Leading from the Left

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Hypocrite Pleads Guilty

The News and Observer reports that former State Representative and current Cabarrus County Commissioner Coy Privette has pleaded guilty to prostitution related charges.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Moore vs. Perdue

Several newspapers have run articles recently about the Democratic candidates for Governor, Beverly Perdue and Richard Moore. Specifically, these recent articles have highlighted who's contributing to whom.

State Treasurer Moore, who has raised slightly more than Perdue, is raising loads of money from individuals associated with businesses his department does business with. Lt. Governor Perdue has, conversely, has raised money from NC's good old boy network--the prosperous, well-connected businessmen and professionals who often find themselves appointed to the DOT Board or the Board of Trustees of one of our Universities.

I have to say, Richard Moore's money bonanza coming from corporate entities with which his department does business is very troubling. I like Richard Moore; in the early part of this decade, he did good work using his power as the state's chief investor to pressure Wall Street to improve their ethical practices. And more recently he's been using that same power to persuade corporate America to begin addressing Global Warming. For these reasons, I find Moore a likable guy.

But he should not be taking these contributions; they call in to question his judgement.

Perdue on the other hand is reaping the benefits of being a good old boy. Wait, wait a second. She's not a good old boy! Ironic, isn't it, that the female candidate now seems to be the preferred candidate of NC's male power elite. I guess that's one type of glass ceiling.....

Monday, August 20, 2007

By Jove! Good-bye Rove!

If I weren't already happy to see the back of Karl Rove, I would be now after his nearly continuous slamming this week of Hillary Clinton. I know the right-wing views her as the anti-Christ, but come on gimme a break. But what's he up to?

Clearly, Hillary has been showing growing signs of strength as a candidate. She's buttoned up, on message, smart, and (gasp!) even funny. The more the public sees of her, the less threatening she seems and the better her poll numbers look. If I were the R's, I'd be scared too. Rove is trying to slam her hard and early, trying to knock her off her stride.

I think he's also trying to stir up the Republican base. Now that Bush has alienated just about everyone save the hardcore Republican nutters, it's in the party's best interest to keep throwing red meat to the only folks left in their camp. And, oh boy, the far-right nutters do hate Hillary. She's exactly the kind of woman who scares the pants off 'em: smart, powerful, and strong.

So, it's not so surprising that Rove has gone on the attack against Hillary. Once a bully, always a bully.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Wish There Were More Republicans Like Don Frankenfeld

Ed Farthing, EqualityNC's Community and Political Director and a gay Republican, sent the following to me today. It's from www.hoghouseblog.com and was posted by a Republican former legislator in South Dakota. It's a powerfully written piece.

By Don Frankenfeld, Hoghouse Blog columnist

In July I became a founding board member for Equality South Dakota, an organization dedicated to securing and protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender South Dakotans. When I explained this to my wife, she wondered if there was something else I wanted to tell her. As it happens, she was already on to me, but for the sake of full disclosure to my new friends in the LGBT community, it is time to come out of the closet: I am a Republican. Also, I am straight – not that there is anything wrong with that.

The fact is homosexuality baffles me, particularly when looking at the most fundamental physical aspect: an attraction to certain body parts and certain sex practices. I can't understand why some guy would be mesmerized by my equipment, and want to do that with it, when he has the same equipment himself.

Wait a minute. I don't understand heterosexuality any better. Over the years I have become accustomed to the thought that a guy would naturally be sexually attracted to a woman, particularly certain body parts. (I write from the perspective of a guy, as it is the only perspective I have.) Moreover, a guy might relish the thought of doing that. But why?

Whatever your orientation, desire propels you, and is in turn propelled by intrigue, instinct and mystery. Sometimes sexual attraction is irrational, but always, it seems to me, it is trans-rational. So given the mystery of our own sexuality, who are we to judge someone else's, as long as it is between consenting adults?

I don't expect my participation in Equality South Dakota to change the face of South Dakota, or its politics. I believe I can make a contribution, however. And yes, it is time to make amends, as well. I have had a long journey, with quite a distance yet to go.

I won't detail my mental cruelty toward gays over the years, except to observe that I was fairly typical of my generation. During junior high and high school, gay-bashing was pretty much the only permissible, respectable manifestation of cruelty toward someone for what they were. I'm not saying that racism didn't exist, only that anti-black or anti-Indian remarks were at least regarded as politically incorrect, and this somewhat inhibited bad behavior. Homosexuals had no such protection.

I sincerely thought homosexuality was a dangerous perversion, and as a teen-ager I was mean to those who I thought were "queer." By college (at an all-male school), I came to know quite a few homosexual faculty members and classmates, and sometimes to put aside (but not eliminate) my squeemishness to form friendships.

Early in my career as a state senator, a gay rights activist thanked me for my willingness to meet with him — never mind that our meeting was more or less in secret for our mutual benefit. He was not openly gay, and I wanted to be re-elected.

Later I was testifying as an economic expert on behalf of a number of claimants to the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, some of whom were gay. I had the extraordinary gift of reading many deeply felt love letters of a flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11 to his registered domestic partner of eleven years. The last of these letters was written on September 9, 2001, around midnight. "The time we are apart seems like years to me. It is a good thing when one's presence is missed." Aside from gender, these poetic letters are indistinguishable from those between any passionate and deeply committed lovers. My rare and privileged intimate glimpse into the private lives of this couple was transformational, partly because it was so moving and partly because it was so routine.

Lately I have been suggesting to my gay friends that they should take a Republican to lunch. That is because Republicans and the gay community need each other. Republicans need to be reminded that they are the party of Lincoln; the party of equality, opportunity and tolerance. And in South Dakota, gays need the understanding and compassion of the Republicans who are likely to control South Dakota government for the foreseeable future, and hence the destiny of gays with respect to many vital issues.

I don't expect immediate or revolutionary changes. I do expect progress. I think Equality South Dakota can help.

Monday, August 13, 2007

This is Not an Announcement. Stay Tuned....

I won’t make an official announcement until sometime this fall, but I wanted you all to be among the first to know that I’ve decided to run for the State Senate seat currently represented by Ellie Kinnaird.

When Ellie told me last winter that she would not be running for re-election in 2008, I immediately was inclined to run. The state legislature is a key battle-ground for many of the issues I care about: the environment, quality schools, equal treatment under the law for lesbians and gay men, and health care reform. Legislative seats don’t open up very often, I decided, and if I wish to impact those and other issues then there was no choice but to get into this race.

Ellie has been a consistent—and persistent—voice for the district’s progressive values. She was often a lone voice in the State Senate for the progressive positions you and I share. Our next State Senator also needs to be someone who will be bold, principled, and progressive, while at the same time work well with others to make a difference for our community.

During my tenure as an Orange County Commissioner and as Mayor of Carrboro, I have been a strong advocate for the environment, education, and protecting the under-served and under-represented in our society. I will build on this record if elected to the NC State Senate.

Additionally, for the past 3 years, I’ve worked as a lobbyist on environmental issues at the General Assembly. Because of that experience, I can hit the ground running in the State Senate. I can be effective from Day One. I know how to make things happen in Raleigh while keeping fiercely committed to my progressive principles.

Now that the 2007 legislative session has drawn to a close, you begin to see signs of campaign activity on my part. A campaign for the State Senate demands a larger campaign organization than I’ve had in past runs for Mayor of Carrboro and for the Board of County Commissioners. It’s critical to get organized early.

However, it’s still a bit early to make an official announcement. For that, you’ll have to stay tuned…..

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Change, One Step at a Time

People sometimes ask me if it really matters whether or not gay men or lesbians are elected to office. The argument goes something like: "Surely, a supportive straight elected official will support your issues just as well as you can?"

It's a well-intentioned question, often asked by a friend or supporter who--niaively, I suggest--believes that acceptance of homosexuality is closer at hand than it actually is. Because this question is meant kindly, I usually resist answering by asking, in return, "Would women have made the advances they have if it had been up to men alone? Can we really expect that African-Americans would be where they are today if they'd just sat on their hands waiting for white people to up and decide to share power?"

The answer is self-evident.

It's for this reason that electing openly lesbian or gay candidates to public office is important. Without a seat at the table, change is unlikely. A seat at the table facilitates public discourse in a way that is unique and powerful. Even in a progressive area like Orange County, having openly lesbian or gay elected officials is important.

That's why I'm so proud of Lydia Lavelle for running for the Carrboro Board of Aldermen this year. She will bring a set of life experiences to the BoA this is currently lacking. While there isn't a "lesbian" position on sidewalks or garbage collection or taxes, there are unique life experiences that will add depth to discussions. Each of us--white, black, latino, young, old, male, female, gay, straight--each of us brings a unique voice to the decision-making process. Lydia will bring hers, and it will serve the people well.

But she brings alot more to the table as well. Lydia is as strong a candidate as there is for the BoA this year. She serves on the Planning Board, is a resident of the newly annexed area, and has more than a decade's worth of experience in recreation and parks issues from her time living in Durham before moving to Carrboro. Lydia, a former law partner of Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy, brings a sharp intellect and steadiness to this campaign. She will be a great advocate for the people of Carrboro if they choose to elect her in November.

I wish Lydia well in this race.

Labels: , ,

More Signs of Change

Lillian's List, a non-profit that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women to the North Carolina General Assembly, forwarded the following press release several weeks ago. North Carolina now has a record number of women in the legislature, and 3 more have been added since the first of the year due to death or resignation of 3 male members. These women are now at critical mass, particularly in the house, and are chairing powerful committtees and shaping the agenda. There is no doubt that having a more diverse legislature is changing how business is done in our state and, importantly which issue rise to the top of the pile.

The press release below was prepared by the NC Center for Public Policy Research, based on research they conducted.


Record numbers of women and retirees are serving in the legislature this year. Female legislators now

chair or co-chair four of the six most powerful committees in the House and two of the six most powerful

committees in the Senate, says the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research. The 2007 legislature also is on a

record pace for the number of bills introduced. And, the legislature has seen an unusual number of deaths and

resignations since last November. These are just a few of the latest trends in the legislature highlighted in the

Center’s new citizens’ guide to the legislature released today.

A Record Number of Women…

Forty-three women are serving in the 2007 N.C. General Assembly, up from 39 last session. Lillian

Exum Clement of Buncombe County was the first woman elected to the legislature in 1920, but even as late as

1971, only two legislators were women.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, North Carolina is now

18th highest among the 50 states in the percentage of women in its legislature, with 25 percent (43 out of 170

legislators). Nationally, the average is 24.5 percent women legislators, with Vermont the highest at 37.8

percent. South Carolina is lowest, with women comprising only 8.8 percent of its 170 legislators. North

Carolina now leads the South in the percentage of legislators who are women.

…And the Women in the Legislature Hold Powerful Posts

Female legislators in North Carolina are not only more numerous, they also are more powerful. Every

other year, the Center surveys all legislators, registered lobbyists, and capital news media and asks them to rank,

among other things, the most powerful legislative committees. This year, women serve as chairs or co-chairs of

four of the six most powerful committees in the state House of Representatives and two of the six most

powerful committees in the Senate. In the House, three females are among the co-chairs of the powerful

Appropriations Committee, which puts together the state budget – Representatives Alma Adams (D-Guilford),

Martha Alexander (D-Mecklenburg), and Maggie Jeffus (D-Guilford). Additionally, six of the seven House

Appropriations Subcommittees have women as co-chairs. Women also chair or co-chair other powerful House

committees, including the Finance Committee, the Judiciary I Committee, and the Commerce, Small Business

and Entrepreneurship Committee.

Rep. Melanie Wade Goodwin (D-Richmond) says, “Rep. Deborah Ross is chairing Judiciary I,

traditionally a lawyers’ committee handling high-profile policy matters. Rep. Lucy Allen is chairing

Environment, a committee that often entertains bills relating to industry’s interactions with the environment.

Rep. Margaret Dickson is chairing Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, where bills affecting more

than 90 percent of our state’s business entities are debated. And Rep. Jennifer Weiss is co-chairing Finance,

which sets tax policy for our entire state. Women clearly have a major role in shaping state policy this session.”

In the Senate, two of the three co-chairs of the powerful Appropriations/Base Budget Committee are

women – Senators Linda Garrou (D-Forsyth) and Kay Hagan (D-Guilford). The other Senate committee ranked

among the six most powerful with a female leader is the Education/Higher Education Committee, co-chaired by

Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover).

Women also serve as key party leaders. In both the House and Senate, women serve as half of the

majority or minority whips for their political parties. Party whips count votes and line up support on issues on

which the Democratic or Republican parties have taken a position.

The North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research

P.O. Box 430 Raleigh, N.C. 27602 (919) 832-2839 FAX (919) 832-2847 http://www.nccppr.org

Copies of Article II: A Guide to the 2007-2008 N.C. Legislature and the Supplement with committee

assignments are available for $25 a set, which includes tax, postage, and handling. To order, write the Center at

P.O. Box 430, Raleigh, NC 27602, call (919) 832-2839, fax (919) 832-2847, or email tbromley@nccppr.org.

* * *

For more information, contact Sam Watts, policy analyst, or Ran Coble, executive director, at the N.C.

Center for Public Policy Research at (919) 832-2839.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Signs of Change

I spent this past weekend in Asheville. There's never a bad time of year to be in Asheville, but summer is particularly nice because it's often about 10 degrees cooler and slightly less humid up the mountain. This trip, like previous visits, was a delight.

The reason for the trip--as if I really needed an excuse to refugee out of the Piedmont in August--was to attend a fundraiser for EqualityNC. Equality is North Carolina's only state-wide political organization working for civil rights for lesbians, gay men, bi-sexuals and trans-gendered individuals (LGBT). I helped found the organization back in 1991, served as the first staff person, and am now chair of the Board of Directors.

As I've reflected the past couple of days on Saturday's fundraiser, I can't help but note how much things have changed for the gay community--and how little.

Saturday's event, by any measure, was a whopping success. Equality raised $15,000 with well over 100 guests and an assortment of local and state elected officials.

The biggest sign of how far we've come towards acceptance of the gay community was the presence of 3 candidates for Lt. Governor: Dan Besse, Winston-Salem City Councilmember and one of the events sponsors; Hampton Dellinger, an Orange County boy who's sponsored an Equality event in the past, and--perhaps most surprisingly--State Senator Walter Dalton of Rutherfordton. Dalton is a moderate to conservative Senator who has never had much of a relationship with the LGBT community. His attendance is a clear sign that the state has moved far enough along on LGBT issues that mainstream politicians are no longer scared to be seen with us.

You know, 4 years ago we couldn't have gotten that many state-wide candidates to attend an gay political event. It would have been like pulling teeth to get them there.

There are lots of reasons for this sea-change of course. First, since the Massachussetts marriage decision the country as a whole, including North Carolina, has been having thorough conversation about gay rights and the LGBT community's place in our country. Though difficult at times for those of us who are gay and had to listen to the venomous rhetoric spewed from the right, that conversation has been good for the country and North Carolina.

The second development was closer to home and was mainly felt by North Carolina's Democratic Party establishment....the election of Julia Boseman to the NC State Senate from New Hanover County. Julie, an out Lesbian and a Democrat, got elected in 2004 in a Republican-leaning, conservative district. It is a district that is nearly impossible for a Democrat to win much less an openly Lesbian Democrat. Few people in the party establishment thought she could win at first. She proved them wrong. And in doing so, the establishment recognized--for the first time--that the electorate might not be as anti-gay as they thought.

Julia's election to the State Senate helped open doors and change minds; the effects of her election have been felt far beyond the boundaries of her district, which speaks to the need to have more openly gay/lesbian elected officials. It does, indeed, make a difference to have minority groups seated at the table.

Senator Boseman's election hasn't changed everything, though. It's still hard to get pro-gay legislation through the NC General Assembly. Just last week, for example, a bill that would have prohibited bullying in schools was blocked in the State Senate. This bill was blocked for one reason and one reason only. It included the category "sexual orientation" as one of the groups against which bullying would not be tolerated. The far right went ballistic and raised a holy-stink about the bill, managing to get it stopped in its tracks even after passing the State House by a strong majority.

So as I was driving back down the mountain, heading home to the thick heat of the Piedmont on August, I couldn't help but reflect on how far we've come but yet how little difference it's made yet. For those of you who are straight, you may not quite comprehend why it's a big deal for Equality to have 3 Lt. Governor candidates at one of our events. But, trust me, it is. But even with an openly lesbian member of the State Senate and a number of strong pro-gay allies, we still couldn't get a little bill passed that would have helped prevent school children from being bullied.

Creating change means adding one building block at a time, adding pieces to the jig saw puzzle one-by-one until the picture comes into focus. The work that Equality NC has done over the last 16 years has helped create a different North Carolina, but it's still a long road home. Sometimes the last mile is the longest.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

2007 Legislative Session--Issues of Choice

Yesterday I indicated that I would be posting this week on the recently concluded Legislative Session. Today, I received an excellent summary of the session from a pro-choice perspective. Melissa Reed, Executive Director of the NARAL-NC emailed out the following summary. I post it below for your information.

Last week the General Assembly ended its 2007 session.

When the state budget passed Monday night, it marked important victories in reproductive health and HIV/AIDS issues. The Women's Health Services Fund, which provides funding for family planning services to uninsured women who are not eligible for Medicaid, received $200,000 in recurring state funds. And, after more than a decade of flat-funding HIV-prevention programs, the budget includes $2 million in new, recurring money to support more programs that work across the state.

In addition to these victories, we commend state Sen. Katie Dorsett for leading the passage of a bill establishing North Carolina's new cervical cancer prevention program, which will help ensure that parents with kids in public and private schools will have access to information about cervical cancer, cervical dysplasia, human papillomaviris and vaccines available to prevent the disease. Sen. Dorsett said it best: "It is our responsibility to make sure that families have the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their children's health. I am confident that this law will help prevent cancer through better awareness and education." Thanks to Sen. Dorsett and all her colleagues who supported this important health-care measure and to Gov. Easley who signed it into law this summer. We are proud of these steps forward, but we know there's more to do.

I'm sad to tell you neither the Comprehensive Sex Ed legislation nor the Compassionate Care for Victims of Rape bill passed. However, your work backing up our lobbying efforts helped us expand our coalition partnerships and increase our legislative allies this session. These bills gained a record number of co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, marking real progress in the support of women's reproductive freedom. And our pro-choice sponsors and leaders have pledged to continue to work with us to keep the legislation on the table.

Legislative Progress

The legislative process can be challenging at times – but it's important to note specific steps forward.

Passage of the comprehensive sex ed bill through the House Health Committee this past spring was a victory in itself. NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and our coalition partners and allies made this happen.

We also helped block 11 pieces of anti-choice legislation. One bill would have allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions; another would have forced a mandatory delay on women seeking abortion care; and an especially cruel bill would have denied health coverage to any state employee seeking abortion care, even if she was a victim of rape or if her life was in danger.

Moving Forward

With the session now over, our focus turns to strengthening our statewide network and building grassroots leadership in preparation for Choice Vote '08. We'll be continuing to reach out in communities large and small to build a base of support to elect more pro-choice leaders who will fight for reproductive freedom and justice.

In addition, we will be working hard to mobilize in communities where pharmacies are blocking access to the "morning-after" pill to encourage them to stock and dispense without delay. We will work with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that Medicaid includes coverage for women who need over-the-counter emergency contraception.

These victories and major steps forward would not have been possible without the support of our activists and donors. Your phone calls, visits, and emails to legislators and your kind and generous gifts made it possible and are greatly appreciated. With your continued support, we will continue to promote and protect reproductive rights in North Carolina!

For reproductive freedom,

Melissa Reed
Executive Director
NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina

Monday, August 06, 2007

Catching My Breath


As most of you know, I work as a lobbyist for the Conservation Council of NC, an environmental non-profit located in Raleigh. The last three weeks of the legislative session, which wrapped up late Thursday night, were as hectic as I can remember. The House and Senate passed far-reaching environmental legislation, a visionary budget, ethics bills, and on and on.

This week, we're all walking around the office like zombies, just trying to catch up.

Several folks have asked if I plan on doing a legislative round-up, a list of bills that passed this year and my thoughts on them.

Yes, I do plan on doing that this week. Look for it later this week. This was an active and productive session, and there is a lot to report.

For now, I will simply say how proud I am of Speaker Joe Hackney of Orange County. Joe was elected Speaker with the cloud of the Jim Black scandal hanging over the House. He brought to the chamber a cleaner, more transparent process. Even with two Democratic members (Thomas Wright and Mary McAllister) facing campaign finance controversies, and two Republican members (David Almond and Joe Boylan) facing sex scandals, Joe kept the chamber focused on the work they were there to do for the people of the state.

I have to say that I was most proud of Joe for holding firm on the Land Transfer Tax during the budget negotiations. The pressure from the Real Estate lobby was intense. Other leaders would have backed down, but Joe and the House Democrats held their ground, and we'll all be better off for it.