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What they sow

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This is the time of year that my backyard tomatoes finally turn red, or pink, or yellow, or some weird purple, and I'm reminded, painfully, how bad the tomatoes I've been eating the other 10 months of the year are.

This is also the time of year, in the odd-numbered years, anyway, that local political campaigns get off the ground. This week marks the end of the filing period for municipal councils and some school boards around the Triangle, and already, some candidates are revealing the corporate underpinnings of their campaigns.

A head shot of Durham mayoral challenger Thomas Stith arrived in inboxes at local media outlets this week, via a high-dollar Republican consulting firm in Raleigh. Orange County Commissioner Moses Carey announced, via a press release from another Raleigh PR firm, that he's planning to run for a state Senate seat—next year. It's one thing to pay professionals to market you, though it seems a little much for nonpartisan municipal elections that swing on handfuls of votes, and in some cases, involve only handfuls of dollars.

But the real genius award for sowing corporate seeds in local politics goes to the Triangle Community Coalition, which next week hosts its sixth annual "campaign training school." For $25, hopefuls can spend the day learning at the knees of "political experts" skills like "voter targeting" and "grassroots strategies." After the seminar, there's a reception to mingle with TCC members.

This would be the same "community coalition" that was formerly known as the Wake County Real Estate and Building Coalition, whose members are homebuilders, real estate firms and other companies and individuals who profit from growth. (National homebuilder Crosland sponsors the July 25 workshop.) Loyal Indy readers may remember that TCC and its executive director, Chris Sinclair, played a key role in bringing Chatham County the Bunkey Morgan regime in 2002. (See "How Bunkey Won.") Sinclair, who still heads the group, also operates a side business as, surprise, a political consultant.

TCC's campaign training espouses no overt political agenda and the group does not donate to candidates directly, though its members sure do. Many help fund the homebuilders' and Realtors' PACs that are now actively fighting a proposed land-transfer tax.

That tax, which Fiona Morgan writes about on page 5, would give local governments a more progressive alternative to funding the costs of growth via increasing property or sales taxes.

It's no wonder that Chatham citizens and officials are some of the plan's most vocal proponents—they can't afford infrastructure to keep up with the rooftops blooming, courtesy of the previous board's policies.

You've got to hand it to the strategists at TCC, though: They've obviously figured out that if you want first dibs on the new crop, it's smart to grow your own.

(If you're interested in eating some of the season's best tomatoes, see this week's Now Serving.)

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