Politics & Government

After Charleston, lawmaker still scarred by violence

Vernon Robinson in front of the Ben Carson RV
Vernon Robinson in front of the Ben Carson RV jmorrill@charlotteobserver.com

After Charleston, lawmaker still scarred by violence

A lot of North Carolina lawmakers had emotional reactions when they heard about the Charleston shootings last week, but few more so than state Sen. Floyd McKissick.

The Durham Democrat called his friend, former Sen. Malcolm Graham, shortly after he heard that Graham’s sister might have been among the victims. They were on the phone at the moment Graham got a call from the Charleston coroner confirming her death.

Later, McKissick appeared at a hastily called news conference with other members of the Legislative Black Caucus. Speaking softly but passionately, he decried the violence and said he’d once been a victim of such a random act himself.

Asked later to elaborate, McKissick said he was at a convenience store in Warren County in 1985 when two robbers came in. After taking money, one robber shot him with a sawed off shotgun, nearly cutting an arm in two. McKissick pulled up a sleeve to show a 4-inch scar from an attack that nearly took his life.

“I overcame it,” he said. “These people in that church will never have the opportunity.” Jim Morrill

Cruz enlists N.C. civil rights pioneer

A half-century ago, Clarence Henderson helped make civil rights history when he sat at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro.

Henderson came a day after the late Franklin McCain and two other members had started the sit-in movement with their silent protests. A photo shows him sitting at the counter alongside McCain and the others.

Now Henderson co-chairs the North Carolina Leadership Team for Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

That’s no stretch for Henderson, a self-described constitutional conservative from High Point who says his political philosophy evolved in recent decades.

Now he sees no contradiction in his fight for civil rights and his support for the conservative Texas senator.

“I didn’t sit down for a race of people, I sat down for the free and independent America that our founders gave us,” he says. “I look for an individual who will keep us in a free society, who will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” Jim Morrill

A new campaign for Morgan?

Is Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member Tim Morgan considering a challenge to state Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer?

That’s the buzz among some Republicans. Morgan will say only that he plans an announcement Friday regarding his “future on the school board.”

“I’ve been asked to consider several options that relate to public education,” he said in a text. Asked if that could include the legislature, he added, “It’s one of many groups … that relate to public education.”

Schaffer, in her second term, hasn’t faced an opponent since winning a 2012 GOP primary. This year she’s authored controversial legislation on abortion and guns. Jim Morrill

Hagan still mum on plans

Former Sen. Kay Hagan helped headline a Raleigh fundraiser last week for the N.C. Senate Democratic Caucus.

She apparently dropped no hints about any plans to take on her former Senate colleague, Republican Richard Burr, in 2016.

Said one source: She’s keeping everything on the table. Jim Morrill

Ben Carson’s Rx is an RV

Vernon Robinson rolled into Charlotte on Friday aboard the Ben Carson bandwagon, actually a 40-foot RV emblazoned with a picture of the Republican presidential contender.

Robinson, a former congressional candidate from Winston-Salem, is the campaign director for the 2016 Committee, the super PAC supporting the conservative neurosurgeon.

At the Juneteenth festival at Independence Park, volunteers handed out stickers and copies of “Ben Carson Rx for America.”

With a devoted following, Carson continues to poll among the top GOP hopefuls. Nobody fared better in a Monmouth University poll this month. Pundits usually make him a long shot, however. Jim Morrill