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Friday Forward News Roundup

Andrew Yang's Visit to North Carolina Fuels Grassroots Movement for Political Reform

The Forward Party, established by Andrew Yang in 2021 following his political pursuits, emphasizes political reforms such as ranked-choice voting and independent redistricting over strict ideology. By the end of 2023, it had gained ballot access in several states, with ambitions to expand into North Carolina by 2026, requiring at least 13,000 signatures. Yang's strategy focuses on local engagement and presenting real alternatives in the approximately 500,000 local races nationwide, aiming to disrupt the traditional two-party system and address the widespread dissatisfaction among Americans with current political dynamics. (The Assembly)

Tight Races Ahead in North Carolina's Governor and Attorney General Elections

The latest Carolina Forward Poll, conducted by Change Research from February 15-19 with 1,622 likely North Carolina voters, indicates extremely close races for both the North Carolina Governor and Attorney General positions, each within a statistical tie and a margin of error of 2.6%. The Republican gubernatorial primary shows Lt. Governor Mark Robinson with a solid lead among rural and suburban voters, while Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein holds a majority in his primary, with significant undecided voters in both parties. The general election matchups are tight, with Robinson and Stein nearly tied for Governor, and a close match between Dan Bishop and Jeff Jackson for Attorney General. The state legislature's generic ballot also shows a narrow margin between Republicans and Democrats, highlighting the competitiveness of North Carolina's upcoming elections. (Carolina Forward)

Mark Walker Targeted by Deepfake Videos in North Carolina Campaign

Former Rep. Mark Walker was targeted by deepfake videos produced by First Freedoms Foundation, a super PAC supporting Christian Castelli, which falsely cloned Walker's voice criticizing his own campaign and endorsing Castelli. These videos, which were quickly removed from social media, prompted Walker's campaign to consider legal action, citing the use of artificial intelligence in this manner as a violation of federal election law. The incident has sparked widespread condemnation across the political spectrum, highlighting concerns over the use of deepfakes in political campaigns and the ethical implications of AI technology in elections. (News & Observer)

Conservative Group Backs Democrats Facing Primary Challenges Over GOP Alignment

A conservative organization, the Carolina Leadership Coalition, is supporting Democratic Representatives Cecil Brockman and Michael Wray through mailers, praising them for their cooperation with the GOP on budget votes and other bills. This move underscores a broader conversation about the importance of bipartisanship and the challenges of ideological purity within political parties. Despite facing criticism and primary challenges over their willingness to cross party lines, Brockman and Wray emphasize the need for cooperation to secure resources for their districts, challenging the notion that ideological alignment should outweigh pragmatic governance. Their situation illustrates the tension between party loyalty and the pursuit of effective, representative leadership for their constituents. (News & Observer)

Pat Cotham Faces Democratic Primary Challenges Amid Fallout from Daughter's Party Switch

Mecklenburg Commissioner Pat Cotham, who has historically performed strongly in Democratic primaries, is encountering challenges in her re-election campaign due to the backlash from her daughter, State Representative Tricia Cotham's switch to the Republican Party. This switch granted the GOP a legislative supermajority, enabling them to override Democratic vetoes, including a significant abortion legislation. Despite Pat Cotham's expectation of pushback, the intensity of the negative response was unforeseen, affecting her campaign signs and even extending to her grandchildren. Cotham, known for her bipartisan approach and previous support for Bernie Sanders, faces loss of support from key Democratic groups, highlighting the tension between party loyalty and individual policy positions within the Democratic Party. (WFAE)

North Carolina's Board of Elections Law Challenged as Unconstitutional

The Republican-led North Carolina legislature's effort to modify the state Board of Elections' composition is facing legal challenges from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, who argues the change is unconstitutional. The disputed law, which shifts appointment power from the governor to legislative leaders and alters the Board's structure for supposed bipartisan balance, has been temporarily halted by a Superior Court panel pending a decision. Critics argue the changes could lead to gridlock, while supporters claim it fosters bipartisan cooperation. The legal battle highlights ongoing tensions over separation of powers and the executive's role in administering state laws. (NC Newsline)

North Carolina's New Election Law Delays Early Voting Results

Due to a change in North Carolina's state law, early voting results will be reported later than usual on election night, potentially delaying overall election results as well. The law, Session Law 2023-140, mandates that county boards cannot begin tabulating early voting results until polls close at 7:30 p.m., a process that may take 30 to 60 minutes or longer. This adjustment marks a significant shift from previous procedures and will be implemented starting with the March 5 primary. Officials urge patience as the new law is expected to affect the timing of unofficial election results publication. (WWAY 3)

Smooth Implementation of New Voter ID Law in Guilford County's Countywide Election

Guilford County's Elections Director reports minimal issues with the new voter ID requirements during the county's first countywide election under the new law. Nearly all voters have complied with the ID requirements, with provisions for those without ID to cast a provisional ballot. Additionally, the county has adapted to changes in absentee ballot return deadlines and poll observer regulations, aiming to maintain election integrity without reported incidents of harassment or intimidation. Voter turnout has reached 5.8%, with over 22,000 of approximately 377,400 registered voters participating so far. (News & Record)

Haywood County Voters Weigh in on Key Election Issues

As the election year progresses, Haywood County voters are closely monitoring the presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, focusing on immigration, the economy, and foreign policy as pivotal issues. Timothy and Kristy Pope highlight the economy and gun rights as their primary concerns, while JoJo Hernandez points to the rising cost of living and scarce affordable housing options. Political analyst Dr. Chris Cooper emphasizes the strategic emphasis both parties place on their perceived strengths, with Democrats likely focusing on abortion rights and Republicans on economic challenges and border security. Additionally, foreign policy topics like the situations in Israel and Ukraine are also influencing voter perspectives. (ABC 13)

Charlotte City Council Re-enacts Criminal Penalties for Public Misconduct

The Charlotte City Council has re-enacted criminal penalties for six out of eight proposed ordinances, targeting behaviors such as public intoxication, urination/defecation on certain properties, and other public disturbances. This decision, aimed at addressing public safety and cleanliness, has sparked a debate between the need for law enforcement and the advocacy for more supportive measures for the homeless population, like the proposed homelessness court. Critics argue that criminalizing these behaviors without addressing the underlying issues of homelessness and addiction may not effectively solve the community's challenges. The council's action reflects a broader conversation on balancing public order with compassionate support for vulnerable populations. (Carolina Journal)

North Carolina DMV Initiates Reforms Amid Staffing and Efficiency Challenges

North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Wayne Goodwin reports progress in addressing long-standing issues with service delays, despite facing staffing challenges and a growing state population. Recent operational changes, including appointment scheduling improvements and technological upgrades inspired by Arizona's system, aim to enhance customer experience. However, concerns remain regarding staffing shortages and the ability to meet the needs of an expanding population, with the DMV exploring solutions like extending office hours and introducing service kiosks in grocery stores. Legislators emphasize the need for continued improvement to fulfill promises to constituents. (NC Newsline)

North Carolina Proposes Overhaul of School Performance Grading System

North Carolina State Superintendent Catherine Truitt proposes a significant change to the state's school performance grading system, aiming to include broader measures beyond test scores, such as student attendance and campus safety. Currently based largely on state exam pass rates, the new model would offer four distinct A-F grades covering academics, progress, readiness, and opportunity. This initiative, which seeks to provide a more comprehensive view of school performance, requires legislative approval and is slated for a pilot phase in the fall. The change responds to concerns that the existing system, heavily influenced by a single day's test scores, disproportionately identifies low-performing schools, particularly those serving low-income students. (News & Observer)

UNC System Considers New Test-Optional Admissions Policy

The UNC Board of Governors is contemplating a shift from the pandemic-induced test waiver to a more nuanced test-optional policy for admissions across North Carolina's public universities. This proposed policy would make SAT or ACT scores optional for students with a GPA above 2.8, while those with lower GPAs would need to meet certain test score thresholds starting fall 2026. The discussion reflects broader debates on the role of standardized testing in admissions, balancing concerns over accessibility and competitive disadvantages against the desire for comprehensive applicant evaluations. The policy, pending a vote, aims to adapt to post-pandemic educational landscapes and align with trends in higher education nationwide. (WUNC)

Saint Augustine’s University Fights to Maintain Accreditation Amid Financial Crisis

Saint Augustine’s University's appeal to maintain its accreditation was denied by the SACSCOC Appeals Committee, citing financial management issues and non-compliance with several accreditation principles. The university plans to file a lawsuit against SACSCOC seeking an injunction to remain accredited during litigation. Financial audits reveal over $10 million in unsupportable cash disbursements, highlighting the university's financial instability. Losing accreditation could significantly impact the university's ability to receive federal funds and damage its reputation, making recovery challenging. (WRAL)

North Carolina Awards First Sports Betting Licenses Ahead of March Madness

The North Carolina State Lottery Commission announced the issuance of the state's first sports betting licenses to seven companies, including FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings, and ESPN BET, ahead of the NCAA March Madness tournament. Legal sports betting in North Carolina will commence on March 11, allowing individuals aged 21 and older to place wagers via mobile devices. This development follows the signing of House Bill 347 by Governor Roy Cooper, introducing a regulated sports betting framework to boost the state's economy, with part of the revenue directed towards gambling addiction treatment and youth sports initiatives. (Carolina Journal)

Vice President Harris Focuses on Economy and Small Businesses in Durham Visit

Vice President Kamala Harris is set to visit Durham, North Carolina, to spotlight strengthening entrepreneurship and supporting small businesses, particularly focusing on the historical Black Wall Street area. Joined by Governor Roy Cooper, they will announce $32 million in funding through the State Small Business Credit Initiative aimed at historically underserved businesses. This visit is part of the broader Biden-Harris Administration's Investing in America tour and coincides with heightened political activity in North Carolina ahead of Super Tuesday, including rallies by former President Donald Trump and Republican candidate Nikki Haley. (ABC 11)

North Carolina Craft Beverage Industry Embraces Collaboration and Innovation

In response to challenges facing the brewing and tourism industry in Asheville, local craft beverage producers are collaborating and innovating to attract customers back to taprooms. The Asheville Brewers Alliance highlights the resilience and creativity within the community, including the expansion of taprooms, the introduction of new product lines, and the launch of events like Beers with Buds: An N.C. Beer Gathering and Asheville Beer Week. These initiatives aim to foster a sense of community, educate consumers, and showcase the diversity and innovation in craft beverages beyond just beer. (Citizen Times)

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