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13 Southern U.S. House Democrats bow out of Trump inaugural

All of the no-shows represent districts carried by Hillary Clinton

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states smWASHINGTON (CFP) — Thirteen of the 40 Southern Democrats in the U.S. House have announced that they will not take part in the January 20 inauguration of Donald Trump.

Lawmakers from Florida, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are among the no-shows. All of the boycotting members represent urban or black-majority districts that were carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s tweets castigating U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, for announcing an inauguration boycott seemed to particularly rankle some of the members opting not to attend; Trump’s reaction was called “repugnant,” “ignorant,” and “insensitive and foolish.”

“We are sending a message to Mr. Trump. Respect, like Pennsylvania Avenue, is a two-way street,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, who will be among the no-shows.

However, none of the three other Democrats in Lewis’s own Georgia delegation have joined the boycott. Also not joining so far is U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who, as head of the Democratic National Committee during the presidential campaign, had been a sharp Trump critic.

As for the contention by Trump supporters that the inauguration is a celebration not of him but of the peaceful transfer of power, U.S. Rep. Julian Castro, D-Texas, said, “Every American should respect the office of the presidency and the fact that Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. But winning an election does not mean a man can show contempt for millions of Americans and then expect those very people to celebrate him.”

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, said Trump’s “behavior and harmful words during and after the campaign have left the country I love with open, bleeding wounds. Instead of binding those wounds, he has poured salt on them. Instead of unifying us, he has reveled in driving wedges between us.”

Trump won 108 of the 154 congressional districts across the South in the November election; none of them are represented by Democrats.

Lawmakers boycotting the inaugural are unlikely to pay a political price, as all but two of them represent districts that Clinton carried with at least 60 percent of the vote. However, U.S. Reps. Darren Soto, D-Florida, and John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, come from districts where Clinton’s share was just 55 percent.

The list of boycotting Democrats includes:

Georgia

Florida

Kentucky

Mississippi

North Carolina

Tennessee

Texas

Virginia

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper enters office with call to end partisan friction

But new governor calls for repeal of law regulating transgendered bathroom use

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

north-carolina mugRALEIGH (CFP) — In his inaugural address, incoming North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued a call to end the contentious politics that have bedeviled the start in recent years, but he also made it clear that he would push for repeal of a bill that limited use of public restroom facilities for transgendered people.

Attorney General Roy Cooper

Attorney General Roy Cooper

“The people of this state are tired of yesterday’s politics. You expect and deserve public servants who reject cynicism, who don’t succumb to political paralysis, who negotiate differences in good faith,” Cooper said.

“I don’t think anyone believes that North Carolina families sit around the kitchen table every night thinking that their lives would change for the better if only the legislature would spend its time on the hot-button social issues of the day,” he said.

“People have bigger concerns, like why they haven’t gotten a raise in eight years or why the cost of health insurance is too much to bear or if they can afford to send their kids to college.”

Because of a snowstorm that paralyzed North Carolina, Cooper delivered his January 7 inaugural address on television, rather than to an outdoor crowd as initially planned.

Cooper, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory by just 10,277 votes out of nearly 4.8 million cast, which was the nation’s closest gubernatorial election this year and the only one that flipped from Republican to Democratic.

The most contentious issue in that election was House Bill 2 — passed by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by McCrory — which required transgendered people to use bathrooms in public facilities consistent with their birth gender, rather than the gender with which they identify.

Cooper, who was attorney general at the time, opposed the measure and refused to defend it in court. In the wake of the bill’s passage, a number of major companies have dropped plans to move or expand in North Carolina, and the NBA, NCAA and ACC have all pulled sporting events out of the state.

After the election, the legislature met in special session to consider repealing the law, but Republican supporters of the law scuttled the effort. Cooper made in clear in his inaugural address that he would keep trying.

“This law has isolated and hurt a lot of people, damaged our state’s reputation and cost our economy hundreds of millions of dollars that could have paid our teachers and firefighters or built new highways,” he said.

“There are enough bipartisan votes in the legislature right now to fully repeal HB2 with no strings attached. This is not complicated. In fact, it’s very simple. Let them vote.”

Cooper will face a legislature dominated by Republicans. In the Senate, the GOP holds 35 seats to 15 for Democrats; in the House, Republicans have 74 seats and Democrats 46. Those margins are enough to override Cooper’s vetoes, which only requires a three-fifths majority in the Tar Heel State.

However, in late November, a federal judge struck down the state’s legislative districts on the grounds that they were improperly gerrymandered using racial considerations and ordered the legislature to draw new maps.

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, new elections for the entire General Assembly will have to be held in 2017, which could allow Democrats to gain back some ground.

After the election, the legislature also passed measures to limit the number of political appointments Cooper can make and require that his cabinet picks to be approved by the legislature. Cooper has gone to court to challenge those new laws.

Cooper, 59, from Nash County in eastern North Carolina, served four terms as attorney general before seeking the governorship, the second longest tenure in that office in state history.

Pat McCrory concedes to Roy Cooper in North Carolina governor’s race

Concession comes after vote recount in Durham County

♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor

north-carolina mugRALEIGH (CFP) — Nearly a month after election day, North Carolina’s hotly contested governor’s race has finally been settled and will flip into Democratic hands.

Attorney General Roy Cooper

Attorney General Roy Cooper

Republican Governor Pat McCrory conceded the race to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper on December 5, after it became clear that an ongoing recount in Durham County would not overturn Cooper’s lead.

“Despite continued questions that should be answered regarding the voting process, I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken,” McCrory said in a video posted on YouTube. “We now should do everything we can to support (Cooper).”

Cooper welcomed the concession in a Facebook post, bringing to an end a contentious race that became the most expensive governor’s race in state history.

“While this was a divisive election season, I know still that there is more that unites us than divides us,” Cooper said. “I’d like to thank all of the hardworking families in North Carolina, and I look forward to serving the greatest state in the country as your governor.”

Cooper’s lead over McCrory was 10,263 votes, out of more than 4.7 million votes cast, a difference of just .22 percent.

Cooper’s win is a rare moment of good news for Democrats in North Carolina, which went Republican in both the presidential and U.S. Senate races. The Cooper-McCrory contest was the only governor’s race in the country that shifted the office from Republican to Democrat.

Democrats will now hold four out 14 Southern governorships. The others are in Virginia, West Virginia and Louisiana. Republicans hold the remaining 10.

The contention over the results in Durham began on election night, when a batch of 90,000 votes came in all at once, propelling Cooper — who had trailed most of the night — into the lead statewide.

McCrory and his campaign found those results suspicious and demanded a recount. However, Durham election officials said the late reporting of results was caused by a technical problem that forced them to enter the results from voting machines by hand.

The Durham County elections board turned down McCrory’s request for a recount, but the State Board of Elections voted along party lines to order one.

In North Carolina, both state and county elections boards are appointed by the governor, and the governor’s party holds a majority.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory

McCrory rode a GOP wave into office in 2012, but the Republican-controlled legislature’s passage of a controversial voter ID law and measures favored by religious conservatives made the governor a lightning rod.

The issue that dominated the race was McCrory’s decision to sign a law requiring transgendered students to use bathrooms that match their gender of birth, rather than their gender of identity, in public facilities.

McCrory continued to defend the law, even after a number of businesses scuttled expansion plans and the NCAA, NBA and ACC pulled events from the state.

Cooper not only opposed the measure, but he also refused to defend it in court when students and the federal government took legal action to overturn it.

Recount begins in North Carolina governor’s race

State board sets Monday deadline for recounting ballots in Durham County

♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor

north-carolina mugRALEIGH (CFP) — The hotly contested North Carolina governor’s race has entered what is likely its final stage, with elections officials in Durham County now recounting ballots to meet a Monday deadline.

Republican Governor Pat McCrory has indicated that he will concede to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper if the recount doesn’t overturn Cooper’s slight lead.

With ballots certified in 98 of the state’s 100 counties, Cooper leads McCrory by 10,263 votes, out of more than 4.7 million votes cast.

If that margin holds after the Durham recount, McCrory won’t be entitled to a full statewide recount, which is only triggered if the margin is less than 10,000 votes.

The deadline for finishing the recount is 7 p.m. ET Monday.

Attorney General Roy Cooper

Attorney General Roy Cooper

Cooper beat McCrory by a margin of 91,000 votes in Durham County, taking a whopping 79 percent of the vote, which was his best performance in any county.

The contention over the results in Durham began on election night, when a batch of 90,000 votes came in all at once, propelling Cooper — who had trailed most of the night — into the lead statewide.

McCrory and his campaign found those results suspicious and demanded a recount. However, Durham election officials said the late reporting of results was caused by a technical problem that forced them to enter the results from voting machines by hand.

The Durham County elections board turned down McCrory’s request for a recount, but the State Board of Elections voted along party lines to order one.

In North Carolina, both state and county elections boards are appointed by the governor, and the governor’s party holds a majority.

McCrory’s campaign has indicated that he will concede to Cooper if the Durham results don’t change the outcome. He has already filed the paperwork for a statewide recount, although that request would be moot if Cooper’s margin holds.

Cooper’s campaign has been calling on McCrory to concede and bring to an end the three-week drama over who will lead the Tar Heel State.

“It’s clear there is no path to victory for Governor McCrory,” said Cooper campaign manager Trey Nix in a statement posted on Facebook. “It’s time for Governor McCrory to accept the election results and respect the will of the voters.”

Should Cooper hang on, North Carolina would be the only state where Democrats flipped a governorship in 2016 and would give them a third Southern governorship, compared to 11 for Republicans.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory

McCrory rode a GOP wave into office in 2012, but the Republican-controlled legislature’s passage of a controversial voter ID law and measures favored by religious conservatives made the governor a lightning rod.

The issue that dominated the race was McCrory’s decision to sign a law requiring transgendered students to use bathrooms that match their gender of birth, rather than their gender of identity, in public facilities.

McCrory continued to defend the law, even after a number of businesses scuttled expansion plans and the NCAA, NBA and ACC pulled events from the state.

Cooper not only opposed the measure, but he also refused to defend it in court when students and the federal government took legal action to overturn it.

Pat McCrory continues to fight election challenge in North Carolina

State Board of Elections refuses to intervene in canvass; Cooper’s lead grows in governor’s race

♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor

north-carolina mugRALEIGH (CFP) — The GOP-controlled North Carolina State Board of Elections has refused to intervene in a canvass of votes in the state’s hotly contested race for governor, a blow to Republican Governor Pat McCrory’s quest to challenge results showing him trailing Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Attorney General Roy Cooper

Attorney General Roy Cooper

Meanwhile, Cooper has appointed a transition team and dismissed claims by McCrory and his campaign of voter fraud as “the same kind of misleading and dishonest rhetoric that they’ve used throughout the campaign, rhetoric meant to cause confusion.”

“Governor McCrory is doing everything he can to undermine the results of this election and the will of the people, but we won’t let him,” Cooper said in a video statement posted on Facebook.

But a spokesman for McCrory, Ricky Diaz, said the campaign was trying to ensure that voter fraud had not tainted the process and that “every legal vote is counted properly.”

“Why is Roy Cooper so insistent on circumventing the electoral process and counting the votes of dead people and felons?” Diaz said in a statement. “It may be because he needs those fraudulent votes to count in order to win. Instead of insulting North Carolina voters, we intende to let the process work as it should.”

Should Cooper hang on, North Carolina would be the only state where Democrats flipped a governorship in 2016 and would give them a third Southern governorship, compared to 11 for Republicans.

The latest unofficial vote total from the State Board of Elections shows Cooper with a lead of 6,500 votes, up from the 4,700 vote total Cooper held on election night. Election boards in all of the state’s 100 counties have been adding provisional and absentee ballots to the total.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory

The McCrory campaign has filed protests in 50 counties, alleged fraudulent absentee ballots and votes by felons and dead people. It asked the state elections panel to oversee official county canvasses across the state, the results of which are scheduled to be certified by the state on November 29. But the board voted to let the counties continue the process on their own.

So far, 40 counties have completed their canvasses and certified final results. However, none of those were large metropolitan counties with vote totals large enough to conceivably allow McCrory to make up ground.

If Cooper’s lead is less than 10,000 votes when the final canvasses are completed, McCrory could request a statewide recount.

In North Carolina, the State Board of Elections and all 100 county boards are appointed by the governor, with the governor’s political party holding a majority on all of those panels, regardless of the political leanings of the county.

The McCrory campaign suffered a major blow when the board in Durham County, despite being controlled by members of his own party, turned down a challenge alleging possible fraud.

On election night, 90,000 votes from the heavily Democratic county came in late, propelling Cooper into the lead and prompting McCrory to cry foul. However, elections officials in Durham said the votes were reported all at once because a technical problem forced them to enter the results from voting machines by hand.

A different technical problem with computerized voter roles in Durham County led the State Board of Elections to extend voting by up to an hour in eight precincts on election day.

While turning down McCrory’s request to get involved in canvasses statewide, the state board did agree to look at allegations of voter fraud in Bladen County, in the southeastern party of the state. However, McCrory actually won in Bladen County and less than 16,000 people voted, making any change there unlikely to alter Cooper’s lead.

McCrory rode a GOP wave into office in 2012, but the Republican-controlled legislature’s passage of a controversial voter ID law and measures favored by religious conservatives made the governor a lightning rod.

The issue that dominated the race was McCrory’s decision to sign a law requiring transgendered students to use bathrooms that match their gender of birth, rather than their gender of identity, in public facilities.

McCrory continued to defend the law, even after a number of businesses scuttled expansion plans and the NCAA, NBA and ACC pulled events from the state.

Cooper not only opposed the measure, but he also refused to defend it in court when students and the federal government took legal action to overturn it.

Analysis: Election results show Democrats are still a long way from being competitive in the South

Clinton performed worse in the South than Barack Obama in 2012

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Prior to the November 8 election, Democrats were publicly hopeful that they might finally be turning back Republican hegemony in the South, to the degree that pro-Hillary Clinton ads were running not only in the battleground states of Florida and North Carolina but also in reliably Republican Georgia and Texas.

Election results show that thinking was not just wishful, it was magical.CFP Facebook Mugshot

In fact, Clinton did comparatively worse in the South than Barack Obama did four years ago (which, oddly, seems to undercut the notion that the South’s resistance to Obama was based on his race.) A look at regional and state-by-state figures in the presidential race shows just how grim election night was for Southerners with a D attached to their name.

Donald Trump carried 53.3 percent of the vote and 13 out of 14 Southern states. That performance was not as good as Mitt Romney’s in 2012, when he came in with 54.4 percent (although Romney only carried 12 states.) However, the performance gap between Trump and Clinton was actually larger than the gap between Romney and Obama because Clinton’s underperformance was even worse.

She took just 42.5 percent of the Southern vote; Obama won 44.3 percent. Some of that was due to a larger third-party vote which, at 4.2 percent, was about 3 points more than it was in 2012. However, the gap between the Republican and Democratic share of the vote went up everywhere except Texas and Georgia and the lone Southern state Clinton carried, Virginia.

A look at raw vote totals shows the degree to which Clinton hemorrhaged Obama supporters.

In Mississippi, Clinton’s raw vote total was nearly 101,000 less than Obama’s in 2012, a huge shift in a state where less than 1.2 million votes were cast. Given that African-Americans play an outsized role in the state’s Democratic base, Clinton’s numbers are a clear sign that black voters did not turn out for her as they did for Obama.

But if Mississippi was bad for Clinton, Appalachia was even worse — down 51,000 votes in Kentucky, 92,000 in Tennessee, and 52,000 votes in West Virginia, where Trump’s percentage of the vote soared 15 points above Romney’s number. Those three states together have 270 counties; she carried exactly five.

In Arkansas, where Clinton was first lady and her husband governor for 10 years, she lost 16,000 votes and managed just 33.6 percent of the vote, 3.3 points lower than Obama’s vote in 2012. At the same time, Trump’s vote went up 34,000 over Romney’s, a net difference of nearly 50,000 votes.

Even in Virginia, which Clinton won, her vote total was 11,000 less than what Obama put up in 2016. She won because Virginia Trump’s vote total came in less than Romney’s by about 59,000 votes.

Meanwhile, as Clinton’s vote was fading, Trump’s was surging, beating 2012 GOP totals in every state except Virginia and Mississippi.

In Florida, where a growing Latino population was supposed to lead Clinton to victory, Trump added 442,000 votes to Romney’s tally, while Clinton added just 245,000 to Obama’s. In North Carolina, he added 69,000; she lost 16,000 in a battleground state she visited repeatedly.

In total across the South, Trump added more than 1 million votes to Romney’s haul; Clinton managed to add 448,000 by offsetting her losses in 11 states with gains in Texas, Florida and Georgia.

This led to some remarkable net vote changes between the two parties — 128,000 in Alabama, 166,000 in Kentucky, 150,000 in Tennessee and 118,000 in West Virginia.

The only glimmer of light at the end of this dark tunnel for Democrats was their improved performance in both Georgia and Texas.

In the presidential race, Democrats closed the gap with Republicans from 8 to 5 points in Georgia and 16 points to 9 points in Texas. Clinton also carried two big suburban counties in Atlanta, Cobb and Gwinnett, that had not gone Democratic in 40 years, along with Fort Bend County in suburban Houston, normally a no-man’s-land for a Democrat.

So perhaps Democratic wistfulness for those two states may not have been entirely misplaced, although that’s cold comfort when Trump carried Florida and North Carolina on his way to the White House.

And if the presidential results were grim, the U.S. Senate races were just as bad. Republicans  went eight-for-eight, with a race in Louisiana heading for a December 10 runoff in which Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy is favored to keep the seat in GOP hands.

Democrats didn’t even bother contesting Alabama, Oklahoma or South Carolina; they did recruit credible candidates in the rest of the races, such as Conner Eldridge in Arkansas, Jim Barksdale in Georgia and Jim Gray in Kentucky. But all lost by double-digit margins.

The Democrats’ best shots to pick up GOP-held seats were thought to be in Florida, where U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy was challenging Marco Rubio, and in North Carolina, where Deborah Ross was challenging Richard Burr. Murphy lost by 8 points; Ross, by 7. Both actually underperformed Clinton in their states.

The only good news for Democrats came in races for governor in West Virginia, where Jim Justice kept the office in Democratic hands, and in North Carolina, where Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper appears to have ousted Republican Governor Pat McCrory, although that race may be headed for a recount.

Governor: North Carolina still up for grabs; Democrats keep West Virginia

Cooper declares victory in North Carolina, but McCrory refuses to concede; Justice has easy win in West Virginia

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) –Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper has claimed victory in the North Carolina governor’s race, holding an tiny, unofficial  4,700-vote lead over Governor Pat McCrory with provisional ballots still to be counted.

McCrory, however, is refusing to concede, pending counting of those ballots and a full canvass of the vote.

Meanwhile, in the only other Southern governor’s race this year, in West Virginia, Jim Justice, a billionaire coal mine owner, defeated Republican State Senate President Bill Cole by a margin of 49-42 percent to win an open seat.

Pat McCrory

Pat McCrory

Roy Cooper

Roy Cooper

In North Carolina, Cooper, who had trailed for most of the night, declared victory after late-reporting returns from Durham County put him ahead of McCrory.

“Because of your hard work, we have won this race for everyone in North Carolina,” Cooper told jubilant supporters in Raleigh. “This has been a hard-fought race, but the people of North Carolina have spoken, and they want a change in leadership.”

But McCrory refused to concede defeat, specifically mentioning the late Durham County vote as a concern. He said he would wait until seeing the results of the official canvasses in the state’s 100 counties, which won’t be completed until November 18.

“We’re going to check everything,” he told supporters at a Republican election night party in Raleigh. “We’re going to make sure every vote counts in North Carolina.”

The margin between Cooper and McCrory is less than one-tenth of 1 percent, small enough to allow McCrory to request a full recount under state law.

McCrory rode a GOP wave into office in 2012, but the Republican-controlled legislature’s passage of a controversial voter ID law and measures favored by religious conservatives made the governor a lightning rod.

The issue that has dominated the race was McCrory’s decision to sign a law requiring transgendered students to use bathrooms that match their gender of birth, rather than their gender of identity, in public facilities.

McCrory continued to defend the law, even after a number of businesses scuttled expansion plans and the NCAA, NBA and ACC pulled events from the state.

Cooper not only opposed the measure, but he also refused to defend it in court when students and the federal government took legal action to overturn it.

Jim Justice

Jim Justice

In West Virginia, Justice’s win was good news for Democrats, who have seen their once dominant hold on state politics slipping away. He won the governorship even as Donald Trump was thumping Hillary Clinton 65-29 percent in the Mountaineer State.

Speaking to supporters at the famed Greenbrier result in White Sulphur Springs, which he owns, Justice pulled out a speech from his pocket and began to read, only to discover that it was a concession speech.

Pulling a victory speech from his other pocket, he said, “We won.”

“I can tell you I’ll work as tirelessly as I possibly can,” Justice said. “We will give it everything we have.”

The seat was open because Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin was term-limited.

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