Politics & Government

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Winston’s Charlotte connection

The legal problems for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston span two football seasons – and two trips to Charlotte for the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium.

Now, the Queen City connections to the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner extend to his campus and could influence his football career.

A former Florida State student says Winston raped her two years ago. While Florida authorities declined to bring charges, the accusations that Winston received preferential treatment from investigators and the university continue to swirl.

Last week, FSU held a private hearing to decide whether Winston violated the student conduct code and should be punished.

The presiding authority was retired Florida Chief Justice Major Harding, a Charlotte native.

Harding graduated from Wake Forest and earned law degrees there and at the University of Virginia. He joined the Florida bench in 1968, capping off a long judicial career by serving as chief justice for the state’s Supreme Court from 1998 to 2000.

After he was named to hear Winston’s code-of-conduct case, Harding did not respond to an Observer request for an interview.

Likewise, during the hearing, Winston, as was his right under university rules, declined to answer the judge’s questions.

Harding is expected to issue his ruling later this month. Both sides can appeal. That means Winston, who is expected to enter the NFL draft next year, may no longer be a student when a final decision comes down.

Even so, Harding’s ruling could carry significant weight. First off, it could accelerate or impede an expected lawsuit against Winston by the former student.

It could also affect Winston’s draft position. Prominent NFL players – including the Carolina Panthers’ Greg Hardy – have been arrested this year on assault charges involving women, overshadowing the NFL season and damaging the league’s reputation.

In that environment, a Harding ruling against Winston conceivably could scare away some teams from selecting him. Michael Gordon

Fuller twice appeals for unity among commissioners

As he did at last week’s swearing-in ceremony, Mecklenburg County commissioners Chair Trevor Fuller opened the new board’s first meeting a night later with a call for unity.

For weeks, the rancor and name-calling was played out in the media and among commissioners over who should be chair: Fuller or commissioner Pat Cotham, the former chairman who was the top vote-getter in last month’s election as well as in 2012.

The board is often portrayed as divided and sometimes dysfunctional.

“I find the personal relationships we have among each other is far different of the depiction made by the media,” Fuller said. “ ... We all have a sincere commitment to do right by the public. When there are things that we disagree about – and truly there will be some – we will do so in a respectful and professional way. We must put aside all the rancor of the last several months.

“It’s a new day. We’re about to enter into a new year.”

Asked after the meeting why he felt compelled to make another statement about unity, Fuller said: “I wanted to emphasize what I said (at the swearing-in ceremony), that we have an opportunity to put the rancor behind us and now move forward. And I called on our board to do that and encouraged us to work together.

“I hope we will do that. I think we will. Once you get past these kinds of events, I think people are ready to move ahead and get some business done. The campaign is over. So let’s just get some things done.” David Perlmutt

Poor super PAC

No super PAC in the country made a bigger bet on a U.S. Senate race than the Senate Majority Fund did on North Carolina.

The PAC, affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, spent $13,094,482 in support of U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s re-election campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Except for the political parties, no group spent more.

Of course, the money it spent in North Carolina didn’t help. Hagan lost. Jim Morrill

Redistricting: A committee of 2

What would happen if North Carolina’s congressional districts were based more on math than on politics? That’s what a pair of Duke University mathematicians set off to find out.

Math professor Jonathan Mattingly, who grew up in Charlotte, and senior Christy Vaughn came up with their own maps. Not surprisingly, they didn’t look like the one created by the General Assembly.

They told WUNC radio that two principles guided their work: Districts had to be roughly equal in population and had to be compact. In the interest of keeping it simple, the mathematicians decided not to draw any majority-minority districts.

They developed an algorithm to randomly redraw the state’s 13 congressional districts. Then they plugged in the votes from the 2012 election.

That year the districts drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature yielded nine Republicans and four Democrats. The Duke maps?

Most of the team’s 100 maps had six or seven Democrats elected.

“That happened over 50 percent of the time,” Mattingly told the radio station. “We had somewhere between six and nine Democrats elected over 95 percent of the time.” Jim Morrill