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Democrats Reach for the 1992 Election Playbook
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Press Release

Democrats Reach for the 1992 Election Playbook

Suddenly, the election is once again about George Bush, taxes, and the economy. Déjà vu? No, call it “It’s the Economy Stupid, Part II.” But as Democrats attempt to revisit the winning election playbook that brought Bill Clinton to office, they’re discovering that things are a little different this time around. What’s a Democrat candidate to do? They can’t really oppose Bush on terrorism or eliminating Saddam Hussein. Their attempts to use scare tactics on Social Security reform have mostly failed. The Enron-style corporate corruption issue is mostly on hold, thanks to a sweeping new reform bill. And new polling shows that the economy and jobs are the top issues of concern to Americans. So, last week, the Democrat leaders launched a vigorous new attack on George Bush’s “handling of the economy.” Typical was Tom Daschle’s (D-SD) rip that “…there has not been such catastrophic mismanagement of America's economy since the presidency of Herbert Hoover." Of course, markets are still down, growth is flat, and it’s not like Washington Republicans have been disciplined lately when it comes to the U.S. budget. But while there might be some fertile ground for political gains here, unlike in 1992, Democrats are discovering they’re in a box on the economy issue. Democrats might attack the orgy of irresponsible new spending in Washington. Doing so would probably get support among independents (remember Ross Perot’s charts?) and work against Republicans on their base. But the Democrats are just as, if not more, responsible for Washington’s current spending binge as the GOP. More important, Dems are also disarmed on taxes; unlike his tax-raising dad, George W. Bush is cutting them. In the absence of a coherent policy vision, the Democrats go to their old election stand-by: scaring senior citizens. Consider the AP’s description of the new ads they’re running nationwide on the economy: In one of the ads, a young husband is getting ready for work with his wife in the background. She asks him: "So, first day of the new job, ready for the big adventure?" And he responds: "Ready as I'll ever be." The narrator then talks about "$175 billion in savings gone, over 2 million jobs lost. Many seniors starting over, looking for work." The ad…cuts to a senior citizen getting ready for work with his wife in the background. "So, first day of the new job, ready for the big adventure?" she asks him, and he shrugs and replies: "Ready as I'll ever be."

10/23/2002
Ruderman Has Formidable Foe in BookspanHouse District 45, Position 2
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Ruderman Has Formidable Foe in BookspanHouse District 45, Position 2

BY Nick Perry

Laura Ruderman has dropped two dress sizes and worn out several pairs of shoes in her relentless doorbelling campaign in the 45th District. She claims to have visited more than 18,000 homes -- close to half of all the houses in the area. What would prompt a two-term incumbent and rising star of the Democratic Party to campaign like an eager first-time challenger? Part of the answer is that the district has traditionally favored Republicans and is viewed by the party as rightfully theirs to take back. Another factor may be that a novice Republican candidate from Texas came unexpectedly and uncomfortably close in the primary. Elizabeth Bookspan, 29, polled 46.4 percent to Ruderman's 53.6 percent. Sensing a possible upset in the Nov. 5 general election, the Republican Party has pumped more than $30,000 into Bookspan's campaign, nearly doubling her initially modest resources. The race has eerie parallels to Ruderman's first campaign four years ago, when she was a 27-year-old newcomer taking on an established incumbent. Back then, the Democratic Party helped out Ruderman's campaign with -- you guessed it -- $30,000. The duel reflects the 45th's diverse residents. The district stretches from the cafes and art galleries of Kirkland to the high-tech hub of Redmond, north to Woodinville and east to the semirural communities of Duvall and Carnation. It encompasses a rich mix of suburbanites, techies, aging hippies and old-timers. Ruderman is putting a positive spin on the primary result -- pointing out that she actually has a greater share of the vote than she did after either of her past two primary races. But state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance said Ruderman is in deep trouble. "She spent nearly $100,000 on the primary, and for an incumbent to be where she is, is not good," Vance said. He said that Bookspan is the kind of Republican -- not too abrasive, not too negative -- who appeals to voters in the district. Fielding a woman against Ruderman is also probably an advantage, he added. It was a conservative, outspoken Republican male who lost to Ruderman four years ago. Bill Backlund appeared safe with 59 percent of the vote after the primary, but Ruderman made a late charge to beat him by 746 votes. Ruderman portrayed him as an extremist and sent out a mailing suggesting he supported a bill banning the teaching of evolution. Republicans complained that it was dirty campaigning. She again is planning some late mailings, this time targeting Bookspan's role as an activist with tax-cutting crusaders Citizens for a Sound Economy. Ruderman will highlight the group's stance on reforming Medicare and privatizing Social Security. Bookspan, who moved to Kirkland three years ago, is planning mailings that attack what she claims is Ruderman's liberal voting record and three votes to raise taxes. She is already targeting Ruderman's voting record on her Web site under a page labeled "The Ruderman Files." A New York native, Ruderman worked at Microsoft for four years before turning to politics. She describes her biggest personal success in the Legislature as her work on women's health-care issues, including access to screening and treatment of breast cancer for low-income women, and emergency contraception on request for rape victims. Her modest town house in the Totem Lake area of Kirkland serves also as a bustling campaign headquarters, with volunteers taking shifts around the kitchen table to stuff envelopes. The walls are covered with paintings and ceramics created by her artist mom. Bookspan's house is larger and more serene. Her three cats rule the polished wooden floors and nothing is out of place. Both she and Ruderman have a district war-map displayed in an upstairs office. Bookspan has little previous political experience. She serves as secretary of the Kirkland Highlands Neighborhood Association and has campaigned for the Sound Economy group. The group portrays itself as a grass-roots lobby organization in favor of less government, lower taxes and more freedom, although opponents label it a corporate front group. Ruderman said that most constituents she visits want more money spent on education and some kind of transportation fix. They also question government's trustworthiness and want to know how the Legislature will deal with a $2 billion-plus budget hole. Ruderman said she would support an expansion of gambling, a possible privatizing of the state-run liquor business and would take a hard look at other governmental sacred cows, including optional Medicaid services. Bookspan said she would favor privatizing or contracting out certain services, including liquor sales, and would work on reducing governmental fraud and waste with strict accountability audits. She would also try to draw businesses back to the state, by replacing the business and occupation tax with more-equitable business taxes, and by making it easier to comply with ergonomic standards. Both Ruderman and Bookspan said they favor Referendum 51. Should the measure fail, Ruderman wants the Legislature to come up with an alternate transportation package to put before voters. Bookspan said she would favor devising another plan then finding a way to fund it. She believes the vote should be the Legislature's responsibility. While not committing to a position, Ruderman said some people in her district may be willing to look to an income tax in exchange for getting rid of certain sales and property taxes. Bookspan said she is firmly opposed to an income tax. Public Disclosure Commission records show Ruderman has raised $173,000 to date, including a recent $10,000 boost from her party. Bookspan has raised $71,000.

10/23/2002
Candidates Face Off in Two Forums
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Candidates Face Off in Two Forums

Voters will get an opportunity to learn more about the local candidates during two forums scheduled for this week. The Upper Catawba River Landowners Alliance (UCRLA) and the Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) will sponsor both events. The forums will be held in the main courtroom of the McDowell County Courthouse. The first forum will be held today from 6 to 9 p.m. and will feature the candidates for the N.C. House of Representatives and the McDowell County Board of Education. The two candidates for the 85th District seat in the N.C. House are incumbent Mitch Gillespie, a Republican, and challenger A. Everette Clark, a Democrat. Four seats on the School Board are up for election this year. This race is nonpartisan. The Pleasant Gardens seat is now held by incumbent Priscilla Owenby, and she faces challengers Scotty Willis and Roger Hollifield. The Marion seat is now held by Phil Tate, and he faces opposition from Janie F. Schutz. Joe Kaylor is running unopposed for the Glenwood seat. Wayne Miller now holds the Nebo seat, but he is facing opposition from Bill Barnette. The second candidate forum will be held Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. and will focus on the candidates for the sheriff's office and the clerk of Superior Court office. The sheriff's office is now held by Jackie Turner Sr., a Republican. He is facing opposition from A.A. "Butch" Justice, a Democrat, and Eddie Smith, who is running as a write-in candidate. The clerk of Superior Court race is between incumbent Don Ramsey, a Democrat, and Jerry Lee Hunter, a Republican. Invitations were sent out to all the candidates in these races, said Jeff Dreibus, a member of the UCRLA. Each candidate has three minutes to introduce himself to the audience and make an opening statement. Members of the audience also has an opportunity to ask a question directed to one or all of the candidates.

10/23/2002
A Lottery You Don’t Want to Win
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Press Release

A Lottery You Don’t Want to Win

Taxpayers are receiving mixed signals from Washington, D.C. Recently, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill announced his distaste for the complexities of the current tax code, sparking hope that there will be serious discussions of fundamental tax reform once the dust from November’s elections settles. Streamlining the tax code can reduce the burden as well as the administrative and compliance costs of the current tax code. At the same time, however, the Internal Revenue Service is moving forward with a project referred to simply as the “National Research Project.” This nondescript title masks the burden that will befall taxpayers selected to “participate” in the program, with the grand prize being an excruciating line-by-line audit.

10/22/2002
Off to the Races
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Press Release

Off to the Races

America goes to the polls in less than two weeks. With the House of Representatives controlled by Republicans with just a six-seat margin and Democrats running the United States Senate with just a one-seat spread, control over the legislative branch of government is truly up for grabs. As one observer, James Thurber of American University put it, “I cannot think of a time in modern politics, since FDR, where we have had such consequential issues in terms of the outcome of an election.”

10/21/2002
Worst Time to Increase Labor Costs
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Press Release

Worst Time to Increase Labor Costs

Chad Moutray is chief economist in the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration. This article originally ran in the Chicago Sun-Times.

10/19/2002
Half-cent sales tax to hit county Dec. 1
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Half-cent sales tax to hit county Dec. 1

BY Rob Shapard

CHAPEL HILL - Calling it the "pass-the-buck" sales tax, county officials have agreed to start collecting a new half-cent sales tax starting the first of December. On Dec. 1, the overall sales tax rate in Orange County and counties across the state will go to 7 cents on the dollar, but it may drop back to 6.5 cents in July, when another half-cent tax is set to expire. That tax generates money strictly for the state. The new half-cent tax, which will be on purchased items except for unprepared food, could generate about $ 1.8 million for Orange County in the seven months between Dec. 1 and the end of the fiscal year, according to projections from the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. In addition, the projected revenues for the towns over the seven months include about $ 781,000 for Chapel Hill, $ 261,000 for Carrboro and $ 85,000 for Hillsborough. The half-cent sales tax comes in the context of the state's budget crisis and its impact on local governments. With the state moving to hold back reimbursements and other revenues due to the cities and counties, the General Assembly authorized the local governments to enact a new half-cent sales tax, starting in July 2003. And the Legislature agreed last month to move up the date to December. The Orange commissioners and others have complained that state officials are forcing the local governments to enact a new tax, rather than doing so at the state level - hence the "pass the buck" description. But the commissioners unanimously agreed this week to enact the half-cent tax, saying they didn't see other options for recouping money the local governments no longer will get from the state. In the current fiscal year, Orange would have expected about $ 3.1 million in reimbursements from the state. If the new half-cent tax does generate about $ 1.8 million between December and July 2003, then the county still will be out $ 1.3 million. Starting with the 2003-04 fiscal year, the tax likely will bring in more money for Orange than the county once received through reimbursements. "Over the course of three-plus years, we will probably recover what we lost," Commissioners Chairman Barry Jacobs said Friday. "We just won't get it all back at once. "It's money due to the citizens of Orange County, and we were given one tool to recover it," he said. "Thank goodness we didn't sign a no-tax increase pledge," Jacobs said, referring to a pledge circulated by the Citizens for a Sound Economy. "The citizens of Orange County would be stuck. That's the kind of irresponsible decision-making that's gotten the state in the mess it's in. I certainly don't think raising taxes is always a good answer, but there are times when you are forced to make a decision you don't want to make." The numbers look better in the current fiscal year for the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but not for Hillsborough. For Chapel Hill, the projected revenue of $ 781,000 from the half-cent tax between December and July is about $ 51,000 more than the town would have expected this year in reimbursements. For Carrboro, the projected $ 261,000 is about $ 10,000 more than the expected reimbursements. But Hillsborough will get about $ 30,000 less from the sales tax this fiscal year than it would have from reimbursements and other state revenues, if the $ 85,000 projection holds true. Town Manager Eric Peterson said Friday it's a good-news-bad-news situation. "It depends on how you look at it," Peterson said. "We'll end up losing another $ 30,000 in addition to what we lost last year." In the 2001-02 fiscal year, the state withheld roughly $ 250,000 from Hillsborough in various revenues, primarily from franchise taxes. But in the budget the Town Board adopted for 2002-03, the town took a conservative approach and didn't count on any of the state revenues. The fact that the town will get approximately $ 85,000 will be a big help, Peterson said. "From a long-term standpoint, I think the half-cent sales tax is a win-win situation for the state and local governments," he said. "They get to keep the reimbursement monies, and we end up getting a revenue source that isn't subject to withholding by the state, which has made it very difficult for local governments to budget. "Another advantage will be that the sales tax, in most places, will have a growth factor to it. In the long-term, it's a good solution."

10/19/2002
Parents or Politics?
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Press Release

Parents or Politics?

As published in World Magazine, 10/18/2002 It was a mid-Summer showdown at the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Republicans were pushing a bill to provide scholarships to low-income students in the District of Columbia, and committee Democrats knew exactly who to turn to for testimony against parental choice in education: an organization ostensibly for parents, the National PTA. It was the second time this year that a PTA representative had testified against parental choice before the committee.

10/18/2002
Peeling the Orange
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Peeling the Orange

Chapel Hill's three historic districts will be designated at prominent entry points with signs designed by the Historic District Commission. They'll be at the boundaries of the East Franklin-Rosemary, Cameron-McCauley and Gimghoul districts. The wording is on a "historic brown" background in an arch template like the state's sightseeing signs on highways. The idea, according to a commission spokesperson, is to emphasize to residents that they live in historic areas and generally to promote the districts. When the green street signs at corners within these districts need replacing, they'll also be reinstalled in the same brown hue to denote the historic district locale. *** Orange Commissioners Chairman Barry Jacobs, who's running for re-election this fall, took a moment during a recent commissioners' meeting to publicly tear up a "no tax increase" pledge that the Citizens for a Sound Economy has mailed to candidates. Jacobs said one factor in the financial "mess" in Raleigh is that many state legislators have signed similar pledges and passed the problem of raising revenue down to local governments. *** Hometown amateur ornithologists expect the recent spate of chilly weather will quickly bring on the winter migratory birds hereabouts. Watch for the white-throat sparrow, junco, kinglet and the colorful and colorfully named yellow-bellied sapsucker. And don't worry about attracting hummingbirds to their detriment. Leave the nectar feeders up. A hummingbird savant here admonishes: "These birds are unrequited. They know what they're doing and will head south when they want to." *** Retired U.S. Rep. L.H. Fountain, who died quietly at 89 last week, represented Orange County for most of his 30 years in Congress. A son of the soil from down east in Tarboro, he candidly admitted he received more mail from Chapel Hill than the rest of his 10-county district combined. L.H. (his only given name) was an unusual combination: courtly but easygoing; party-line Democrat but a dedicated fiscal conservative; and a Carolina football/basketball fan without peer. His alma mater gave its '36 law grad an honorary doctorate of laws in 1981. *** New downtown sidewalk installations are to be completed after the traditional Halloween celebrations on East Franklin Street. The project will include a couple of sturdier four-board poster kiosks and planting of new oaks in the brick-sided flowerboxes. The long-awaited custom-built "Chapel Hilly" metal sculpture benches are to be installed on the new streetscape next week. A refinement at the post office will be a new recycling bin that will match the sidewalk trash bins. *** As of last week, the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau has for the first time a true sidewalk location - in the very attractive former Chapel Hill Weekly building at 501 W. Franklin St. Despite its low-key location in the basement of the downtown post office, the Downtown Commission will continue to function as a welcome center. *** More than 100 visitors from Raleigh and Durham had a whirlwind windshield bus tour of Chapel Hill/Carrboro on Thursday during an all-day program sponsored by Leadership Triangle. Former Mayor Rosemary Waldorf, Mayor Pro Tem Pat Evans and Downtown Commission Director Robert Humphreys narrated the gospel of this "Southern Part of Heaven" to the domestic foreigners.

10/18/2002
Group Commends Miller for Congressional Votes
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Group Commends Miller for Congressional Votes

Citizens for a Sound Economy presented the Jefferson Award to U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Chumuckla, for supporting limited government and more freedom. The Jefferson Award is given to those legislators who have proven through their voting records they believe lower taxes, less government and more freedom is the way to help American families, workers and businesses. "Jefferson Award winners represent a handful of elected officials from around the country who have proven through their voting record that they believe in limited government and protecting individual liberties,'' said CSE President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Beckner.

10/17/2002

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