Under the Dome

Democrats look for new leaders

November 24, 2012 

Whither, North Carolina Democrats?

For the most part, the state’s Democratic candidates were knocked back on their heels by the Nov. 6 election. That followed a legislative session in which the GOP pretty much got most of what it wanted, and scandal at the party headquarters.

Is there hope for Democratic leadership? Veteran Democratic politico Gary Pearce thinks so. In the blog he shares with conservative Carter Wrenn, Talking About Politics ( talkingaboutpolitics.com), Pearce recently named three leaders to watch:

Sen. Josh Stein of Raleigh, who became minority whip after only two years in office. “Has vision and proven, practical political skills,” Pearce writes. And he has raised more than any other Democrat in the General Assembly in this election cycle: more than $400,000.

Rep. Deborah Ross of Raleigh, currently one of the minority whips in the House with a decade of persistence behind her. “Hard-working, smart and tough,” is the squib on her. She’ll be thrust into the spotlight with Minority Leader Joe Hackney’s departure from the legislature.

Sen. Eric Mansfield of Fayetteville. He was a key player in the “tort reform” battles, and he raised his own profile with a run – albeit unsuccessful – for lieutenant governor. “Great resume – doctor, minister and soldier.”

Bob Luddy on the rise

Raleigh businessman and school-choice advocate Bob Luddy’s profile has been on the rise in business and political circles this year.

He helped finance a super PAC that helped re-elect state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby. This summer he testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that excessive regulations were stunting job creation.

The other day he appeared on John Stossel’s Fox Business News national TV show to deliver the same message in response to Stossel’s pointedly softball questions.

The heating and air-conditioning magnate, whose company CaptiveAire has grown to 700 employees in the past 35 years, said overregulation in a competitive industry like his makes it harder to turn a profit.

“Individuals and small companies make much better economic decisions than any government ever could,” Luddy said, adding that businesses must grow faster than government, or else unemployment will continue to be a problem.

Groups helps shape GOP agenda

The rise of the GOP in the state legislature the past two years coincided with exposure of a previously little known conservative group that has worked to shape legislation for decades: the American Legislative Exchange Council.

ALEC was a significant part of Republican lawmakers’ agenda in Raleigh, with what it calls a “boot camp” on “model legislation,” a spring summit meeting of the organization’s various task forces – each specializes in specific issues – held in Charlotte.

In the summer of 2011, a large contingent of Republican members of the House attended the national conference in New Orleans, where House Speaker Thom Tillis was named one of the legislators of the year.

Meanwhile, a drumbeat by liberal groups outed the extent of ALEC’s behind-the-scenes work to bring the corporate agenda to the nation’s legislators to pass pro-business laws.

Despite the bad P.R., North Carolina legislators aren’t likely to sever their longstanding ties to ALEC, and the group will likely continue to be a player in the new session that begins in January.

One local liberal group, Progress NC, put out its own report earlier this year, based on research by the Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause and reporting in newspapers, including The News & Observer.

Its report noted that 40 North Carolina legislators were ALEC members, all but three in the House, and all but two Republicans. It pointed to three ALEC-inspired bills that were introduced last session: the castle-doctrine “stand your ground” gun law, the failed attempt to gut consumer protection in product liability cases, and the promotion of charter schools. Language in all three bills was similar to ALEC model legislation.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

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