Friday News: Obstinacy

NC GOP LEADERS HOLD MOSTLY MASKLESS INDOOR VICTORY PARTY: Nationwide, 15.5 million people have reportedly contracted the virus resulting in 290,000 deaths. That did not stop the NC Republican Party from hosting a Victory Party Saturday, along with a luncheon, an executive committee meeting and its central committee meeting. The 96 photos published of the events show some of North Carolina’s leaders attending without masks. Gov. Roy Cooper’s press secretary Dory MacMillan responded to the event in a written statement to The News & Observer. “Elected officials who care about our overwhelmed health workers and the lives of our most vulnerable people will cancel parties and mask up during a critical time of record-high cases and hospitalizations,” MacMillan wrote. “Leaders from all political stripes should come together and set the right examples.”

DMV'S FORCED MOVE TO ROCKY MOUNT RESULTS IN 25% EMPLOYEE SHORTAGE: More than a quarter of the employees at the state Division of Motor Vehicles' headquarters are not following their jobs to Rocky Mount, and that number is expected to rise, according to a report DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup delivered Thursday to the legislature's transportation oversight committee. The current vacancy rate for the 500 positions moving to Rocky Mount headquarters is 27 percent, compared with 17 percent for the DMV overall. The longtime DMV headquarters on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh was found to have asbestos contamination, so the agency was ordered to find a new location, and state lawmakers required the DMV to take the lowest bid offered. That offer came from Rocky Mount, about an hour east of Raleigh. On Thursday, Jessup told lawmakers that, despite some delays, the move is underway and should be completed by spring, but many workers have chosen not to go.

CIVITAS AND JLF ARE MERGING INTO ONE POINTLESS ENTITY: Amy Cooke will remain the Locke Foundation's CEO and publisher of the Carolina Journal news website and newspaper. Civitas Institute head Donald Bryson will become foundation president and its chief strategy officer. “We have created an unmatched powerhouse for economic opportunity and conservative values in North Carolina and in the Southeast,” Cooke said in a news release. Both groups have received funds routinely from the John William Pope Foundation, of which Art Pope is chairman. Art Pope leads Variety Wholesalers Inc., which operates Roses and Maxway discount retail stores. Pope served in the state legislature and was then-Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director. Civitas Action, a political education arm of Civitas Institute, will remain in place as a separate sister organization, the release said.

106 REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS SIGN ON TO TEXAS SUPREME COURT NONSENSE: (Including Virginia Foxx, Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, Greg Murphy, Richard Hudson and David Rouzer). Democrats denounced the last-ditch legal effort — filed this week by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a staunch Trump supporter who attended the White House lunch — to negate 10.4 million votes in favor of Biden in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The appeal to the Supreme Court came days before the statutory deadline Monday for electoral college representatives in each state to vote on final certification of the results and send them to Congress for ratification early next month. The justices could decide as soon as Friday whether to accept the case, which seeks to take advantage of the allowance that lawsuits between states may be filed directly at the Supreme Court. But officials in the targeted states said any claims in the filings have already been dismissed in lower courts. In all, 20 states (Including NC), along with the District of Columbia, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, filed a motion calling on the high court to reject the Texas request. Each of the targeted states filed an objection to Texas’s intentions and, taken together, offered the court a wide range of reasons not to get involved: that Texas lacks legal standing to file such a complaint; that the court shouldn’t get involved in the ultimate political question, a presidential election; that Texas has not shown there were any constitutional violations; that the claims come too late; and that its filing simply recycles allegations that have already been rejected by state and local courts.

POLICE RAID FLORIDA CORONAVIRUS WATCHDOG'S HOUSE AT GUNPOINT: The complicated story of how a Florida data scientist responsible for managing the state’s coronavirus numbers wound up with state police agents brandishing guns in her house this week began seven long months ago, when the scientist, Rebekah D. Jones, was removed from her post at the Florida Department of Health. Ms. Jones had helped build the statistics dashboard showing how the virus was rapidly spreading in a state that had been hesitant to mandate broad restrictions. Two months in, Ms. Jones was sidelined and then fired for insubordination, a conflict that she said came to a head when she refused to manipulate data to show that rural counties were ready to reopen from coronavirus lockdowns. The specter of possible censorship by the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican allied with President Trump, exploded into the frenetic pandemic news cycle, and Ms. Jones’s defiance came to symbolize the growing questions over Florida’s handling of the pandemic. The tiff with the governor turned Ms. Jones, 31, into a cause célèbre. By June, she had built her own dashboard to rival the state’s, funded in part by donations from hundreds of thousands of newfound followers on social media. Ms. Jones has spent months publicly urging health department employees to denounce what she says has been the manipulation and obfuscation of virus data to make Florida look better off than it really is. In July, she filed a formal whistle-blower complaint. The story took a surprising new turn on Monday morning, when agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement appeared at the door of Ms. Jones’s townhome. “Come outside!” one of the agents barked as she stepped out and put her hands up. “Outside!” The first agent stepped in and ordered Ms. Jones’s husband to come downstairs. Two other agents followed with guns drawn. One pointed his weapon upstairs, where Ms. Jones’s 11-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter had been sleeping. “He just pointed a gun at my children!” Ms. Jones yelled.