Politics & Government

Burr tips his hand on 2016 hopefuls

U.S. Sen.Richard Burr
U.S. Sen.Richard Burr dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Burr tips his hand on 2016 Republican hopefuls

As you might expect from somebody who has his own race to run in 2016, Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr isn’t about to endorse a GOP presidential candidate.

“I support the nominee,” he said coyly. “The most electable Republican.”

But in a week when another Senate colleague formally announced for the White House, Burr offered a more candid assessment of the growing field.

▪ “(Wisconsin Gov.) Scott Walker is a tremendously attractive candidate. And (former Florida Gov.) Jeb Bush is a tremendously attractive candidate.”

▪ “(Sen.) Marco Rubio is going to be right up there in the top tier once he engages, probably next week.”

▪ “(Sen.) Rand Paul has a slice of America and a message that I think will play extremely well. I don’t see him ever getting to the critical mass he will need to be the nominee. I don’t see (Sen. Ted) Cruz being there a year from now.”

▪ “There are 10 other people … governors and former elected officials, that six months ago we talked about routinely as presidential contenders. They may jump in, but they’re not going to be contenders. … They’re going up against people who really have a message. America’s ready for a message …

▪ “(Sen.) Lindsey Graham is going to be influential. My guess is that he’ll still be in this game a year from now, not with the belief that Lindsey’s going to be the nominee, but Lindsey has a powerful message to put out there on national security. And I think national security could likely be the No. 1 issue of the 2016 race.” Jim Morrill

Brand Paul: Candidate sells swag on campaign site

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul may be trailing rivals in the polls, but he’s leading the field in branded merchandise.

According to the Kentucky senator’s website, not only can you get logoed clothing including T-shirts and hoodies but also beverage koozies ($25 for a set of six), dog tags ($15), sandals ($20) and more.

For $15, you can even get an “NSA Spy Cam Blocker” to cover the camera on your computer. (“Stop hackers and the NSA with this simple camera blocker.”) Jim Morrill

Barber to give speech for Harvard’s Moral Monday 101

The Rev. William Barber can add Harvard to his resume.

The president of the N.C. NAACP and leader of the Moral Mondays movement was scheduled to deliver the keynote address Saturday at the Kennedy School’s annual Black Policy Conference. Barber also was scheduled to speak to students and lead a workshop at the Harvard Divinity School on building a popular movement. Jim Morrill

Commissioner Jim Puckett dresses for the occasion

You could use many adjectives to describe Mecklenburg County commissioner Jim Puckett. Bashful is not one.

At last week’s commission meeting, Puckett was on the agenda to read a resolution proclaiming April as Scottish Heritage Appreciation Month. So he came in full Scottish regalia – including a MacAlister tartan kilt, knee socks and waist coat.

Puckett, always the devoted son of northern Mecklenburg County that he represents, took the moment to plug next weekend’s Loch Norman Highland Games at historical Rural Hill, home of Maj. John Davidson, Puckett’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.

Puckett’s family settled in that area in the mid-1700s, and he’s spent most his life there.

“They came to America looking for freedom,” he said. “They said: ‘I don’t want government to bother me, just let me be.’ They were a self-reliant and independent people, just looking to be left alone.”

During introductions of the board members, after commissioner Vilma Leake said she represented the county’s “most powerful district,” Puckett said his district was the “most bonnie district.”

Meaning in Scottish: Prettiest. David Perlmutt

Making the ballot more accessible in N.C.

North Carolina has long had one of the nation’s toughest ballot access laws, if not the toughest.

Once again, some House members are trying to change that.

Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, has joined Durham Democratic Rep. Paul Luebke and others to sponsor the Voter Freedom Act of 2015.

It would reduce the number of signatures a new political party or independent candidate needs to qualify for the ballot from around 89,000 to around 11,000. The bill has 28 co-sponsors who span the ideological spectrum.

“If you believe in any kind of electoral reform, it starts with choice – more voices heard, more people on the ballot, making it easier to run for office,” said Brian Irving of Cary, vice president of a group called Free The Vote that supports the measure.

Similar bills have been introduced before. They’ve passed the House only to die in the Senate. Saine said he hopes the Senate gives this one a chance.

“With the unaffiliated (voters) increasing each year, I think there’s obviously a hunger for other options on the ballot,” he said. “And this is a way to do it.” Jim Morrill