Politics & Government

The Source: Call it the delegation’s dilemma

Mecklenburg County’s legislators convene in Raleigh this month without a leader. Should they:

a) Elect a Democrat because they outnumber Republicans 9 to 8.

b) Elect a Republican because, after all, Republicans control both legislative chambers.

Choosing an answer will be one of the first orders of business for county lawmakers either before the General Assembly convenes Jan. 14 or soon thereafter.

Some want to elect a Democrat, like they did two years ago with then-Sen. Malcolm Graham.

“I think we should elect a Democrat,” says Rep. Beverly Earle, a Democrat and the delegation’s senior member. “If you look at the local elected bodies, they’re all Democratic controlled. So why should it make a difference that Republicans control the House and Senate?”

Republicans say it might be good idea to at least acknowledge where the legislative power lies. Some say a compromise might be co-chairmanship with one leader from each party. A Democrat open to that is Sen. Joel Ford.

“I’m looking for leadership that can be the most effective in representing the interests of Charlotte-Mecklenburg,” Ford says. “There are a large percentage of Democrats who would like to see a Democrat. (But) it’s so close that one vote could swing it.”

The delegation traditionally looks after the interests of the city and county, divvying up bills and figuring out how to pass them. But last session members split along partisan lines on a lot of those issues, including the airport.

One lawmaker says just agreeing on the delegation’s role would be a good place to start.

“There are no ‘rules of engagement’ with the Mecklenburg delegation,” says Rep. Charles Jeter, a Huntersville Republican. “So what are we actually supposed to do other than get in a room and say hello?” Jim Morrill

A new idea for campaigning

The tab for North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race, and others like it, gives Charlotte lawyer Ed Hinson a bad case of sticker shock.

First the tab: The race in which Republican Thom Tillis unseated Democrat Kay Hagan topped $136 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. With Colorado and Iowa, it was one of three races that eclipsed the $100 million mark.

Those figures could grow even higher when candidates file their final reports this month. As high as they are, they’re only part of the money story.

Last month Politico reported that the 100 biggest campaign donors gave $323 million in the last cycle. That was almost as much as the $356 million from the estimated 4.75 million people who gave $200 or less.

And that didn’t include unidentified donors who gave at least $219 million in “dark money” to political non-profits.

Hinson calls that kind of money “obscene.”

“Out political process is really being bought and sold,” he says. “It’s just a food fight.”

So he toys with the idea of running a different kind of campaign. One where supporters would donate not to him but to charity. One where he just campaigns online. No TV ads. No attacks.

Of course political parties wouldn’t be eager to stake their chances on a quixotic candidate with a questionable strategy. Hinson says he isn’t likely to actually run. But if he did, it would be to make a statement.

“I’m going to do it this way,” he says, “because somebody ought to do it.” Jim Morrill

Graham’s door ‘wide open’

The last of Malcolm Graham’s five terms in the N.C. Senate ended Wednesday at the stroke of midnight. That doesn’t mean he’s out of politics.

The Charlotte Democrat says he’ll make a decision this month on his next move. And just about everything’s on the table, including a 2016 12th District rematch against U.S. Rep. Alma Adams of Greensboro.

“The door’s wide open,” Graham says. “There’s a mayor’s race, there’s council-at-large. And hopefully we’ll get a better showing from Mecklenburg County in the congressional race.”

“Obviously I’m nowhere near done.…I’m not interested in holding a position. I want to do a job.” Jim Morrill

Following his father’s footseteps

Former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot learned last year to better understand what his parents went through almost 50 years ago.

His son, Dr. Richard Vinroot Jr., or Rich, volunteered to join the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. He served as a trauma team leader with a Marine battalion in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The younger Vinroot, 45, recently returned from an eight-month deployment and is back in New Orleans, where he works as an emergency care physician.

“I always wanted to serve my country in the military, just as my father did in Vietnam,” Vinroot told UNC Chapel Hill’s annual development report.

In 1967 the senior Vinroot volunteered for the Army and spent a year in Vietnam, where he was awarded a Bronze Star.

“I get a little emotional talking about it,” the former mayor says of his son’s service. “When he decided to do it I worried. He was rocketed a number of times and carried a pistol. I prayed every day, just like my mom did and my dad did.” Jim Morrill