Saturday, December 3, 2016

Voters chose punishment over politics this election season.

More than three weeks since election day, it’s still not over. (Though we're getting closer.)

As of Friday night, election outcomes of the two “chief executive” offices affecting North Carolina voters  - President of the United States and Governor of North Carolina - are both being challenged by recount requests.  In both cases, transition teams are moving forward as if nothing will change as the result of these requests, but still, for supporters of Hillary Clinton and Pat McCrory, there’s this overwhelming feeling that it “wasn’t supposed to be this way.”

In both cases, the outcomes can be traced to major changes in voting patterns in what had been dependable geographies for both political parties.  In the case of Clinton and the Democrats on the national level the Upper Midwest went from reliably blue to red.  For Pat McCrory in North Carolina it was the Lake Norman region that turned against him and voted for Roy Cooper in large numbers.

In both cases, voters in these areas chose to send their ‘traditional” candidate packing while helping cause unexpected victory for the other – assuming those victories stand.  More pointedly, in both cases the losing side had ample warning to prevent the losses, yet those warnings were ignored.  Candidates campaigned clearly thinking “their voters” wouldn’t dare do the unthinkable and support the other side.

In the race for President, the impact of the Upper Midwest can be seen in a series of maps published by New York Times just days after the election.  Google “landslide counties 2016” to see them.

In the November 10th Times article you’ll see that since 1992 as the country became increasingly polarized between rural Republican red counties and urban Democrat blue counties, the Upper Midwest states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa remained stubbornly “grey”.  That finally changed this election cycle with the rural parts of these states going heavily Republican.

While public polls didn’t show this occurring, there was an early sign that something was wrong with Hillary Clinton’s message in this part of the country.  The proverbial “canary in the coal mine” for Democrats was the March Democratic Party primary in Michigan where Bernie Sanders pulled off a surprising victory.

The Sanders Campaign message on trade was very similar to that of Donald Trump and that message clearly resonated in this area of the country.  If you look at the counties Sanders won in Michigan’s primary election, they closely mirror the ones that went landslide Republican for the first time this year in the general election.

A similar dynamic on a smaller scale played out here in North Carolina to undermine Pat McCrory’s reelection bid

The I77 HOT Lanes issue has raged very publicly since 2013 during the entire tenure of Pat McCrory’s term as Governor.  The anti-toll activist group Widen I77 held its first big public meeting on January 14th, 2013 – two days after McCrory’s inauguration.  Since then the issue has consumed all the electoral oxygen from every election cycle in the Lake Norman area.  Elected officials communicated in every possible way that this was going to be a major issue locally for McCrory in his reelection bid.  As a Republican bastion for  years, any significant dip in support here could have game changing consequences state wide.  Finally, you had the Huntersville election in 2015 and the NC-92 House primary this year as data points showing people in LKN were voting heavily based on this issue.

All of these warnings were ignored.

The end result was 33,000 votes lost for McCrory in thee Lake Norman area compared to his successful campaign in 2012.  That number is according to some post election analysis done by Kurt Naas, founder of Widen I77.   You can find more details on that at Naas’s blog -  As of Monday night that was more than three times Cooper’s 9,716 vote lead.

The lesson learned from these two examples is this.

If you take enough voters for granted for a long enough period of time, eventually those voters will actually say “ENOUGH!”  When that happens no politician should be surprised to see those voters choose punishment over politics.

This post first appeared in the Herald Weekly at  Minor updates made since.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas in Davidson not an "Extraordinary Event" per Town Hall

The anual Christmas in Davidson celebration kicked off Thursday night at 6pm.  For three nights, thousands of people will crowd local streets enjoying some Christmas spirit.

aShortChronicle checked with Town Hall to see if the celebration would be classified as an Extraordinary Event and to our pleasant surprise we were told "no".

Now, at this point you are probably thinking...

"What is going on here?!?! Of course Christmas in Davidson is an extraordinary event!!!  What could the town be thinking by saying otherwise?"

You of course would be right it is a great event.

What we were asking is if the town would call it an official "extraordinary event" - meaning would the town invoke an ordinance passed back in 2012 in the run up to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.  That ordinance allows the town to invoke special police powers in certain cases.

After the riots following the Keith Scott shooting in September, Charlotte declared the Panthers-Vikings game a special event.  In light of that and yesterday's DA decision to not prosecute in the case, it seemed like a reasonable question to ask.  Two years ago there was a "die-in" protest at the holiday event, so the possibility of a recurrence has precedent.

Christina Shaul with the Town had this to say about the possible use of the Extraordinary Event ordinance at these events.

"We could, but given the nature of the event and its history (no problems, no arrests, little to no reported crime, etc.) we've never seen the need.

As for the possibility of another protest at the event this year, Shaul had this to say...

"We do not anticipate any issues or problems as of this writing.  We are, of course, very sensitive to the national and Charlotte-based issues and intend to be vigilant.  We are keeping all lines of communication open to react appropriately should this change and/or if something develops."

It is nice to see the town is not overreacting in light of current events.

Here is hoping everyone attending Christmas in Davidson this year has a great, no - an extraordinary- time!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

More NC election mayhem in 2017

And you thought the election related brouhahas had come to an end.  Nope!  Not here in North Carolina where they appear to be never ending.

On Tuesday, the other shoe dropped in the Federal lawsuit against North Carolina's state legislative districts.  A panel of Federal Judges ordered the state to redraw 19 House districts and 9 Senate districts for the General Assembly by March 15th, 2017.  Maybe more importantly, the state was also ordered to hold new elections in by the end of 2017.

While none of our local districts in LKN are directly involved in the lawsuit, the court decision requires any district that changes as a result of drawing new districts hold a new election.  That means even if the NCGA doesn't do a wholesale redrawing of districts like they did when Congressional districts were redrawn earlier this year, there would seem to be a high likelihood many if not all legislative districts would be impacted.  For LKN voters that likelihood is even higher because some of the districts directly impacted are adjacent to House 92 & 98 as well as Senate 41.

In Mecklenburg County, House Districts 102, 107, and 99 as well as NC Senate 38 and 40 are under court ordered redrawing.  Check out the below maps to see exactly where these districts are all located.

It is easy to see how redrawing the court ordered districts will impact the LKN districts in some way - triggering new elections in those districts as well.

It's also easy to see how redrawing districts could put some newly elected officials is bad situations.  Since Republicans will be drawing the new maps, those things will likely happen if it's to their advantage.

Take NC 92 for example.  Newly elected Chaz Beasley lives in Steele Creek in the south end of the district adjacent to NC-102.  In redrawn districts what if his residence is put in the same district as Becky Carney in 102? He can either primary a formidable member of his own party in that new district or he would have to run in a district where he no longer resides.  The court order allows this for these special elections, but if he was successful in the 2017 election he'd have to move to the new district in order to run again in 2018.

Examples like that could be seen all across the state.  Also, with this hanging over the legislature, one can expect new legislation to move fast and furious while NCGA Republicans hold super majorities in both the House and Senate.  If the 2017 election puts that at risk, you can be sure they will use that power while they know they have it.

Of course all of this could not happen if the Republicans in the NCGA win an appeal, but recent history makes that seem unlikely.  If this redrawing of the maps goes forward, 2017 will be another bumpy year in NC politics.

Monday, November 28, 2016

"Formal Appeal" or Desperate Plea from McCrory Campaign as Cooper lead grows

Roy Cooper's lead in the NC Governor's race ballooned on Monday as more updated vote totals rolled in to the NCSBE.  As of Monday night, the lead stood at 9,716 votes according to the NCSBE website.

And almost as if on queue, Monday afternoon Pat McCrory’s campaign manager, Russell Peck, sent out an email asking for money to fight the tide. Regular readers of aShortChronicle will remember Peck from these posts here and here.

In an email titled "Formal Appeal", Peck makes what sounds more like a desperate plea for cash as time appears to be running out.

Over the weekend, attorney and registered Durham County voter Thomas Stark filed a formal appeal with the State Board of Elections in relation to the ‘malfeasance’ in tabulating approximately 90,000 ballots that were reported just before midnight on Election Day.

It was concerning to learn that the Durham County Board decided to not approve Tom Stark’s protest to recount early vote totals from election night.

The malfunctions and irregularities in Durham have been extremely troubling to this campaign and the people of North Carolina, and the State Board confirmed several errors. 

We are now left with no other position but to request the State Board of Elections expeditiously order a full recount of Durham County early vote totals.

We need funds to help us finish the job. Please contribute to the Legal Defense Fund TODAY!

Russell Peck
Team McCrory

The "malfunctions and irregularities" in Durham County may be troubling to Peck but they weren't the biggest problem for the campaign he was managing.

Take a look at the below numbers from the counties with the 4 largest cities in NC.

Of the four metro area counties, the vote share for the Democrat candidate was up the least in Durham County compared to 2012.  That's both in percentage terms and in raw numbers.  You'll also notice that Durham is consistently overwhelmingly Democrat with the Dem candidate capturing over 70% the past three election cycles.

Even if the recount request eventually does goes forward in Durham and even if it finds some issue, it doesn't pass the smell test that enough erroneous votes could possibly be found there to overcome Cooper's growing lead.

Rather than writing a check to Mr Peck, the fiscally conservative thing to do would be to keep one's money safely in their own bank account.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Remaking the Electoral College Map? Only time will tell.

Did this election cycle redraw the Electoral College map?  Does it signal some realignment of the national electorate for decades to come?

If you are a Republican, after seeing Donald Trump shatter the fabled Democratic Blue Wall in the Upper Mid West you say "yes.  If you are a Democrat still reeling from the election you shudder at the thought.

There has been much concern, hand wringing, and downright anger over the past several days at the mechanics of the Electoral College that decides our Presidential elections.  For the second time in less than 20 years, the popular vote winner will not be the winner in the Electoral College and that has started once again the arguments about getting rid of it.  It's a valid discussion, but changing the Electoral Collage is a discussion that likely won't be resolved anytime soon - maybe ever.

As for the discussion about does this election signal a long term change in the electoral map itself, that's a different matter.  Democrats can take comfort that history would tell us "no" one election does not indicate much when it comes to the map itself.

Starting with the Electoral College map from 1948, the first post WWII election cycle, scroll through the maps available on Wikipedia for each Presidential election.

The first map is the one that spawned the famous, and eroneous, "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline.

1948 Election from Wikipedia

If you scroll through the maps you will see clearly that there have been several true redrawings of the map over the subsequent 58 years - as few as six and as many as eight depending on how you count.

Look at this map from the 1964 Johnson/Goldwater race.  Democrats probably thought they had the Presidency locked up for a while after this one.

Johnson/Goldwater 1964

Just two cycles later Nixon/McGovern gave us this map in 1972.

Nixon/McGovern 1972

That map didn't hold long. Nixon resigned after achieving this solid red map, and things turned Blie again with Lyndon Johnson.

The general outlines of the map we have now fell into place with the 2000 Bush Gore election.

Bush/Gore 2000

President Obama chipped away at this map by adding Colorado, Nevada, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina to the Democratic tally.  The Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia adds seemed to signal a Democrat resurgence in the South, but two cycles later NC and FL are back voting Republican with VA being very close.

Trump did something similar with his close wins in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania this election.  They were certainly pivotal this cycle, but will they hold?  In response, you can be sure the Democrats won't be caught flat-footed in those states next Presidential election season.

The truth is this.

In one or two cycles the map can change radically.  It has in the past and likely will again in the future.  Candidates and national circumstances matter as much as anything else - including demographics..

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

2016: The "Landslide" Election

Landslide? What landslide?!?!

2016 shaped up to be one of the closer Presidential elections in memory.  Hillary Clinton wins the popular vote while Donald Trump wins the Electoral College with many of his winning states coming by incredibly close margins.

With all of these being true, how can this be a "landslide" election?

The answer to that question can be found in two articles from the NY Times.  The first article was published a few days before the election and the second article a few days after.  These articles covered the growth in "landslide counties" since the 1992 election with a county defined as "landslide" when either party wins the county by 20% or more.

In 1992 both parties had a little more than 500 such counties across the country.  After 2012 the Democrat landslide counties dwindled to 281 while Republican counties exploded to 1724.

In 2016 the trend continued and even accelerated in some areas.

Here are the statistics from the two NYTimes articles put into a chart.

A few things jump out from these numbers in 2016.

  • Over the previous 5 election cycles Republicans added about 226 landslide counties per cycle while Democrats lost about 50 per cycle.  In 2016 Republicans added a whopping 508 and Democrats lost 39.
  • In 2016, Republican landslide counties closed 75% of the population gap Democrats had after 2012.  They now trail by just 5 million people.
  • The share of the overall popular vote total from Republican landslide counties surpassed that from the Democrat landslide counties for the first time.

The most stark depiction of the impact of these changes in 2016 can be seen in the second linked article from the NY Times.  Click the above link and take a look at the maps.

Since 1992, only one major area of the country had resisted the change in the overall move towards a predominance of landslide counties.  That area was the Upper Midwest including the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. The rural areas of those states remained as non landslide areas over the last 5 election cycles.  In 2016 that changed dramatically.  Michigan and Wisconsin have gotten all the press coverage because they helped give the election to Trump, but even true blue Minnesota went rural red this election with the final spread under 2%.

CNN's election page allows you check out the totals at the county level if you are interested in more detail.

This overall change in landslide counties tells the tale of this particular election.

The next post will look at what that might mean when it comes to the Electoral College and the inevitable discussion where people claim this election "permanently remade the map".

Friday, November 11, 2016

One Veteran's Story

Every year when Veterans Day comes around I always think about my wife’s grandfather.  Like many members of the Greatest Generation the man had a story for every situation.  After getting to know him and hearing those stories (some more than once), I dubbed him “Forest Gump without the money”.

Grandpa had more careers and life experience than most.  He was a welder and a photographer.  A mechanical engineer, he worked a Ford Motor Company and IBM.  He was also a custom home builder for several years.

He was even an inventor.

He often told a story about leaving IBM to be part of a team that invented an optical scanning machine.  Most adults will remember the Scantron tests from school requiring a #2 pencil.  Grandpa helped invent the machine that graded those tests.  He also told a story about helping build some prototype fitness machines for some local body builders.  They went on to form a successful business.  From the way he described them, they were just like the Cybex machines you’ll see in many gyms.  Both of those companies are based in or near where he lived in Rochester, MN at the time.  Unfortunately, he was an engineer and not a savvy businessman.  He also wasn’t as lucky as Forest Gump, so huge monetary success wasn’t in the cards from these efforts.

However,  the most Interesting story he ever told was from his time in the Navy.

Grandpa joined the Navy from Minnesota during WWII.  Eventually, he was transferred to Norfolk Virginia where his skills as a photographer and a welder were put to use inspecting welds on ships being built in the shipyards.  He used a specialized camera to take Images of the welds and make sure they were safe.

When it came time to begin preparations to for D-Day he got his orders for a ship that would ultimately take part in the Normandy invasion.  While standing in line to board with his duffel bag packed, he was pulled aside and told his orders had changed.  Instead of heading to Europe, he would be working on a special project.

As Grandpa liked to tell the story he was eventually taken to a hanger with a Consolidated B-24 heavy bomber.  There were some engineers from the company present as well as some military mechanics.  Oddly, there was also an interior designer from New York City.

The team redesigned the plane, converting it into a passenger aircraft.  The bomb lift was converted into a small elevator.  The interior decorator made it into a well appointed vehicle suitable for VIP travel.  Grandpa’s job was to use his photography and welding skills to inspect the welds and make sure all the structural changes planned by the engineers were done properly.

What they had built was to be the first Air Force One – the first plane intentionally designed to carry the President of the United States.  The bomb lift/elevator conversion was needed because FDR was paralyzed from Polio, but according to Grandpa the public didn’t know that at the time.  That was a big part of the need for secrecy around the project.

There were a few of these B-24 conversions.  The converted planes were dubbed C-87 models.  The one Grandpa helped build was called the Guess Where II – a play on words because Presidential travel was kept secret.

Unfortunately, the Guess Where II never carried Roosevelt.  After the plane was built and just before its inaugural trip, the Secret Service decided the B-24 safety record wasn’t good enough.  The President took a different plane to meet Churchill and Stalin at the Teheran summit to begin planning the end of WWII.

Another brush with history in a life full of such events.

A Navy man until the end, Lieutenant Magnuson spent his last days at the new Veterans nursing home in Black Mountain being one of the first patients admitted when it opened in 2012.  He passed away in 2014.

Happy Veterans Day, Grandpa!  You and your stories are always missed.

This post first appeared in the Herald Weekly at