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Political Notebook: Republican candidates stump for votes during NC GOP convention

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — With the Republican National Convention a little more than a month away, the North Carolina GOP heard from various candidates during its virtual convention on Friday.

Attendees heard from Republican candidates U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, Paul Newby, who is running for a chief justice position on the state’s supreme court, and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who’s running against Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, in the gubernatorial race.

Newby, who is vying to unseat incumbent Democrat Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, said that the state needs judges who are “constitutionalists, who are conservatives, and who have common sense.” He went on to say that includes justices who “consistently, predictably and logically apply plain meaning to the text of our constitutions.”

Newby currently serves as the senior associate justice and is the only Republican justice on the N.C. Supreme Court.

Newby emphasized the need for name recognition because many people are unaware of who’s running in a judicial race, he said. Beyond helping via paulnewby.com, Newby said citizens can help him by using social media and bumper stickers. He added that one bumper sticker on the back of a car is worth 100 votes, but on the back of a pickup truck is worth 500 votes.

“Unless, of course, that pickup truck has a gun rack, and then it’s probably worth 1,000 votes,” he said, adding “Unless that gun rack has a visible gun, then it’s proably worth 2,000 votes.”

Tillis, who’s defending his seat against Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, talked about a “stark contrast” and difference in upbringing between the two candidates. Tillis said he grew up in a large family and lived paycheck-to-paycheck. He said Cunningham “probably never went to bed hungry.” He also called Cunningham a “rubber stamp” for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, if elected.

He added that re-electing President Donald Trump and voting for Republicans is key as the state serves as the “firewall for the majority in the Senate.”

Tillis said he believes Republicans will win because people remember how good the economy was in February before COVID-19.

“The Republican party has been the party that has united America,” said Forest, who said he’s confident in a victory against Cooper “against all odds.”

Regarding the pandemic, Forest said the state can protect the health of its citizens while also sustaining people’s livelihoods.

“Human beings were not meant to be locked down,” he said. “And the damage of all of that will far outweigh the damage from this virus.”

 

U.S. Senate hopeful Cal Cunningham calls for federal financial relief for cities and towns facing budget shortfalls

On Thursday afternoon, Cal Cunningham, the Democrat vying for U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis’ seat in the upcoming general election, hosted a virtual press call to discuss federal relief for cities and towns facing looming budget shortfalls due to the pandemic.

The call was with Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan; state Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-28; and state Rep. Ashton Clemmons, D-57.

“Here we are in July and we still haven’t passed another response package,” Cunningham said during the call. “Meanwhile, the Senate packed up for a two-week recess. That’s unacceptable. Sen. Tillis ought to have called on (U.S. Sen.) Mitch McConnell to stay in session and get the job done. But he didn’t, once again following McConnell’s orders.”

The leaders spoke with Cunningham about the challenges Guilford County and other communities across the state are facing due to revenue losses, forcing them to make tough decisions about their budgets.

“As we’re looking at how we balanced our budget and trying to hold on to every one of our full-time benefitted employees, we need help from the federal government,” Vaughan said during the call.

Robinson said senators have written a letter to the U.S. Senate to say communities need stimulus money to go directly to cities.

Clemmons, who is a career educator and co-chair of the COVID-19 education workgroup, said additional relief is needed in order to reopen schools safely. She said demanding schools reopen without federal aid is “irresponsible.”

Cunningham also said, “As cases continue to rise, local governments are being stretched thin trying to provide support, and state and local governments need assistance now more than ever.”

 

General Assembly considered nine bills to curtail Gov. Cooper’s executive orders

In his regular newsletter, Sen. Carl Ford highlighted nine different bills that the General Assembly considered to curtail Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive orders. Those bills include:

  • House Bill 536, which would have temporarily expanded outdoor seating for restaurants and reopens bars. Cooper vetoed this bill.
  • HB 594, which would have allowed gyms, health clubs and fitness centers to reopen with specific safety conditions. The bill also included reopening bars and expanding restaurant seating, with discretion for Cooper to reclose those businesses with concurrence from the Council of State in the event of a spike in cases. After Cooper’s veto, the House was unable to override it.
  • HB 806, which Ford called a “clean bill,” followed HB 594 to reopen fitness centers, gyms and health clubs with certain cleaning and hygiene standards and capacity limits. Except this bill didn’t require Cooper to get concurrence from the council before making a decision to reclose the businesses. He vetoed it.
  • HB 258, which would have allowed amusement parks, arcades, fairs or carnivals and events venues to reopen if they meet specific safeguards. The bill also would have allowed outdoor stadiums that have restaurants to operate outdoor dining services with safeguards. The governor would have needed concurrence from the council to reclose those businesses, but he vetoed the bill.
  • Senate Bill 599, which would have allowed skating rinks and bowling alleys to reopen with certain safety measures. Cooper would have needed concurrence from the council to reclose the businesses, but he vetoed the bill. On July 7, a judge ordered bowling alleys be reopened, but Cooper said he’d appeal the ruling.
  • HB 795 is another attempt at reopening amusement parks, arcades, fairs or carnivals and events venues, along with public playgrounds. The Senate has already approved the bill, but it has been appointed to a conference committee in the House for some changes.

Other bills have been passed that aren’t related to shutting down businesses. Those include:

  • SB 105, which would have required the governor to seek concurrences of the Council of State for any statewide emergency declarations that last more than 30 days. Additionally, it would have required the governor to seek concurrence prior to imposing prohibitions or restrictions in lieu of a county or city doing so. Cooper vetoed the bill.
  • HB 686, which would have allowed Independence Day parades and fireworks to take place. Cooper vetoed the bill.
  • SB 730, known as the “No Patient Left Alone Act,” ensures visitation rights for hospital patients during disaster declarations or public health emergencies.

In several of Cooper’s veto messages, he expressed concern for reopening while case counts and hospitalizations are rising “at a concerning rate,” adding that tying the hands of public health and executive branch officials during the time of a pandemic is dangerous.

Also in the newsletter, Ford said the shutdowns have become “nonsensical.” Ford said the state has flattened the curve in an effort to not overwhelm hospitals. He also said protests include hundreds of people, but gathering sizes are restricted at places like churches.

The General Assembly adjourned on July 8 but will reconvene on Sept. 2 to disperse federal COVID-19 funding as needed, with the expectation of adjourning sine die on Sept. 3. Adjourning “sine die” puts an official end to the 2019-2020 legislature, barring any call back by the governor or statewide emergency.

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