Tuesday News: Immunity? Hah!


BALLOT HARVESTER DOWLESS REFUSES TO TESTIFY IN NC09 HEARING: Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless was willing to take the stand if compelled, a legal maneuver that would have given him immunity under state law to anything he testified to, attorney Cynthia Singletary said. The State Board of Elections wasn't willing to go that route, asking Dowless to testify voluntarily, as two of his underlings, his ex-wife and two Bladen County voters did Monday. Board Chairman Robert Cordle warned Dowless that the board might "take negative inferences" from his refusal as it weighs whether to call a new election in the 9th District. But Dowless is likely the subject of an ongoing criminal inquiry to the absentee ballot accusations, and though his attorney said he's innocent, she was not willing to put him on the stand in the state board's hearings.

WITNESS TESTIMONY AGAINST DOWLESS REVEALS VOTE FRAUD: Kimberly Sue Robinson testified Monday that she gave a blank ballot to two women working for McCrae Dowless. Robinson testified that she signed the ballot, but did not fill out any choices or seal the envelope. “I was told if I didn’t fill it out, it would get filled out for me,” she said. “I was not familiar with the politics.” Robinson said she had turned over her ballot to Dowless’ workers “a couple” of times before. She said Dowless did not pay her for her ballot. “I’ve known McCrae from the past, and I trusted him,” she said. “I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong.” She had filled in ballots in the past at Dowless’ suggestion, but wouldn’t always follow his recommendations: “Not necessarily, because I got my own opinion.” Under questioning by McCready’s attorneys, Lisa Britt said she couldn’t say for sure that no ballots were destroyed by McCrae Dowless.

REPORT EXPOSES MASSIVE FUNDING GAP IN NC SCHOOLS: The 2019 Local School Finance Study found that the 10 highest spending counties spent on average $3,200 per student compared to $755 by the 10 lowest spending counties, with a gap of $2,445 per student. That gap is the largest since the Forum began tracking the figure in 1987. "Year after year, our poorest counties fall further behind our wealthier ones in terms of resources available to their local schools,” Keith Poston, president and executive director of the Public School Forum of NC said in a statement. "These funding disparities have a real impact on educational opportunity for students, particularly in in terms of the ability of lower wealth counties to fund local supplemental pay to attract and retain the teachers they need to serve students." Funding disparities have tangible impacts in North Carolina classrooms, according to the group. Local salary supplements for teachers, for example, are generally greater in high-wealth and larger districts, better positioning them to attract and retain top talent. Rural districts, which already face challenges in recruiting and retaining highly skilled teachers, are at an even greater disadvantage if they are not able to offer competitive pay, the group said.

16 STATES (BUT NOT NC YET) FILE LAWSUIT AGAINST TRUMP'S "EMERGENCY" DECLARATION: The lawsuit is part of a constitutional confrontation that Mr. Trump set off on Friday when he declared that he would spend billions of dollars more on border barriers than Congress had granted him. The clash raises questions over congressional control of spending, the scope of emergency powers granted to the president, and how far the courts are willing to go to settle such a dispute. The suit, filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, argues that the president does not have the power to divert funds for constructing a wall along the Mexican border because it is Congress that controls spending. The lawsuit, California et al. v. Trump et al., says that the plaintiff states are going to court to protect their residents, natural resources and economic interests. “Contrary to the will of Congress, the president has used the pretext of a manufactured ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency and redirect federal dollars appropriated for drug interdiction, military construction and law enforcement initiatives toward building a wall on the United States-Mexico border,” the lawsuit says.

BERNIE SANDERS ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL BID FOR 2020: Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that he is running for president, telling supporters that Democrats must not only unite to defeat Donald Trump in 2020, but finally combat the systemic economic and racial injustice he says has deeply wounded the country. “Together, you and I and our 2016 campaign began the political revolution,” Sanders wrote in an early morning email. “Now, it is time to complete that revolution and implement the vision that we fought for.” The 77-year-old Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, will try to top his second-place finish from the 2016 Democratic primary, when he ran an unexpectedly strong campaign against Hillary Clinton. Sanders will also need to prove he can win over voters of color, especially in states with an early nominating contest like Nevada and South Carolina, who voted overwhelmingly for Clinton in 2016. “I’m running for president because, now more than ever, we need leadership that brings us together – not divides us up,” Sanders wrote in his email.