Politics can turn on a dime. Every week, the comments, decisions and actions of elected lawmakers can shift the landscape of your government. Here’s a quick summary of this week’s reporting on local, state and federal officials.
It’s a no-go for Mayor Terry Bellamy, who was expected to challenge U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry in next year’s 10th District congressional race. The mayor, who has only a few days remaining in her term, said she changed her mind to focus on finishing her master’s degree. She made no mention of a newly-drawn GOP-leaning 10th District, or her lackluster performance in last year’s Democratic congressional primary as possible additional factors in her decision. Bellamy did tell the Citizen-Times she had been “asked to run” for another office, suggesting her political career isn’t over. (There’s a portrait hanging ceremony to honor Bellamy’s tenure as mayor on Monday in City Hall. The event is open to the public.)
Meanwhile, Mayor-elect Esther Manheimer is headed to Harvard. Next week, Manheimer will be one of 25 newly-elected mayors attending a “Mayoral Issues” conference, held at the university’s Institute of Politics. Taxpayers won’t be footing the bill for her three-day trip—all expenses are covered by Harvard. Along with Manheimer, newly-elected mayors from Charlotte, Boston, Seattle and other cities across the country are expected to attend.
This month’s grand opening of the county’s new 118,000-square-foot, LEED certified Judicial Complex is old news, but county officials recently posted a video highlighting the new facility. The clip features Commission Chairman David Gantt offering remarks on the history of past courthouses of Buncombe County, if that’s the sort of thing that interests you.
It didn’t take long for things to blow up Wednesday, when the inclusion of a 48-page political insert in the Citizen-Times resulted in the paper issuing a front-page apology. The insert, titled “The Raleigh Digest,” featured conservative takes on state-level news, and was produced by InTouch LLC, a company owned by state Rep. Tim Moffitt. In an interview with WLOS, Moffitt described the insert simply as a “new competitor in the news market,” citing frustrations with liberal slant from local media outlets. No disclaimer or notice was offered to alert readers to the nature of the paid advertisement, and now the paper’s ad policies are under review.
Gov. Pat McCrory
If you want get your hands on to large files of public record from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office, it’s going to cost you. This week, the governor’s staff stood by a policy of adding a “special service charge” for public records requests taking more than 30 minutes to process, citing a one-sentence clause in the state’s public records law. According to an Associated Press report, some invoices to media outlets in recent months have totaled hundreds of dollars. The development runs afoul of campaign pledges made by McCrory last year, in which he vowed to run transparent and accountable government.
U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry
Just because he had a potential 2014 opponent bow out this week doesn’t mean U.S. Rep Patrick McHenry is laying off the fundraising. The Raleigh News Observer reports McHenry—who represents half of Buncombe County, is planning to host a “Christmas Gala” in Gastonia next month, featuring Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Donors can get a photo with Jindal, who is considered to be a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2016, for the paltry sum of $2,600. Less-expensive tickets for the Dec. 17 event are $100. All proceeds will go in McHenry’s re-election vault, which currently boasts more than $440,000 cash-on-hand.
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan
It was another bad week for the Affordable Care Act, which translates as another bad week for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. With less than a year before her first bid for re-election, the senator was ranked No. 7 on National Journal’s list of 15 Senate seats most likely to switch parties in the 2014 elections. A loss for Hagan would put Republicans one step closer to retaking control in the Senate for the first time since 2007.
James Harrison recently returned to Asheville after working as a government reporter for Nooga.com, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter at @jharrisonAVL.
I guess being busy with all the fundraising Patrick McHenry is doing is the reason why he has not responded to ANY of my e-mails and letters I have sent him over the past NINE months.
Kudos, James. I hope this becomes a regular feature, Jason, and that if anything it expands.