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The election is over but not the drama

RALEIGH — With the election now nearly three weeks past, some issues still remain up in the air and some stories remain untold.

Here’s a look at a few:

  • All that state Republican Party bluster about bad early voting machines apparently was an attempt to set the stage for GOP lawyers to challenge close legislative races. At least one Republican House candidate, Jackie Warner, is demanding a new election. A recount put Warner, a Cumberland County elementary school principal, 46 votes behind incumbent Democratic state Rep. Rick Glazier.
  • Meanwhile, GOP state chair Tom Fetzer has indicated that the party may challenge both the Glazier-Warner race and another Cumberland County race in which Democratic state Rep. Dianne Parfitt beat Republican Johnny Dawkins by 109 votes. The issues could end up before the legislature, which the state constitution gives authority to settle disputed elections. To their credit, Dawkins and two Democrats who lost close races – state Rep. Lorene Coates and state Sen. John Snow – don’t seem interested in going down this road.

    Fetzer and GOP lawyer Tom Farr seem to have forgotten lessons from 2004, when legal challenges by both a Republican, state schools superintendent candidate Bill Fletcher, and a Democrat, agriculture commissioner candidate Britt Cobb, resulted in the voters‘ preferences ultimately being upheld. In the process, Fletcher and Cobb took very public beatings in the press.

  • If GOP lawyers are acting a bit irrationally, the same can’t be said for some key party movers and shakers. This ain’t your father’s North Carolina Republican Party. Just consider Art Pope and Paul Shumaker. Raleigh retail magnate Pope is a former state legislator and one of the state GOP’s biggest financiers; Shumaker is one of the state’s top Republican political consultants.
  • Six years ago, rifts within the party had grown so wide that some party insiders privately worried that then-U.S. Senate candidate Richard Burr might be damaged by using Shumaker as a consultant. Shumaker had worked extensively for former House Speaker Harold Brubaker and then-House Co-Speaker Richard Morgan. Pope and Morgan were involved in a very public feud, fueled in part by Morgan’s power-sharing deal with former Democratic House Speaker Jim Black.

    Among the consultants who worked this year on the Pope-led effort, Real Jobs NC, to unseat incumbent legislative Democrats: Paul Shumaker. Pope wouldn’t say how many times the two men huddled in the same room to plot strategy. He summed up his view of the situation by noting, “I do not hold grudges for life.”

  • Morgan recently revisited some of that past. One of the chief complaints made against him by fellow Republicans was that he worked with Democrats to fashion new legislative maps that the GOP saw as disadvantageous. When the Nov. 2 election put Republicans in charge of both chambers of the legislature for the first time since the late 19th century, Morgan quickly sent around an e-mail pointing out that those maps apparently weren’t much of a hurdle to the GOP after all.Scott Mooneyham writes about North Carolina politics for the Capitol Press Association.
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