• Legislator, pioneer for women dies

    By Kayla Sawyer | Sunday, June 20, 2010 - 20:12

    Long-time Democratic legislator Bertha Holt died at the age of 93 on Friday morning at her home. Jefferson Holt of Chapel Hill said his mother suffered a stroke Sunday.

    Holt is known for her work to get North Carolina to repeal their marital rape law, which said husbands could not be charged with raping their wives. The law was amended in the 1987-88 session and was taken off the books in 1993. North Carolina was the last of 50 states to make marital and date rape a crime. She also carried the standard for the unsuccessful fight to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

    "I've been a staunch Democrat from birth, I guess," Holt said in a 1999 interview with The News & Observer. "I figure the best thing I can do is stay in and try to work towards change, and I have seen lots of change."

    A lawyer, Holt was appointed to fill a vacancy in the N.C. House in 1975, then served until her retirement in 1994. Holt served in the N.C. House of Representatives from 1975 to 1994. She earned her law degree from the University of Alabama in 1941.

    Other survivors include a daughter,Harriet Whitley of Burlington, and another son, Merrill, of San Francisco. Her husband, Clary Holt, died in 2003. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. today in the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter in Burlington.

  • Another student accuses Etheridge

    By Ray Watters | Saturday, June 19, 2010 - 16:28

    This is not a good week to be U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-2nd District. And if his critics are correct, it's not a good time to be a student with a question, either.

    The Pilot in Southern Pines posted a story Friday on its website about another alleged confrontation between Etheridge and a high school student that occured 14 years ago.

    In that story, former Moore County resident Brandon Leslie said he met Etheridge at a Pinecrest High School football game in the fall of 1996. At the time, Etheridge was N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction and running for the U.S. House seat he now holds.

    According to the story written by John Krahnert III: 

    Leslie said he introduced himself to Etheridge and asked him about his stance on a particular education program. He said Etheridge didn't answer his question, so he pressed him two more times.

    "And that's when he grabbed me by the shoulders, he shook me, and I'll never forget it, he said, 'Son, you need to learn to respect your elders,'" he said by phone on Wednesday. "I was just so taken aback, I think my jaw just dropped, and he walked off."

    Later on Friday, Etheridge's press office released a statement stating that Leslie's account was incorrect. Multiple political blogs reported that Etheridge's office also sent out an e-mail statement from Bob Greene, a retired educator who was principal of Pinecrest High School in 1996.

    The statement reads: “The story in today’s Pilot is inaccurate. I witnessed the event firsthand 14years ago. The student was in the wrong, and Bob Etheridge acted appropriately at all times. I would have been happy to tell the newspaper reporter the facts in this matter, but I was never contacted before the story appeared in the newspaper.”

    The Pilot spoke to Greene, who said he was drawn to the scene by the sound of a student talking loudly in a crowd of people near Etheridge. He told the reporter that he saw Etheridge's hand on the upper part of the student's arm, and that the student was within six inches of Etheridge.

    The Pilot interviewed Greene and included this quote from him:

    “The student was extremely close to him, I mean like six inches or so from him, and Mr. Etheridge had his hand on the student’s upper arm. I asked what was going on, and Mr. Etheridge said everything was OK, and they parted ways. I didn’t see any shaking or grabbing.”

    This new report comes in the same week that a viral video spread across the Internet, forcing Etheridge to issue an apology.

    In the video, two men who identify themselves as students ask Etheridge if he supports the Obama agenda. Etheridge tries to swat a camera from his face as he repeatedly asks the men to identify themselves. He then grabs one by the wrist and later by the back of the neck.

    The Associated Press reports that the video was posted Monday on sites owned by Andrew Breitbart, the Web entrepreneur who also released the video of ACORN workers counseling actors posing as a pimp and prostitute.

    The Rocky Mount Telegram also reported this week about some of the initial fallout from the video. A Thursday poll by the John W. Pope Civitas Institute - a conservative leaning think tank — reports that Ellmers is beating Etheridge 39 percent to 38 percent, among 2nd District voters. For course, how big this issue will be to voters in November will depend on just how many more stories like this come come to light.

    PS: On a nitpicking note, some media outlets have being using "assault" and "battery" interchangably in reporting this story.

    Just to clear things up, the crime of assault in the United States is when someone threatens violence, such as pointing a gun or raising a fist.

    Battery is when a person is battered, bruised, hit, touched or just plain hurt by violence from another person.

    People still use the term assault to cover both crimes, but don't be surprised if media outlets just use one term or the other. No matter what, the average person isn't allowed to legally touch someone else without their permission.

  • Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful to stump in Rocky Mount

    By Gene Metrick | Friday, June 18, 2010 - 15:00

    Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham will make a campaign stop Saturday in Rocky Mount to discuss his job creation plans with Nash and Edgecombe county voters.

    The event will take place at 3 p.m. at the Cafe at the Imperial Center as part of the candidate's 18-stop 'Beat Burr' tour. During the tour, Cunningham is slated to talk about what he describes as U.S. Sen. Richard Burr's "18 votes for policies that ship North Carolina jobs overseas."

    The tour started on Wednesday in Burr's hometown of Winston-Salem and will wrap up on Tuesday morning, when Cunningham is scheduled tocast his vote in Lexington, according to the Cunningham campaign.

    Cunningham, a former state senator, will face N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall in the June 22 Democratic runoff election. The winner will challenge Burr, R-N.C., in the November elections.

  • Etheridge issues apology for video incident

    By Gene Metrick | Monday, June 14, 2010 - 17:28

    U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge issued an apology Monday for his  actions after two young men approached him on the street  in Washington, D.C., with a video camera and asked him  if he supports President Obama's agenda.

    “I have seen the video posted on several blogs. I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved," Etheridge stated in a press release posted on his website. "Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina, I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect. No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response. I have and I will always work to promote a civil public discourse.”

    In the video, two men who identify themselves as students ask Etheridge if he supports the Obama agenda. Etheridge tries to swat a camera from his face as he repeatedly asks the men to identify themselves. He then grabs one by the wrist and later by the back of the neck.

    The Associated Press reports that the video was posted Monday on sites owned by Andrew Breitbart, the Web entrepreneur who also released the video of ACORN workers counseling actors posing as a pimp and prostitute.

    Check out the video here.

  • Senate hopeful touts jobs plan in Tarboro

    By Gene Metrick | Monday, June 14, 2010 - 16:44

    The campaign of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham issued the following press release today:

    U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham talked about his comprehensive plan to create jobs and restore the economy at a luncheon with Edgecombe County leaders on Saturday. “I appreciate the support of local leaders in Edgecombe County. We know we have to work together to bring jobs back to Eastern North Carolina,” said U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham. “I’m inviting folks to turn the page and write a new chapter for North Carolina. Join me, and let’s make sure North Carolinagets the best representation in the U.S. Senate.” Cunningham continued to gain momentum as he traversed Eastern North Carolina.  This was his second visit to Edgecombe County since the May 4 runoff. Cunningham has been endorsed by the North Carolina Association of Educators, North Carolina Teamsters, the Sierra Club, the Winston-Salem Journal, the Southern Pines Pilot, the Wilmington Star-News, VoteVets and retired General Wesley Clark.

    Cunningham faces N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall in the June 22 runoff election.

  • Democratic Senate hopeful to make return visit to Tarboro

    By Gene Metrick | Friday, June 11, 2010 - 16:42

    Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham will make a campaign stop Saturday in Tarboro to tout his job creation plan with local leaders.

    Cunningham's event is slated to begin at 2:30 p.m. at Stack's Restaurant at 1800 Western Blvd.

    The Cunningham campaign stated in a press release that "Cunningham's comprehensive jobs plan will: provide tax credits for job creation, establish Clean Energy Business Zones, invest in primary and secondary education to improve America's economic competitiveness and end unfair trade deals. In addition, he will crack down on China's ability to manipulate currency and ship North Carolina jobs overseas."

    Cunningham, a former state senator, made a campaign appearance June 5 in Tarboro.

    He faces N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall in a June 22 runoff election. The winner will face U.S. Sen. Richard Burr in the November elections.

  • GOP House candidate begins door-to-door campaign

    By Gene Metrick | Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 18:20

    The campaign of Republican U.S. House District 25 candidate Jeff Collins issued the following press release today:

    It’s a Tuesday afternoon, it’s 94 degrees, and Jeff and Beanie Collins are walking door to door on Jolene Drive in Rocky Mount.

    “Six months ago, if you had told me we’d be doing this, I would have said you were crazy,” says Collins, candidate for House District 25 which covers most of Nash County. “Here we are though, building a coalition of support…one voter, one household, one neighborhood at a time.” 

    Collins is a newcomer to politics and is challenging long-time politician Randy Stewart, a Democrat who was elected in 2008. Prior to that, Stewart was a county commissioner for twelve years. According to Collins, the district is generally conservative and is being misrepresented by Stewart.

    “His voting record makes it clear,” says Collins. “He has supported increased taxes and fees and increased government spending. His positions have hampered the creation of jobs in our state and in our district.” Stewart’s voting earned him a very poor 114 out of 123 ranking by the Civitas Institute, a public policy research and education organization, in Raleigh.

    Collins, his wife Beanie and campaign volunteers are traveling the district evenings and weekends, distributing literature and soliciting input and votes. His literature promises support for small businesses (they create 80 percent of new jobs), education, property rights and lower taxes.

    “When the economy was booming, the folks in Raleigh were spending money like drunken sailors, increasing the budget 25 percent in a two-year period," Collins says. "It’s time for the legislature to act responsibly, refocus government on essential services, and reduce the tax burden of the people of the state. We can rebuild North Carolina and Nash County.

    "We just need some common sense, conservative thinking in Raleigh to do it.”

  • Who is Pat McCrory?

    By Eugene Tinklepaugh | Sunday, May 30, 2010 - 22:48

    The Associated Press moved an interesting analysis over the wire this weekend about the Republican who lost to Bev Perdue in the 2008 gubernatorial race – thanks in no small part to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama's prowess in energizing Democrats. Essentially, the article is a What's-Pat-McCrory-Doing-Now? piece.

    The short answer for those not wanting to trudge through a 33-inch story: He's trying to stay relevant, so that he can run for ... something. Even odds are on him repeating his bid for governor in 2012. But the AP does make a point to note that the former Charlotte mayor has started a political action committee – something politicians normally do when considering a run for a federal office (such as president) and rarely do when running for a state office.

    So who is this guy?

    Well, that depends on who you ask.

    To the state's Democratic Party leaders, he's the sum of his failed candidacy. (But maybe that's just the measly 3 percentage points by which Perdue beat him talking.) To some Republican strategists, he represents a new direction in state leadership and a ticket to taking over the Executive Mansion in Raleigh for just the third time since 1901. (Probably the same percentage points doing a lot of the talking there, too.)

    To supporters, he's a politician who can work with the other side of the aisle on issues. And political science junkies think he'll have to continue to beef up his business cred while simultaneously playing to the Tea Party movement if he's to be successful in a 2012 primary.

    For anyone to be all those things to all those people, you'd think it'd take a committee to keep it all straight. Check.

    McCrory said he's learned since his 2008 loss to Perdue. And he's setting his sights – at least initially – on helping Republicans win in 2010 with the help of social networking, electronic town hall meetings and other technology to communicate with supporters about candidates and issues.

    Tell us what you think of McCrory's plans and his chances in 2012.

  • Why Sarah Palin is not a feminist

    By Kayla Sawyer | Friday, May 28, 2010 - 22:05

    When it comes to Sarah Palin, the media is wrought with misinformation. During the last presidential election, feminist rhetoric was misused by the GOP, particularly in reference to Sarah Palin. 

    Here’s some blasts from the past: The LA Times said "Sarah Palin's 'new feminism' is hailed", "A Feminist Dream at the GOP" read The New York Post, and National Public Radio (NPR) asked, "Sarah Palin: New Face of Feminism?" 

    Once again the gross appropriation of feminist language is back. Palin's recent speech for the anti-choice PAC the Susan B. Anthony List has reignited the debate. (Also, the myth about Anthony being pro-life has been debunked.)

    They said she broke the glass ceiling with her vice-presidential nomination, but like most issues related to women’s rights, conservatives are about two decades behind. That particular glass ceiling was already shattered by Geraldine Ferraro and her vice-presidential nomination in 1984.

    Yet there are still people who flock to Palin because she is a rarity - a woman in power.

    Apparently some people have forgotten that there’s more to being a feminist than having a vagina (in fact, it isn’t even a prerequisite). Strangely enough, you actually have to support feminist ideals instead of opposing them.

    A feminist believes that womenare inherently equal to men and deserve equal rights and opportunities, and strives to change society so that we may achieve political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. If you’re not already familiar with her voting record when it comes to women’s issues, here are the facts:

    • During her time as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Palin supported billing sexual assault victims for their own rape kits and forensic examinations (which can cost up to $1,200).
    • She supports abstinence-only education, a program that tells students that the only thing they need to know about sex is not to have any. Feminists advocate a real education that arms students with knowledge about safe sex, contraceptives and the dangers of sexually-transmitted diseases.
    • Palin is against abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, and supports an overturning of Roe v. Wade. Personally choosing to never have an abortion is a fine thing, but to advocate a ban that would take away the rights of others simply because it violates your personal faith base is intrusive and frightening.
    • The equal rights of everyone, gay or straight, are a feminist priority. When Palin was governor she supported an Alaskan constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
    • She fittingly belongs to the faux-feminist group, Feminists for Life, which claims that the wage gap is nothing but a myth. On average, women in 1963 earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by men and 78 cents to men’s dollar in 2007. Not only does the wage gap still exist, but it has only decreased by less than half a percent each year.
    • Even her fiscal choices aren’t feminist. She may be a working mom, but she doesn’t support other working mothers. What she did support is cuts to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which guaranteed unpaid family leave to new parents.
    • She also supported businesses’ right to discriminate on the basis of gender and Senator John McCain’s decision to vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act. She opposed an increase in funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which gave funds to states in order to provide health insurance to cover uninsured children in families.

    By championing Palin with the title of “feminist,” it’s clear that conservatives are trying to appropriate the language of the feminist movement. It’s also obvious that Palin’s ideas run counter to feminist goals.

    And yet it’s because of feminists that she is where she is today. But just because she’s benefited from the work of feminists, does not make her one.

  • Payday lenders profit from failure of Hagan's bill

    By Gene Metrick | Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 20:00

    Stock prices of payday lending companies soared on Wednesday, a day after an amendment to the U.S. Senate's financial reform bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan was blocked by a Republican senator.

    Hagan's Payday Lending Limitation Act of 2010 aimed to protect borrowers by prohibiting creditors from issuing new payday loans to borrowers with six loans in the previous 12 months, providing borrowers more flexibility to repay loans over longer periods of time and authorizing the Federal Reserve Board to require licensing and bonding of payday lenders.

    But Hagan, D-N.C., was unable to obtain unanimous consent for debate on the bill after U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., objected. Under the Senate's arcane rules, one senator can block debate and therefore action on any measure before the Senate.

    Hagan said in a press release that she was "disappointed that ... Republicans objected to even considering my commonsense amendment to limit payday lending.

    "The industry is seeking to continue issuing loan upon loan at 400 percent interest," she said. "My amendment would have protected hardworking families from continuing to sink into a cycle of debt."

    The Wall Street Journal reported that the rejection of the amendment sent shares of the payday loan sector rising, including Cash America International – up 4.1 percent, Ezcorp – up 3.4 percent, Advance American Cash Advance Centers – up 6.8 percent, and First Cash Financial Services – up 2.3 percent.

  • Democratic House victory appears to buck political tide

    By Gene Metrick | Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - 19:44

    The results of a special election to fill a U.S. House seat on Tuesday may give congressional Republicans pause as they look ahead to regaining control of the House in November.

    Democrat Mark Critz defeated Republican Tim Burns 53 percent to 44 percent to fill the unexpired term of the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha. Critz, a former aide to Murtha, appeared to defy the prevailing political environment by winning in this conservative-leaning Pennsylvania congressional district that U.S. Sen. John McCain won over President Barack Obama in 2008.

    This is the seventh straight competitive special House election that Democrats have won over the GOP since 2008, reports NBC's Mark Murray.

    Republican leaders conceded that the election results show they can not take a November victory for granted but were quick to point out that Critz ran as a conservative Democrat who opposes abortion rights, gun control and President Obama's health care and cap-and-trade plans.

    Democratic leaders responded that Pennsylvania's 12th District is a perfect example of the type of districts the GOP will have to win in November if they hope to wrest control of the House.

  • Raleigh leans toward cutting personal care budgets more

    By Ray Watters | Tuesday, May 18, 2010 - 21:09

    Home health care providers across the country are coming under fire for their spending as lawmakers consider cuts to those programs to balance budgets.

    Earlier this month, Gov. Bev Perdue essentially made an example out of Oasis Home Care Services. The local home health care agency is under investigation by state authorities for possible fraud after a letter was sent to its clients urging them to appear as if they are in dire need of medical attention. The N.C. Attorney General's office is investigating to see if there was any actual wrongdong.

    This is not confined to North Carolina. Last week the U.S. Senate Finance Committee questioned how four home health care providers bill Medicare for home health theraphy visits.

    "So far, it appears that either the home health care reimbursement policy is flawed, some companies are gaming the system, or both," said U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. The committee requested more information from Amedisys Inc., Almost Family Inc., Gentiva Health Services Inc. and LHC Group Inc. about visits provided to patients.

    Now the N.C. Senate has moved forward on cutting programs that give at-home Medicaid patients help with cooking and bathing. The N.C. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a recommendation from Gov. Bev Perdue to eliminate two programs that serve about 38,000 residents. The cuts will be debated today by the full Senate. The changes will leave coverage for less than 5,000 residents, according to state officials.

    At both the state and federal level, lawmakers have said that many patients are receiving more help then they require, in part because there are few mechanisms in place to reduce billable hours and Medicaid payments.

    “We know that there is extensive fraud in this program but we can’t get any meaningful help from the industry,” said N.C. Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, co-chairman of the N.C. Senate’s health budget subcommittee.

    Critics of the proposals say that lawmakers are just targeting programs without first trying to cut down on abuse within the systems. Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina lobbyist Tracy Colvard said lawmakers in North Carolinashould give reforms approved last year a chance to work. Thanks to those changes, an outside nurse visits patients to determine if they need the services they receive. This change went into effect in April.

    Part of the reason is because of cost overruns. The N.C. Health and Human Services division had been directed to cut home health care costs by $40 million, but instead spent its entire budget in six months, according to reports.

    Lawmakers in Raleigh are required by the N.C. Consitution to balance the budget. The new session just started to update the current budget to reflect changes in tax collections and service costs. Time is not on anyone's side. N.C. Senate Democrats are pushing to approve an updated budget within a week, which means cuts to these programs are likely to pass.

  • Incumbents, insiders face tough primary competition

    By Gene Metrick | Monday, May 17, 2010 - 19:39

    Poliitcal junkies across the country will have their eyes on the returns coming in from a few key U.S. Senate primary races on Tuesday night.

    U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter is in a fight for his political life against Democratic primary challenger U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania. Specter, who switched parties in 2009, has the support of President Barack Obama, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and the state Democratic Party machine.

    Specter led in early polls by as much as 20 percent, but in recent weeks Sestak has closed that double-digit lead. The latest poll of 951 likley primary voters conducted May 12-16 by Quinnipiac University reports Sestak leading Specter 42 percent to 41 percent.

    In Kentucky, Secretary of State Trey Grayson, the mainstream Republican candidate tapped by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, is trailing Rand Paul by double digits in most polls. Paul is the son of former GOP presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and has strong support from Tea Party activists.

    The latest poll of 1,065 likely primary voters conducted Saturday and Sunday by the Raleigh-based, liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling reports Paul leading 52 percent to 34 percent.

    In Arkansas, U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln is facing a strong primary challenge from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. The latest Research 2000 poll of 600 likley primary voters conducted May 10-12 reports Lincoln leading 46 percent to 37 percent, just short of the 50 percent she needs to avoid a runoff election in June.

     

  • Disappearing annexation act

    By Eugene Tinklepaugh | Sunday, May 16, 2010 - 23:23

    So what happens to a controversial bill hated by both parties and despised by all sides potentially affected?

    The conjecture is it's sort of like a magic trick – or an illusion, some would say. It just disappears. That's what policy buffs are predicting will happen with the annexation reform bill that the N.C. House tinkered on last year. It's now sitting in the N.C. Senate, whereit's expected to ... vanish. Perhaps it'll reappear later as a cute, cuddly bunny.

    For now, senators aren't thrilled with the idea of putting their hands on something so universally despised.

    "It's hard to get enthusiastic," N.C. Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg, told The Associated Press. "There's not a lot of profit dealing with a bill that nobody likes."

    It was a priority of the N.C. General Assembly just a short while ago to take a look at changing the 1959 law that lays out how towns and cities can assume unincorporated areas against the will of the property owners.

    Involuntary annexation definitely hits home. Rocky Mount still is locked in legal wrangling over its attempt to incorporate the Oak Level community. Some of the lobbyists opposing the bill in Raleigh are a group of residents from Oak Level.

    The bill is a compromise that neither side seems pleased with. It would require a referendum as a prerequisite for involuntary annexations, but anti-annexation lobbyists aren't satisfied because they say the threshold to force such a vote – 15 percent of registered voters within the existing city limits and the area to be annexed – is too tall for anyone to reach.

    The N.C. League of Municipalities, a lobbyist group for cities and towns in North Carolina, is equally unhappy, despite the bill's inclusion of almost all of the league's 20 suggestions. The league says few people are willing to vote for something that would raise their taxes, so giving people a vote on annexation would block efforts to control suburban sprawl.

    Few are expecting a solution to be found before the end of the short session. Besides, the General Assembly has other priorities.

    And if nothing's done on annexation in the short session, which is likely to wrap up in July if lawmakers have their way, then legislation would have to be reintroduced when a new legislature is sworn in next January. Can anyone say, "Hocus Pocus"?  

  • UNC-Chapel Hill student a victim of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy

    By Kayla Sawyer | Saturday, May 15, 2010 - 20:01

    Sara Isaacson said coming out as a lesbian was a matter of integrity. Misleading others would go against the Army's values.

    But it looks like honesty will cost her $80,000.

    Isaccson, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student and ROTC member, had her tuition paid for by an Army ROTC scholarship. Isaacson's situation is the result of a less well-known effect of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law that President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993. The policy does not prohibit gay or lesbian people from serving; however it prohibits them from doing so openly.

    Lt. Col. Monte Yoder, the head of North Carolina's ROTC program, said the Army is losing a "great young American" because of Isaacson's decision to hand him a letter formally declaring her sexuality.

    Now she owes nearly $80,000 to the U.S. Army for repayment of a scholarship for seven semesters as an out-of-state student.

    "The policy (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) really asks people to lie, to lie about who they are, to tell small lies about what they did or didn't do. It's something that I wasn't willing to do because if I don't have my values to fall back on, I have nothing," said Isaacson in a Campus Progress interview.

    Soldiers need tobe able to mention their spouses and loved ones when interacting, Isaacson said. Those significant others need to be able to use the military's support network if they're stationed away from their loves ones. And those soldiers need to be able to name their partners as their next of kin, she said.

    "Being in the military is hard on families, and those support services are there for a reason," she said.

    More than 13,500 service members have been discharged under the law since 1994 after being accused of violating the "don't tell" portion of the policy. But attempts to recoup tuition costs are rare.

  • Tea Party shifts balance in two major primaries

    By Ray Watters | Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 22:52

    Last month, the Tea Party Express put out a list of political heroes and targets for the primary and fall elections. And now things aren't looking for good for two of those targets – U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Penn.

    Reid has been a big target for the Tea Party because of his position as the U.S. Senate majority leader. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin kicked off the Tea Party campaign against Red in his own hometown back in March. A recent poll shows that Sharron Angle, a candidate supported by the Tea Party, is running neck and neck with Sue Lowden in the Republican primary on June 8. The winner will challenge Reid.

    How is this bad for Reid? Well, Angle was in single digits in the polls until she accepted, in person, the endorsement from the Tea Party. Her boost came in the month after that.

    Specter is under fire from pretty much every direction. The Tea Party and Republicans are upset with him for many reasons, chief among them his switch to the Democratic Party on April 28, 2009. As he explained, "I am not prepared to have my 29 years' record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate."

    The Democratic Party, while willing to accept a 60th vote in the U.S. Senate before the balance shifted again, doesn't seem eager to keep Specter around either. Specter's new ad tries to show how much President Barack Obama likes him, but it's not enough to give Specter an easy win in the Tuesday primary. U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7th District, is running against Specter, and polls point to no clear winner at the moment.

    Some recent polls show a general drift toward the Right in America already. The final determination of success for the Tea Party will be Election Day this November. But both of these primaries will give some clue as to how much influence the political movement can bring to the major races that can reshape Congress.

    The only thing anyone knows for sure in this election year is that no incumbent has it easy this time around. That's something the Tea Party might be able to claim as a victory, in the end.

  • Democratic U.S. Senate runoff tied dead even

    By Gene Metrick | Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - 19:34

    A new poll released today reports N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and former N.C. Sen. Cal Cunningham are now tied among likely Democratic runoff voters.

    Just eight days after Marshall beat Cunningham in the Democratic primary by a margin of 36 percent to 27 percent, the two candidates now are tied at 36 percent apiece, with 28 percent of respondants saying they are undecided, according to Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling. A poll taken the day after the election showed Marshall leading Cunningham 42 percent to 37 percent.

    Public Policy Polling also reports what it describes as an "enthusiasm gap" between Marshall and Cunningham supporters. The poll reports that "among the 49 percent who are very excited to vote in November, Cunningham leads 46-31. Among the 38 percent who are somewhat excited and the 11 percent who are not very excited, Marshall leads 42-31 and 28-18, respectively."

    Cunningham leads 43 percent to 32 percent among likely white voters, and Marshall leads 44 percent to 22 percent among likely black voters. Marshall has a 49 percent favorability rating among likley runoff voters, while Cunningham has a 35 percent favorability among the same group.

    “We’re finding that Cunningham’s supporters are more enthusiastic than Marshall’s, and that could allow him to close the gap from last week’s results between now and the runoff,” said Public Policy Polling President Dean Debnam in a press release.

    The poll of 445 likely Democratic runoff voters was conducted May 8-10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent.

  • Kagan's nomination, critiques

    By Kayla Sawyer | Monday, May 10, 2010 - 19:48

    President Barack Obama announced that Elena Kagan is his nominee to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens. If confirmed, Kagan will be the third woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. It's hard to believe that there has never been three women (on the nine justice court) at one time.

    Formerly the (first female) Dean of Harvard Law School, and now the Solicitor General, Kagan is the first nominee in 40 years who hasn't served as a judge. Although, her lack of judicial record raises some substantial concerns, the GOP would like you to know about Kagan's dangerous activist leanings:

    Kagan has also been critiqued by liberals for her positions on executive power and civil liberties. She supported the Bush administration's policy of "indefinite detention" of "enemy combatants." This policy has allowed the holding,without due process, of people suspected of being terrorists.

    Hopefully further critiques will not be identity-based rhetoric (remember the racist and sexist remarks about Justice Sonia Sotomayor during her nomination process?).

  • Party looks past runoff

    By Eugene Tinklepaugh | Sunday, May 9, 2010 - 22:51

    Doesn't matter that Democrats don't yet have a name to put on the ballot to challenge U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. All eyes are steadied on the incumbent, who handily won renomination in the Republican primary and is outpolling both prospective opponents for the coveted Senate seat in November.

    With seven weeks to go until a challenger emerges from the primary runoff, the N.C. Democratic Party – sans nominee – is on the offensive with Burrdenofproof, a fact-check website and Twitter feed devoted to "keeping Burr honest."

    Among the littany of grievances the website makes hay of is Burr's primary-night fundraiser in Washington, D.C.

    "Burr was at a 'max-out' fundraising dinner with special interest contributors at Trattoria Alberto’s Italian restaurant in DC ... Since candidates usually spend election night with those to whom they’re closest, we couldn’t think of a more fitting way for Burr to have spent the evening," the website states.

    A runoff between the top two Democrats vying to challenge to Burr won't be held until June 22.

    N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and former N.C. Sen. Cal Cunningham have agreed to debate each other, but odds are Burr will have the target on his back at any televised debates the two Democrats show up for. So who's your pick to challenge Burr and who's your pick for the November election? We want to hear from you.

  • Access to "The Pill," now 50, isn't always easy

    By Kayla Sawyer | Sunday, May 9, 2010 - 11:06

    Fifty years ago today the Food and Drug Administration approved oral contraceptives and changed the lives of generations of women. Women were finally able to choose when and how to have children.

    However, even today women struggling with poverty can't enjoy this right. Nearly 59 percent of women who are in need of subsidized family planning nationwide aren't receiving care, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that works to advance reproductive health, including abortion rights. 17.5 million women of reproductive age need assistance paying for contraception, according to Guttmacher.

    Guttmacher estimates that only 55 percent of the women who need services in California are receiving them. That number is good compared with some states, however.

    In North Carolina, only 35 percent of the women who need help in obtaining birth control receive it.

    "The challenge around rural areas is funding and confidentiality," said Paige Johnson, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina in a recent article by the Medill News Service. "You're likely to know someone who is working in your health department. For many people, the fear of being seen or known will prevent them from going to get services."

    North Carolina, like California, is one of the 28 states that have waivers that allow them to use federal Medicaid funds to offset the cost of family planning. However, for the past 15 years the state has had an abstinence-only sex-education system.

    But thanks to the final health care bill that Congress passed, millions of women soon will have access to the help they need. The Medicaid expansion included in the law will do away with the need for state waivers and patchwork funding systems. Low-income families will have access to the same family-planning options across the country.

     

  • Marshall continues to lead Cunningham in Democratic U.S. Senate race

    By Gene Metrick | Thursday, May 6, 2010 - 20:18

    A new poll released today shows N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall leading former N.C. Sen. Cal Cunningham 42 percent to 37 percent as the two Democratic U.S. Senate candidates campaign for a June 22 runoff election.

    Marshall beat Cunningham 36 percent to 27 percent in Tuesday's primary election, according to unofficial results, but failed to achieve 40 percent of the vote, prompting the top two contenders to compete in the special runoff election.

    According to the Rasmussen Reports poll, Marshall leads Cunningham among female voters and is even with him among male voters. The two also are tied among white voters, while Cunningham enjoys a double-digit lead among black voters, whose support may be critical now that Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis is out of the race.

    The survey of 522 likely Democratic primary runoff voters was conducted May 5 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.

    Rasmussen also conducted a general election matchup poll between U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and his two Democratic rivals. Burr leads Marshall 48 percent to 40 percent. The first-term Republican senator leads Cunningham 50 percent to 37 percent. That poll of 1,200 likley voters was conducted on May 5 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

    The Cunningham and Marshall campaigns agreed on Thursday to one televised debate and are close to agreement on another. The two will debate on June 15 at the WNCN-TV studios in Raleigh. The Cunningham campaign has agreed to a second debate on June 10 on WRAL-TV. Marshall spokesman Thomas Mills told The Associated Press that he expects there will be a WRAL debate but needs to check the date.

  • Burr calls for debates with his eventual opponent

    By Ray Watters | Wednesday, May 5, 2010 - 20:03

    The U.S. Senate race for North Carolina is heating up, even though all the candidates haven't been decided yet.

    Incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., accepted an invitation to a debate in October and challenged the winner of the Democratic primary to two more forums.

    Now there just has to be a winner to the Democratic primary. None of the candidates attracted the 40 percent of votes needed Tuesday to avoid a runoff. So now N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and former N.C. Sen. Cal Cunningham will go head-to head in the June 22 runoff. Marshall claimed 36 percent of the unofficials returns Tuesday night. Cunningham took 27 percent of the votes. In a distant third was Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis with 17 percent.

    None of this stopped Cunningham from accepting Burr's debate offer, even though he might not make it that far in the race. In a show of confidence, Cunningham went further by called for even more debates.

    "I look forward to debating Senator Burr and contrasting my comprehensive jobs plan with his record of voting for bad trade deals," Cunningham said in a press release. "My only complaint with the Senator's offer is that he just wants to debate three times."

    Cunningham also took the opportunity to repeat his campaign digs against the sitting senator, claiming that Burr is out of touch with North Carolina families and "voting 18 times to ship North Carolina jobs overseas."

    The October debate is being organized by the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and WNCN-TV in Raleigh. Burr suggested two more debates in October, one held by UNC-TV and another by a to-be-determined media outlet in Western North Carolina.

  • Runoff appears likley in Democratic U.S. Senate race

    By Gene Metrick | Tuesday, May 4, 2010 - 21:17

    A runoff election between N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and former N.C. Sen. Cal Cunningham appears likely as results continue to come in.

    With 89 of 100 counties reporting, Marshall leads the race with 36.46 percent of the vote to Cunningham's 27.29 percent. Marshall needs to get to 40 percent to win the race outright and avoid a runoff.

    Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis is running third with 13 percent of the vote.

     

  • Swindell, Newton to face off in November

    By Gene Metrick | Tuesday, May 4, 2010 - 21:04

    Republican E.S. "Buck" Newton will challenge N.C. Sen. A.B. Swindell for the District 11 N.C. Senate seat after the two men claimed big wins in Tuesday's primary election.

    Swindell took 73 percent of the vote to win the Democratic primary election over Dennis Nielsen, who received 27 percent.

    Newton won 58 percent of the vote in defeating GOP rivals Randy Johnson – who polled 23 percent – and Donnie Weaver – who garnered 19 percent.