They Have!
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Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we’re joined by Blair Reeves, Executive Director of Carolina Forward, to talk about the electoral landscape as we head into the home stretch of this election cycle and to get a quick update on the Carolina Forward candidate slates. We also recap what's on the ballot this November.

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Blair Reeves: All these things have a rage cycle. Now they've gone to immigration and crime, cause it's really what they have. What they can't do is run a campaign saying, hey, we're going to cut taxes for rich people and screw your schools.

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JD Wooten: Hey everyone, welcome back to Carolina Democracy. I’m JD Wooten, and today we’re joined by Blair Reeves, Executive Director at Carolina Forward, to reflect on where we are heading into the home stretch of this election cycle and to get a quick update on the Carolina Forward candidate slates. And for anyone who forgot, we're bumping episode releases back to Tuesday moving forward. Apologies to anyone who got worried yesterday.

Now, this episode drops on October 11th, four weeks out from election day and just nine days out from the start of in person early voting. I’ll get to election deadline reminders in a moment, but let’s recap what’s on the ballot next month. At the top of the ticket for everyone in North Carolina will be Cheri Beasley versus Ted Budd for the U.S. Senate. Early polling had Budd a few points ahead of Beasley, but Beasley massively outpaced Budd on fundraising and early spending and managed to close that polling gap to a statistical tie. Beasley has run a phenomenal campaign without any distractions or drama so far, and it’s been pretty to the point about the issues. Budd wants to make it a referendum on Joe Biden and economic concerns, while Beasley is focusing on really just about everything else, arguing Budd is the most extreme conservative candidate in modern history, even further right than Jesse Helms. Beasley has certainly put abortion high on that list given Budd’s extreme position opposing abortion without exception and sponsoring a national abortion ban. She’s also been making an impressive showing of being on the ground across North Carolina meeting voters where they are.

Also, none of that’s to say Chief Justice Beasley hasn’t delivered a strong economic message and pushed back on the economic attacks, but the realities of things like inflation and gas prices just are what they are and so she’s doing everything possible to shift that focus, wisely so. If there’s a strategy, campaign, and especially candidate who can outperform expectations in what has always been expected to be a tough year for Democrats, Chief Justice Beasley and her team seem to be there. The two candidates had their one and likely only face-off in a debate last week, and it seems like it was basically a non-event. Since no one really wins debates these days, and instead debates are really more about showing enough poise and composure to perform under pressure without mistakes, it was a great success for Beasley.

Unfortunately, Budd didn’t have any major gaffs either, so again, basically a non-event. Budd had some comment about leaving abortion up to the states, but he’s also a co-sponsor of the national abortion ban, so that doesn’t exactly track. Still, like I said, debates are about avoiding surprises and sound bite gaffs, and hearing a Republican candidate offer an inconsistent message on abortion is just par for the course and not going to move the needle. And it clearly doesn’t come anywhere close to the inconsistencies on abortion that we’re seeing elsewhere, like the Georgia Senate race and Hershel Walker, so it’ll probably just get buried. That sucks, but real talk here. And given how we’re seeing news about Hershel Walker and Dr. Oz, among others, and their various scandals play out – I mean, we’ve even got Dr. Oz literally torturing and killing dogs – and those things don’t even seem to move the needle, I’m not actually sure what Budd could have said that would have mattered one way or the other. Regardless, both candidates seemed to have decent debate performances so we’re right back to where we were before the debate.

In the last couple of weeks, the national Republicans and outside groups have started pouring money into the race to support Budd, and there just hasn’t been a commensurate investment on Beasley’s side. That’s very disappointing because if this thing comes down to a few thousand votes again, as it very well may, and Beasley loses because the GOP and their allies massively outspent Democrats and their allies in the final weeks, it will be enormously frustrating given the rockstar campaign Beasley and her team have run. I think it’ll also make it hard to recruit quality candidates in the future because U.S. Senate seats in North Carolina are toss-up races, but if the national fundraising apparatus isn’t going to keep it competitive with spending on the other side, then serious candidates won’t bother. It’s also demoralizing to Democrats across the state, and could have enormous negative consequences for turnout, volunteer recruitment, and so forth up and down the ballot moving forward.

Ok, enough on the Senate race. It’s going to get plenty of coverage, so barring anything truly huge or newsworthy, I plan to keep focusing further down the ballot in the remaining few weeks. Just thought I’d check in on that one given the debate last week.

Next down on the ballot will be the U.S. House races across North Carolina. Alma Adams, Deborah Ross, and Kathy Manning are all incumbent Democrats running for re-election and as far as I can tell, all are in safe seats. If any of them lose, we have a very different discussion to be had. GK Butterfield and David Price are retiring, and the Democratic nominees to replace them are Don Davis and Valerie Foushee, respectively. Again, both seats appear safe, and the primaries were the real action. Democrats also have a good pick-up opportunity with the newly drawn 14th Congressional District covering part of Mecklenburg and Gaston County, which has a strong Democratic lean and Jeff Jackson as the Democratic nominee. The last district of interest is the open seat in District 13, technically being vacated by Ted Budd, but not actually anywhere close to the same district geographically after redistricting earlier this year. It’s over in southern Wake, Johnston, and parts of Harnett and Wayne counties. It’s the only real toss-up district in North Carolina, and Democrat Wiley Nickel is running a strong campaign against MAGA Republican Bo Hines.

Next up on everyone’s ballots will be the state-wide judicial races. The first one listed is State Supreme Court Seat 3, with former guest Judge Lucy Inman running for that seat. A recent WRAL poll showed her a hair behind her Republican opponent, but also a huge number of undecided voters, so I expect it’ll be quite close in the end either way. Same is true with the next race on the ballot, Supreme Court Seat 5, where former guest Justice Sam J. Ervin IV is running for re-election. That same poll showed his race a bit closer, and Justice Ervin has about the best name recognition anyone could hope for in a judicial race at least, so again, I suspect it’ll be close. There are also four North Carolina Court of Appeals seats on the ballot. In all six of these judicial races, I suspect what we’ll really see is whichever way the winds blow for Democrats generally, and for Cheri Beasley at the top of the ticket, so too will be the fate of the judicial contests. There may be some mixed results if they’re all extremely close, but who knows. That’s just another reason investing in Beasley’s race at the top is so important – it will have enormous down-ballot effects for all the other candidates.

Next on everyone’s ballots will be the State Senate and then the State House races. I think the Carolina Forward slate is a pretty good indicator of which races to be watching for those, plus at least two others on the State Senate side given the lack of incumbents and a challenging electoral environment for Democrats generally. I’m mentioning those races as well because I think the overall map is much better for Democrats in the State House and we’re far less likely to see a Republican supermajority there than over in the Senate where the map is still far more favorable to Republicans than to Democrats.

From the Carolina Forward slate on the Senate side, we’ve got Marcia Morgan running in District 7, Senator Sydney Batch running for re-election in District 17, and Mary Wills Bode running in District 18. Maria’s district covers most of New Hanover County, Senator Batch is in southern Wake County, and Mary Wills is in northern Wake and Granville Counties. They’ve all been on the show, so if you haven’t listened to their interviews, you definitely should. In District 3, Valerie Jordan defeated Democratic incumbent Ernestine Bazemore in the primary covering northeastern North Carolina. This seat really should be a safe hold for Democrats, but may end up closer than usual since there’s no incumbent. Still, the seat favors Democrats based on demographics, so fingers crossed. Another somewhat similar situation is playing out in District 19 in Cumberland County, where Val Applewhite defeated Democratic incumbent Kirk DeViere in a seat that on paper, favors Democrats. However, in a year that could still be tough for Democrats, and in a district that is more or less trending away from Democrats, District 19 not having an incumbent on the ballot could make the difference in whether Republicans successfully flip this seat back. For those who don’t remember, Kirk flipped this seat in 2018 as part of the group that broke the supermajority in an incredibly close race, and then won re-election in 2020 by a thin margin.

On the State House side, I’m still trying to get my head around which seats to really be watching, if any, other than those on the slate. For now I’m focusing my attention to Representative Howard Hunter, running for re-election in District 5 in northeast North Carolina, Amy Block DeLoach, District 20 in New Hanover, Terrence Everitt, District 35 in Wake, Diamond Staton-Williams, District 73 in Cabarrus, Christy Clark, District 98 in Mecklenburg, and Laura Budd, District 103 in Mecklenburg. You may recall hearing from Amy, Diamond, and Christy as past guests, but you should listen to their interviews as well if you haven’t already. Depending on how strong a night either Democrats or Republicans have, there may be a few other seats in play, including possible defense by various incumbents. For example, if we see a much better election day for Republicans than polls currently suggest, even incumbents like past guest Ricky Hurtado, who won by a razor-thin margin to flip his seat in 2020 against a multi-term incumbent, could be much tighter than we’d like, so we can’t take anything for granted. Again, we’ll see how it all plays out.

Next we have local judicial races, like Superior and District Court judges, and District Attorneys. Still further down are county offices like county commissioners, boards of education, clerks of court, sheriffs, and even soil and water supervisors. Several metro areas also have local municipal elections for city and town councils. Please do your research, check out your sample ballot online ahead of time, and vote all the way down the ballot.

On that note, here are a few quick reminders for November election deadlines. If you want to vote by mail, the online absentee ballot portal is open and ballots have already started going out. The regular deadline to register to vote is October 14th, and one-stop early voting begins on October 20th. Remember, you can do same day registration and vote during one-stop early voting. If you don’t register to vote by October 14th, you need to go to early voting to do the same day registration as you will not be able to register or vote on election day if you do not. November 1st is the deadline to request a mail-in ballot, but please don’t wait that long. One stop, early voting ends at 3pm on Saturday, November 5th, and election day is Tuesday, November 8th.

I also want to take a moment to return to the importance of our state judicial races. There are a ton of critical issues that may end up back in front of our state courts in the coming years, so who is sitting on the bench really does matter when questions about abortion, gerrymandering, constitutional amendments, public education, and so forth come up. One of the attacks I keep hearing over and over is that our Democratic members of the judiciary are making the courts more partisan, or that they’re somehow just ruling to benefit Democrats. This couldn’t be further from the truth and is nothing more than Orwellian double-speak – Republicans made judicial elections partisan when they took control of the General Assembly, and some Republican members of the judiciary are pushing the extreme agenda of their partisan base. I say some because much like other conversations about Republicans, we are seeing a growing split between traditional Republicans, with whom we may have strong policy disagreements, but with whom we at least share a common understanding of the rule of law and democratic norms, while other Republicans seem hellbent on throwing out the baby with the bathwater altogether to achieve a total reordering of society.

A great example of this split at the highest level of our judiciary was evident last summer when Chief Justice Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court, an ardent conservative and appointee of George W. Bush, declined to join the majority opinion of Dobbs in throwing out a constitutional right to abortion. While he did author a concurrence which would have allowed Mississippi’s 15-week ban, it was clear in his writing that he agreed that there is a constitutional right to an abortion, he just didn’t agree that it had to be fixed into the trimester framework of Roe and later cases like Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Still, he recognized that stare decisis and the legal traditions of this country meant that throwing out a constitution right which had been recognized for a half a century simply wouldn’t do. Unfortunately, as we all know well, there were five justices who didn’t agree.

In another example of breaking with tradition here in North Carolina, one of our recently elected members of the state supreme court, who ran as a Republican, is also the first member of that court in anyone’s memory, as I understand it, to immediately declare himself a candidate for re-election, despite having 8 years before his next election, so that he could begin campaigning on behalf of and intervening in other judicial races in the same way partisan politicians of other branches do. He even went so far as to campaign against an incumbent judge of the lower Court of Appeals, of his same political party, during her primary earlier this year, because he deemed her insufficiently loyal to the Republican Party. A relatively new digital magazine here in North Carolina called The Assembly ran a great piece this past week looking at the state Supreme Court, the races on the ballot this year, and some of the history of both parties trying to game the system for lack of a better descriptor over the centuries. I’ll leave a link in the show notes to that article and strongly recommend you read it.

Another great investigative piece recently published in tandem between The Assembly and WRAL News reviewed still another aspect of the recent politicization of our courts that has gone under the radar. We have a level of judges called administrative law judges, who operate like trial judges but for the limited purpose of resolving disputes over state agency decisions. For 32 years, the same chief judge, considered one of the most impartial and least partisan administrative law judges in the country and a national exemplar for such courts, had presided over that system. Republican and Democratic Chief Supreme Court justices alike had appointed and reappointed him without fail. Our current Chief Justice declined to reappoint him, opting instead for a partisan who had worked for Pat McCrory and the Trump Administration, and according to the reporting, has “no apparent record of trying cases or practicing law.” That new chief judge has only appointed Republicans since taking office when vacancies arise. He also used a newly created power from the General Assembly to dismiss certain people in the office without cause, and promptly dismissed the office’s general counsel, who was a former Democratic legislator.

To be clear, none of the examples of partisanship around the Courts I’ve just given are illegal, unethical, or immoral. Disagree as we may with the five radical justices of the Supreme Court, their extreme departure from traditions and norms is being done within the confines of their constitutional authority. Our state judicial members getting politically active in partisan politics, as disturbing as it is for those of us who belief in nonpartisan courts, is permitted if done within certain parameters, but it does represent a view of the Courts that is diametrically opposite to the notion of nonpartisan courts. And the Chief Justice’s decision to appoint a partisan as chief administrative law judge is perfectly within his discretion, albeit again a clear push towards partisanship of the courts. So one things is abundantly clear -- Democrats are not the ones making the courts more partisan, plain and simple. And if you listen to what the judicial candidates who happen to be Democrats are saying, it’s clear they aren’t comfortable being partisan candidates either. They agree with the vast majority of North Carolinians that the courts should not be partisan and judges should not be partisan candidates.

Anyways, I’m sure you already know and understand that when you hear right-wing talking points during campaign season, assume they’re about as far from the truth as possible, and in fact may be the opposite of the truth. I think Justice Ervin framed it well in our interview a few weeks ago, noting that the choice for voters this year is whether they want a system where judges are fair and impartial or a court system that’s just another partisan political institution.

Ok, I think that’s probably enough from me for today. Let’s turn to my conversation with Blair Reeves of Carolina Forward for an update on their work and how he’s viewing the current electoral landscape.

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 JD Wooten: All right, back with us today is Blair Reeves, Executive Director of Carolina Forward. Welcome back, Blair.

Blair Reeves: Thanks for having me JD.

JD Wooten: Always a pleasure. So in March, Carolina Forward launched its 2022 slate of candidates. We'll talk about the individual races in amendment, but first, could you remind everyone what we mean when we say the slate?

Blair Reeves: Sure. So just like we did in 2020 the Carolina Forward Slate is a group of candidates who we think stands our most competitive chance of restoring sanity to the legislature. They're good progressive candidates who are running for the right reasons. And most importantly, they are running in races that are winnable. Not all race, in fact, most races in the General Assembly, are not winnable. Like they're decided at candidate filing, right? So what we did with this slate is we identified nine candidates -- so there's six in the House, three in the Senate -- that are running really competitive races, and most importantly, those races are oriented around a strategic goal. And that goal is protecting Governor Cooper's veto power because if that veto power goes away in December, the Republicans in North Carolina are going to ban abortion. And they're going to do a lot of other stuff too, that could be really, really harmful if they win super majorities in the legislature. But one of those is going to be, they're going to be an abortion. But it is going to go beyond that as well. They're going to keep starving our schools, they're never going to expand Medicaid, they're going to continue to penalize North Carolina workers, they're going to keep punching down on gay people and trans kids and all this other stuff as well. And we can't let that happen. So the best way to avoid that happening is to make sure Governor Cooper's veto can be upheld in both the State House and the State Senate, and that's what the slate is all about. 

JD Wooten: All right, so how's the slate been doing so far? You going to tell us how many dollars I've raised so far?

Blair Reeves: What I will say is that just like we were in 2020, our slate will be the biggest hard dollar fundraiser for North Carolina progressive candidates running for the legislature. And we've already done that in the cycle. We're doing phenomenally. And you, you know, there's a lot of speculation about like, is this because people, especially women, but not only women, are on fire about abortion rights? It's partially that, yeah, yeah. We've gotten a lot of that and I don't think even a lot of that passion has been reflected in kind of like the public discourse, like the news media and that sort of stuff. I don't think a lot of that, like that level of media, whatever has really accounted for or reflected yet, like the, the passion that we see. We're doing all these events all over the state and women are on fire about this stuff. And not just women, again, like a lot of men too, but a lot more women, unfortunately, are really tuned into reproductive freedom and they are on fire about this. 

JD Wooten: I'm curious, the draft opinion of Dobbs came out before the slate, but then the Dobbs decision came out well after the slate had launched and y'all had probably at that point, several months of sort of trending data. 

Blair Reeves: Yep. 

JD Wooten: Did you see a spike in financial support for the candidates after Dobbs

Blair Reeves: We've seen a big uptick in engagement and contributions as well. We're working with one of our partners Never and Now, which is a really fantastic organization led by a group of women in Durham. And and you know, they've had a lot of success, specifically targeting mostly suburban women you know, around the state. So Triangle, Charlotte, Asheville, you know, Durham, a number of other counties as well. We had one Winston Salem, Forsyth County, some other places. And and, and they've been phenomenally successful as well. And that has all accrued again to the Carolina Forward, you know, candidates there. So I will say that we are, we're going to end up the cycle raising a heck of a lot of money. And well targeted money too. I'll say for protecting reproductive freedom, I mean, people, you know, people have begun to realize how acute this threat is. I think that for a long time, you know, these threats are not new, but they're new in a different way. I, we previously had Roe v. Wade, that's almost like a backstop, right? And there was a lot of stuff they did before, you know, Roe went away, but now we're working without a safety net and people have begun to realize that these threats are real. You know, you had what, the 10-year-old in Ohio who had to flee the state, the 10-year-old rape victim who had to go to Indiana to obtain an abortion, right? That's real. And that happens, and that happens in America. People hear that and they get freaked out. There was the woman in Texas, of course, learned she had a fetal abnormality after Texas, Texas has has a six week ban on abortion. She had to flee the state to New Mexico to save her life, right? And those are just the stories we hear about. For every one of those, there's a hundred we don't. People are seeing these, you know, nationally, I think this, the, the stat is one out of four American women will have an abortion sometime in their life. And every single one of us knows and loves a woman who has had an abortion. And most of us men don't know that, by the way. We don't know who those women are cause they don't tell us cause it's none of our damn business, right? But that's the reality. Republican women have abortions, Trump voting women have abortions, like Democratic women and independent women and rural and urban, and all the Black, white, Latino women have abortions. That's just a reality and I don't think a lot of men, and certainly a lot of Republicans, have really internalized or understood, and we're seeing that passion come out. So there's all a lot of other stuff too. I mean, there's a lot of issues going on right now, cost of living and inflation, the world as it is, and covid and everything. So how much each of these issues plays, I don't know, but it's definitely a very large factor. 

JD Wooten: Let's shift to the current electoral map and what Democrats are facing. We saw a major win for democracy earlier this year with the North Carolina Supreme Court ruling that banned extreme partisan gerrymandering. I want to be clear, it didn't end gerrymandering, it just set up some guardrails for extreme partisan gerrymandering. So although we did get fairer maps than what we originally saw, they're still not free of gerrymandering. And so here's kind of the breakdown under the current maps that I would call safe versus toss up or competitive seats. And bear in mind that this is competitive being defined where there's a 10 point or less difference between the projected Democrat or Republican turnout or vote share in a district and 10 points is probably not actually competitive, especially in this environment.

Blair Reeves: Sure. 

JD Wooten: But this is being generous. So in the State Senate, Republicans have 24 safe seats. Democrats have 17 safe seats leaving only nine quote competitive seats. And as a reminder, rou need 26 for a majority and 30 for a super majority. In the House, Republicans have 54 safe seats, Democrats have 43 safe seats, and then there are 23 competitive seats. As a reminder, you need 61 for the majority and 72 for the super majority. So what that tells us is that for Democrats to take control of the Senate, they'd need to win every single district that leans Democrat, plus every single district that leans Republican by fewer than 10 points. So I don't see that happening. In the House, it's a little better. Democrats would have to win every single competitive seat, plus take 18 out of the 23. So again, no small feat. I think that leaves us with kind of the reality that we were talking about earlier. The real work here is to protect Governor Cooper's veto to stop the extreme legislation like we've seen in the past. 

Blair Reeves: You don't want more chaos, right. 

JD Wooten: We, we don't want more chaos. We don't want more discriminatory, anti-democracy bills like the racist voter ID bill from several years ago. So really what we're talking about is we need to stop the GOP from flipping two seats in the State Senate or three seats in the State House. That all sound about right? 

Blair Reeves: That sounds right to me, yes. 

JD Wooten: so moving on to the slate. We've had a little bit of a change over the makeup of the slate, but as of today, I think you were saying you've got six House candidates, three Senate candidates, and as far as that change goes, you know, these are competitive elections. It's the way the cookie crumbles. This is who looks competitive right now. how are you feeling overall about those nine races? 

Blair Reeves: If, if you asked me six months ago I would've said, well, as good as I can feel, right? You asked me now, I feel pretty good, honestly. So look, I mean, you know, these are all competitive seats, so by definition, like, you know, the Democrats have a pretty good chance of winning, the Republicans have a pretty good chance of winning. It's, it's useful in this moment to step back a little bit and remember, like we're talking about an unpopular President's first midterm election, right? Six months ago you had Tim Moore out there promising everybody super majority is in the House and Senate, no doubt about it. And now you haven't seen them say that so much in the last couple of months. And it's, it's because they're all wrong and, you know those guys got way ahead of their ski on this stuff. The the generic ballot has tightened. We're not facing a Republican wave of election. It's going to be a good election for Republicans. Like everyone needs to, just needs to prepare for that. They're going to have a good night. Now are they going to have a good night relative to like 2010? No, they're not. Those kinds of elections don't happen anymore. Polarization has set in, the maps are not, not what they were, you know, back then. IF we saw a wave election today, the Democrats would not win commensurate power that Republicans did in 2010. The maps are much more gerrymandered now. The odds are stacked against Democrats. So, you know, to win a majority like they did back then is, is probably not, not feasible, certainly in this kind of cycle. But remember we're talking about a cycle here where Republicans are supposed to massively overperform what we show in, in Carolina Forward polling, the generic ballot is basically tied. So in this kind of environment you know, a lot of these races could go either way. I think it's very unlikely that we see a super majority in the State House. 

JD Wooten: I think I saw in an August poll, and I think this is what you were maybe referencing just a minute ago, the current polling for the generic ballot for the state legislative races puts Republicans at about a 42, Democrats at a 41, this undefined other party as a five, and undecideds in like that 13. So that's probably where the fight is in that 13%. Have you seen any changes in that recently that may or may not be out there?

Blair Reeves: So we will be doing our last poll the cycle next month, in October. The real difference in all these things is just like, you know, polls naturally move. And all of this really means that it, it's going to come down the turnout, which is not a very satisfying answer. Like we all want to know like who's going to win? Like no one really knows and that's not a really satisfying answer to a lot of people, but there is a high degree of uncertainty over a lot of the races and it's just going to come out to who votes. 

JD Wooten: Well, let's reframe that then for our listeners. The election's not over. Elections barely begun. Ballots are just being sent out right now. Whatever the poll says, that's what the polls say today. We still have several weeks left in this before votes even start getting cast in early voting and even more until election day. So, you know, anything can happen at this point. I will say final thought on polling, where I have always found polling to be the most useful, especially at this point in a campaign cycle, is to look at trends that are being done with benchmark and tracking polls by the same pollster, with the same methodology, and the same assumptions. Because then even if there's an error in the poll with the assumptions of turnout, it's at least carried across those tracking polls and you can see the trends and you know, are these messages resonating or are they not? Are we heading in the right direction or are we not? And that can give incredibly useful feedback as you're moving along. You know, we saw in a lot of those races in 2020 depending on which race you're talking about, some of the Republican attacks were landing, and you could start seeing the trends go the wrong way compared to how favorable things were looking for Democrats in the summer. In other districts we saw some incredible flops where the Republican candidates maybe went out over their skis with a little bit of tall tales, got caught, and it really did some damage. And we actually saw tightening of the polls where they were expecting to create a blowout. And, and, we could literally track it to the week of the polling tracking data and changing ad strategies and changing attacks because it's like, hey, this is not working. This is not resonating. It's not doing what it needs to do. And both sides are doing it. So I do think that for the campaigns, these are incredibly important, continue to be useful, especially as you're watching the trend data. I just always want anybody that's not in the weeds of it on a campaign making strategic decisions about which ad to launch next week, to stop and take a pause and say, okay. 

Blair Reeves: You talk about like which attack lines are landing. I think the, one of the most remarkable things we've seen as all the races nationally and including those in North Carolina, as those have tightened you've seen Republicans have really completely changed their campaign strategy, their campaign, you know themes. So for example, critical race theory completely disappeared. No one cares about critical race theory. It was like the biggest thing on Earth for like a year. They poured millions of dollars into Astro turfing all these nonsense organizations, you know, saying that, you know, this is the biggest problem we have, right? It's very much like the, like the whole Sharia law thing, right? You know, like, you know, Obama's going to bring Sharia Law to America and whatever, or like, you know, Biden's going to take away hamburgers. Mr. Potato, you know, all this stuff. And then critical theory. 

JD Wooten: Black Little Mermaid. 

Blair Reeves: Yeah, all these things have a, have a rage cycle, and then it completely disappeared. Now they've gone to immigration and crime, right? They sent identical flyers in a bunch of these districts. The News and Observer, WRAL had a couple articles about this cause they got caught photoshopping, you know, these like fake attack mailers to a bunch of Democratic candidates or whatever. They've gotten caught doing that again. Cause it's really what they have, right? You know, they, they don't, what they can't do is, is run a campaign saying, hey, we're going to cut taxes for rich people and screw your schools.

JD Wooten: Well, and I've heard it said, reminded recently you know, by the, the talking heads and the columnists and the journalists. It's, well, you know, Republicans are flailing for a good messaging strategy when they just fall back to the tried and true race and immigration. 

Blair Reeves: Yeah, I we're like a week out from the caravan, for the next caravan starting out. 

JD Wooten: Yeah. This is exactly when the caravan started pounding on the Alamance County's door. 

Blair Reeves: You had, you had, you have these like, you know, Republicans running these like hopeless races in whatever districts saying like, the most important thing to the people in this, you know, rural county is the southern border, right? It's completely nonsense, but I, you know, like it's, it's kind of what they do. They're going back to playing the hits and, and what you've seen them do in the last several weeks, they've gone back to defund the police. 

JD Wooten: Yeah. 

Blair Reeves: Cause they think that worked out really well for them in 2020. It actually, there isn't a lot of evidence like that actually landed very well. It's national environment, whatever else, but they're playing the hits. They're playing what their people want to, right? 

JD Wooten: Well, defund the police, crime, and race baiting dog whistles have been tied together so inextricably...

Blair Reeves: They're the same message.

JD Wooten: There's no daylight between them. Yeah, in addition to the 2022 Slate for the Legislative Candidates, we've also got a Carolina Forward Judicial Slate. Let's not forget, there are two critical State Supreme Court races on the ballot. We've had interviews with Judge Lucy Inman and Justice Sam J. Ervin IV already. How are those slates doing? How are we feeling about those races? 

Blair Reeves: So they're doing really well. We did an event for the Justice Slate a couple of weeks ago. You know, we, you know, our, our main focus is on the legislature because it's really the locus of power in state politics, but obviously the judicial races are incredibly important. The problem with judicial race is that no one has any idea who the candidates are, right? So, I mean, among the voters generally even fewer than to know who the state legislative candidates are, and basically no one knows who's running for the state legislature, no one knows who's running for courts. So, you know, we've done a lot there. You know, the court races will match the top line races. So, you know, if, if Beasley has a good night, the Democrats all the way down the ticket will have a good night if, if Budd has a good night, vice versa, right? And I think that, that, that really applies to, to the judicial candidates because again, like name ID for the most of those candidates is, is, is next to nothing. 

JD Wooten: And now that they're partisan races again with the D and the R next to their name, that's unfortunately what we're probably stuck with. 

Blair Reeves: Yep.

JD Wooten: So any closing thoughts, Blair? 

Blair Reeves: It all comes down to turn out, JD. 

JD Wooten: All comes down to turnout. All right, well, we'll keep trying to, to drive that home and we'll leave links for everyone and more details in the show notes. Blair, thanks again for joining us today, been a real pleasure. 

Blair Reeves: Always, always a pleasure to be here, JD, thanks so much.

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JD Wooten: Thanks again to Blair for joining us today, and to everyone for listening. Links are in the show notes for everything from today’s episode. Remember, the Carolina Democracy Podcast is not affiliated with or authorized by any candidate, candidate’s committee, or other political committee or organization, and does not endorse any candidates. If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at And again, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend. Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!


Interview with Blair Reeves
Closing Notes