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Bush? Doesn't Ring a Bell
They hit a lot of notes, but the five Democrats running for Congress in our new, Wake County-based 13th district weren't making any music. Hard to play a tune about politics in 2002 and never touch the George W. Bush key. But in an hour with the Common Sense Foundation crowd in Raleigh last week, none of the five dared to criticize the president or confront Republican policies head-on. Tax cuts for the rich? Not mentioned. Energy policies by Enron? Nope. Homeland security? It's all good, apparently.

Variously, the Democrats did speak up for Social Security, better health care, the public schools, and campaign finance reform, but without much in the way of specifics and no context whatsoever for judging the extent to which they're willing to fight Bush and prevailing conservative sentiments on these matters. Only Sen. Brad Miller, D-Wake, seemed to understand that Bush policies were--literally--the elephant in the room no one was mentioning.

Miller called himself a pragmatist who, in the state Senate, has sometimes held his nose and voted for bills he didn't like in the name of good politics. But he said he prides himself on being willing, once in a while, to shun "common sense" and stick his neck out. "On those occasions when I show no sense at all, that's when you'll be proud to have me as your congressman."

What issues might occasion such rebelliousness by any of the candidates? From the progressive side of the field, Sen. Bill Martin, D-Guilford, suggested the seemingly verboten subject of a national (or "single-payer") health-care system "needs to be re-explored." Robin Britt, who served a term in Congress in the '80s and was Gov. Hunt's secretary of human resources, said, "We should look at federal financing of Senate and congressional campaigns." Martin agreed, as did Ronnie Ansley, a Raleigh lawyer. Not ringing declarations, exactly, but that's as provocative as it got.

All alone on the conservative side was Lawrence Davis, a Raleigh lawyer-lobbyist and former state Democratic party chair. Davis dropped Jim Hunt's name ("my law partner") and said he'd take the former governor's book on education policies to Washington; he also came out against federal funding for abortion procedures and against the late-term procedure the conservatives call partial-birth.

Miller, meanwhile, distinguished himself from his fellow progressives by supporting capital punishment ("for the most heinous crimes") and dissenting from Martin's view--offered in response to a question--that federal law should recognize the medical uses of marijuana. Miller said he was "disinclined" toward a federal enactment but would consider it.

The effect was to leave Miller alone in the middle of the road, a prospect that he found dismaying. "I'm not used to having people run to my left," he said.

Looked at one way, Miller's the obvious favorite in this race. He chaired the Senate committee that drew up the new congressional districts, and the 13th is majority-Democrat and grounded in his legislative district. Almost half of the vote will come from Wake County, versus less than one-fifth from Guilford, where both Martin and Britt are based; the rest is spread thinly across Granville, Person, Caswell, Rockingham and Alamance.

But Martin's an attractive, African-American candidate who'll appeal to black voters in the district--and more than one-third of the district's Democrats are black. Britt's got a long record of advocacy on children's issues. Ansley's unfocused, but he's got a lot of pep and maybe some name recognition by virtue of his 2000 try for lieutenant governor. Meanwhile, Davis courts the conservative vote by touting character education, "not excluding anything that has to do with faith," and draws on a Raleigh list that includes old clients like Alltel and Goodyear Tire for financial support. The district leans Democrat, his campaign argues, but if the party's candidate is too liberal, look out. And waiting in the wings for any dissident Democrats? Why it's Carolyn Grant, the likely Republican nominee, who was a Democrat herself until she lost the '99 Raleigh mayoral race.

So if Miller's nervous, he has good reason. Doubtless he's read Jim Hightower's progressive political tract, There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos.
--Bob Geary

Rest In Peace, Wayward Farm
It's zoned R-4 now, four houses per acre. The developer wants it rezoned as a PDD, a planned district development, or as it's known in Raleigh, "write your own zoning." In this case, the PDD would encompass 400,000 square feet of offices, 125,000 square feet of retail space plus a grocery store, 454 condominiums, a 125-room hotel, a retirement center and a parking deck. Kind of a leap, no?

Looks like another development donnybrook coming to a horse farm near you. It's a 56-acre farm in North Raleigh, and if its name doesn't give city officials pause, the developer's name might. They are, respectively, Wayward Farm and RIP Limited Partnership. The farm is on the southeast corner of Lead Mine Road and Strickland Road in North Raleigh.

Neighbors are organizing in opposition and promising to pack the public hearing on the developer's application, set for 6:30 p.m. March 19 in City Hall. The hearing starts the process of consideration by the Raleigh planning commission. Hoping to head off another Coker Towers-style brawl, however, some City Council members have suggested hiring a mediator before the planning commission starts rather than, as in the Coker case, springing it at the 11th hour.

Put 'Em to Work
The text below is from the Chatham County Online Chatlist. In it, candidate Jimmy Bowden, a detective with the Siler City Police Department, explains why he's running for sheriff. He promises an escalation of the war on drugs, and also proposes a chain gang-era work program that reads like a modest proposal for slave labor. Here are his comments lifted verbatim from his chatlist posting:I would like to take this oppurtunity to tell you why I am contacting you on the chatlist. I am seeking election to become your next Sheriff of Chatham County. Like you, I am extremely concerned with the increase in criminal activity within Chatham County. ... During my experience as a law enforcement officer, I have found the leading precursor to crime is the influx of substance abuse. As citizens of Chatham County, we can solve these problems if we unite as one, no matter our race, nationality, gender, political affiliation or religious belief.

With your support and VOTE in 2002, I will lead you and other citizens of Chatham County in a "War Against Drugs" and a "Reduction In Crime." When law enforcement and citizens unite, we are able to interfere with the drug trade, therefore reducing other crimes that stem from substance abuse. I plan to implement programs and form a professional staff of officers who will enforce a "Zero Tolerance" for crime in our communities. Furthermore, I will employ a "Prisoner Work Program." Why should we work every day while prisoners sit in the Chatham County jail, are provided three meals a day, clothing, television and housing without having to perform any labor?

By implementing this program, I will be able to save you, the taxpayer, several thousands of dollars a year. For example, Chatham County pays individual's salaries and hourly wages to maintain county properties and construct new properties at taxpayer expense. While in the custody of the Sheriff, he or she is not required to pay prisoners to work. It is their duty as convicted criminals to pay their debt to society. ...

Remember, let's make this campaign experience positive and end the negativity in our county. As a canditate I call upon all other canditates to be fair and not degrade eachother during this election. Tell the citizens what you can do for Chatham County and let them make the decision who they want to be the next Sheriff of Chatham County, I will support the citizens decision. Mud-slinging is the reason our society has become negative, let us change this and become positive.
James "Jimmy" Bowden
--Jon Elliston

Gore at the Gala
Tipper Gore, champion of gay rights? Well, it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when the wife of the former vice president is mentioned. But activists say Gore's track record of support for gay causes is impressive."She's excellent on the issues," says Michelle Dronsfield Welsh, co-chair of this year's North Carolina fundraising dinner for the Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest gay and lesbian political lobby.

Gore is also a powerhouse fundraiser. When her husband left office, the couple became major donors to the HRC "because of friendships they'd built with people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community," Welsh says. Tipper's appearance two weekends ago at the HRC's gala in Cary helped raise slightly more than $80,000 for the national group's education and advocacy work--"significantly more than last year," Welsh says (though she won't say by how much).

The black-tie dinner at the Embassy Suites drew 630 people from all over the state. It also attracted several political candidates, including U.S. Senate hopeful Elaine Marshall, U.S. Rep. David Price, who's running for re-election, state Sen. Brad Miller who is running for a newly created congressional seat, and Sharon Thompson, who's making a bid for a state House seat--all Democrats.

In her keynote speech, Gore called for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prevent anti-gay bias in the workplace, and for including sexual orientation in federal hate crimes legislation. As for the military's infamous, "don't ask, don't tell" policy that was pushed by the Clinton administration, Gore didn't mince words. "Let's rip it up," she said.

One thing Tipper wasn't asking or telling: whether husband Al will run for the presidency in 2004. "She didn't talk about that at all," Welsh says, with a smile. Organizers chose Gore to headline the HRC fundraiser "because we wanted to reach out to somebody that wasn't gay or lesbian," Welsh says. "The HRC is a nonpartisan organization. And we know it's going to take our families and friends who aren't gay or lesbian to help us make inroads."

Speaking of inroads, will the group be endorsing any Republicans? "We usually do," Welsh says. "It's going to take going across both sides of the aisle to get things done."
--Barbara Solow

Native American Studies Arrives at UNC
After nearly seven years of trying, the American Studies program at UNC-Chapel Hill has just recently begun offering its students the option of a degree in American Studies with a concentration in Native American Studies. The long road that led to the introduction of the concentration was marked by several years of courses about Native American Studies smattered throughout the general curriculum, often taught by visiting professors. But as of this past fall semester, American Studies students were officially given the option to concentrate in Native American Studies, a change that has been a long time in the works for former American Studies head Townsend Ludington. Ludington is part of a small group of current and former administrators and professors who stuck with the idea long enough to finally see it implemented.

More than 100,000 Native Americans call North Carolina home, the largest population of American Indians east of the Mississippi and the sixth largest population in the nation. The significant population of American Indians in the state made the absence of some kind of Native American Studies program at North Carolina's flagship university even more of a concern.

"Native Americans have been overlooked," Ludington said. "They are a smaller minority, but there are rising numbers of them and at a state university, you want to serve all the groups."

The implementation of the concentration gives the study of Native Americans "more intellectual depth and value," Ludington said. "If you can have a concentration and can offer courses in a variety of areas--that's how you really learn Native American Studies."

The American Studies program is currently trying to attract faculty who specialize in Native American Studies, whether through art, literature or history. Ludington hopes that the implementation of an officially recognized curriculum will also aid in the task of stepping up Native American recruitment at UNC-Chapel Hill, which currently has a Native American student population of 0.8 percent, as compared with 1.2 percent of the general North Carolina population.
--Jenny Stepp

"DRUMCLIFF, Md.--At 5 in the morning, with the humidity so high you could have sliced the air, Bob Rice let his center console boat slide from a trailer into the Patuxent River and said ominously, 'Those crabs are in trouble. Imagine, you and me running a trotline together from the same boat. The crabs don't have a chance.'"
--The lead to a Washington Times story about catching crabs with a long string of hooks, also known as a trotline.Send all digs, ribs, jabs, barbs and tips to: or call David Madison at 286-1972 ext. 154.

Trotline is illustrated by V.C. Rogers.

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