Under the Dome

Dome: Forest worried about unions as Lt. Gov. provisional ballots counted

From staff reportsNovember 12, 2012 

Emotions are running high a week after Election Day as there is still no clear winner in the race to decide the next lieutenant governor of North Carolina.

Republican Dan Forest, who holds a narrow advantage of 11,103 votes out of the 4.3 million-plus already counted, sent emails asking supporters for cash and suggesting an early lead established in unofficial results could be “stolen from us by the unions.”

The claim hinges on the counting of provisional ballots – ones cast by voters whose eligibility is in question, often because they lacked ID when registering to vote and on Election Day – but has been batted away as illegitimate by Forest’s Democratic opponent, Linda Coleman.

County election boards will count provisional ballots and double-check any questionable ballots, and the possibility of a statewide recount remains alive if the final results put the race within 10,000 votes.

Partisan observers are allowed while provisional ballots are being considered, and that’s why Forest supporters were hit with emails from the campaign’s finance director, Neal Harrington, and from campaign manager Hal Weatherman.

“We must dig deep and make sure that Dan’s victory on election night is preserved and not stolen from us by the unions,” Harrington said.

Weatherman chimed in with a couple questions: “Is there any doubt that provisional ballot observations will be stacked with union members?” he asked. “Is there any doubt they will spend whatever it takes to legally challenge whatever motion offered during the recount process that does not benefit their candidate?”

The unions at question are the State Employees Association of North Carolina and the Service Employees International Union, which have been ardent supporters of Coleman and among the harshest critics of Forest throughout the campaign. SEANC even launched a website highlighting some of his “extreme” conservative beliefs.

Coleman responded to Forest in an email of her own asking her opponent to join her “in protecting the democratic process.”

“I believe – and hope Dan believes – that nothing is more important than allowing voters’ voices to be heard,” Coleman said, also likening the moment to a tied baseball game in the eighth inning. “The process (of counting provisional ballots) is fair and impartial, and I trust the law.”

Micah Beasley, Coleman’s communications director, also pointed out that Coleman has not yet requested a recount and is waiting for official results to make a decision.

Taking redistricting on the road

The Republican-led redistricting effort left a clear mark on the 2012 elections and that’s drawing attention to an effort to make the process nonpartisan.

The N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform will begin a statewide tour this week to pitch their idea for redistricting reform to business leaders with the local chambers of commerce in six cities, said director Jane Pinsky. The group, which is backed by members of both political parties, wants an independent panel to redraw political district boundaries every 10 years instead of the state legislature.

Republicans spent millions in a concerted effort in 2010 to wrest control of the state legislature and put themselves in a position to craft the maps. Democrats also used them to keep a grip on power in previous years. The new maps are still the subject of an ongoing legal battle.

The first forum is Tuesday with the Durham Chamber of Commerce and features state Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Democrat. Other stops include Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Wilmington and Raleigh. Among the politicians helping the effort: Rep. John Faircloth, a High Point Republican; Sen.-elect Earline Parmon, a Winston-Salem Democrat; and former Republican Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot.

Burr in 2016?

In case anyone hasn’t had their fill of presidential politics, the Des Moines Register has gathered an early Republican wish-list of potential candidates.

Several have long been discussed – Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez – but the Iowa newspaper also gives a tip of the hat to a North Carolinian who has largely been outside of the spotlight: Sen. Richard Burr, who has been in the Senate since 2005, grabbed enough attention to be one of the “other mentions.”

Staff writers John Frank, Lynn Bonner and Austin Baird

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