Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Obama and Heels...

So, I was one of the journalists taken along on the bus ride to see Sen. Obama play hoops with the Tar Heels.

We had to meet in Chapel Hill by 6am. By 6:45 we were security swept and put on a bus to the Dean Dome. Once inside the players started flowing in about 7:05 and Sen. Obama followed with Coach Williams.

It was interesting to watch the players as much as Sen. Obama. They were very relaxed and for the most part did not see overly star struck by any means. Granted, 3-4 of them will be NBA players so maybe that means nothing but you have to remember no matter how big and old some may look they are 18-21 years old only.

One by one they came over and shook his hand individually. Ty Lawson really seemed to get the biggest kick out of it.

Obama eventually got a pretty decent shot off just out of the reach of Hansbrough but missed and as Hansbrough dribbled up court he had a smile on his face as did Obama.

The players played like it was any other scrimmage though and it was clear that Obama was tired as he took himself out of the game.

It was a pretty good press opportunity for video. Particularly, because we were just arriving back to the hotel when Sen. Clinton was about to be endorsed by Gov. Easley. I would be incredibly surprised if this event wasn't meant to deflect a little attention away from the event! That's why most of us were surprised when the campaign allowed no comments on the pickup game from Sen. Obama and the team was not made available either.

UNC guard Marc Campbell from Raleigh guarded Obama the most-some story to tell the kids some day if Obama wins huh?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hunt at Wilson Obama event.

It's been reported that Gov. Easley will endorse Hillary Clinton in Raleigh on Tuesday. Monday night, former Gov. Jim Hunt was at a Barack Obama speech in Wilson and Sen. Obama pointed it out to the audience.

Is it an endorsement or just someone who wanted to see the event?

I'm going to try and get to him after the event but we're practically caged in a media area so it will be hard!
Umbrellas for Obama...

I'm at the Wilson event for Sen. Obama and the weather is having a huge impact here! A couple thousand people have been waiting in line and it just started pouring. Not like up and down pouring...like sideways pouring! People are now filling in the gym here at the Beddington High School and they are soaked! It will be interesting to see if Obama mentions their efforts to see him tonight.

I'm working a night shift covering this event so I haven't had a lot of time to work on other election related items. These days it seems like I don't know know what I'll be doing ten minutes to the next!!

Anywho, I'll try to update on the event as the night goes on!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Good morning!

I was fortunate enough to get an exclusive 10 minute interview with Sen. Hillary Clinton in Jacksonville. That may not seem long but in the world of television and politics it's a lifetime.

Click on the picture of Hillary to watch the entire interview!

She talks about everything from the economy to faith to, yes, even dealing with the fallout from her family struggles in the White House!

Have a great weekend because it's about to get wild on the Presidential Primary campaign trail!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Happy Thursday!

Anybody else tired yet? It's getting quite insane here trying to cover all these races. I don't have much to report except I will have a lot to report tomorrow (Friday).

Make sure to watch Political Connections Friday night at 6 and Sunday at 11am and you'll see what I'm working on.

Check back tomorrow morning and I'll have an update.

Will we matter? The interesting debate now is how much will NC matter? Rob Christensen over at the N&O says not much compared to Indiana now. I tend to agree. We have many more delegates but Obama smells blood as he trails by just two in recent Indiana polls. I think he thinks if he can win that state and North Carolina it will be the last nail in the coffin of Clinton's campaign.

Proof? I don't really have any. However, the PA primary was Tuesday and our states our next and has no scheduled events in this state until next Friday.

Should be interesting.

Talk to you tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bill Clinton playing the field...

Okay maybe that's a bad headline considering the past, but he was on a little league field today campaigning for his wife.

The stop in Hillsborough took place on the small baseball field. He stood in the back of a pick up truck with one leg propped up on the side of the truck. The truck was parked over home plate with an American flag draped over the backstop.

Clinton says Barack Obama won't debate in North Carolina because Pennsylvania voters overwhelmingly believed that Hillary Clinton won that debate.

He's focusing on the economy at the moment. More later...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Power of suggestion???

Beverly Perdue missed her public appearance as Lieutenant Governor announcing a new plan among seven groups to help educators become healthier and, in turn, help students become healthier as well.

We were told Perdue could not make it because of her appearance in tonight's debate.

Anywho, an aide of Perdue's spoke on her behalf and called her Governor Perdue at least twice and I believe I caught a third time as well.

Those of us in the media all noticed it, but I couldn't see any other audience members perking up to respond.

Strong statement...

At a news conference today announcing a new program to help schools become healthier State School Board Chairman Howard Lee had this to say about what he's seen in some kids during visits to schools across North Carolina.

"And I'm quite struck by the number of plump kids who waddle into these auditoriums. And then I ask why and the why is because we know they are eating a lot of junk food. We know they are not exercising."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Back in the saddle...

Well, after a one on one with Sen. Obama Thursday night I headed to Pennsylvania to see the in-laws. It was pretty interesting to see all the coverage. I was in western PA which is pretty much Clinton territory. In fact, this morning Bill Clinton held a rally at my wife's former high school in Greensburg which is about 40 minutes outside of Pittsburgh.

Anywho, the NC Dem Party cancelled the Presidential debate because Sen. Obama couldn't agree on it. In a one on one interview I had with him last Thursday, he said despite calls from two superdelegates (Gov. Easley and Hunt) to debate, he wasn't concerned about losing support from NC Democrats.

He wasn't kidding as the debate was cancelled.

Think about this as well...everyone is waiting for Wednesday and the beginning of craziness in this state after the Pennsylvania primary.

What if Sen. Obama pulss off an upset? Most pundits will practically declare Obama the nominee. Will everyone close shop and move out of state? Some pundits believe turnout would cut in half and that could have an enormous impact on state races.

Pretty wild to think about but most believe Clinton will win.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hey all! I know I promised a longer entry but last night was a late night and I'm now in Pennsylvania. No, I'm not covering the primary. It's a quick trip to see the in-laws.

Anyway, last night was a late night because we were fortunate to get a sit down interview with Sen. Obama in Greenville.

I just wanted to post real quick to let you know the entire interview will air on Political Connections tonight at 6pm and Sunday again at 11.

Have a great weekend! I can't wait to see how the news is covering the primary here in Pittsburgh!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hey all...sorry for the lack of entries. Life is a little hectic on many fronts! I'll have some great stuff tomorrow night or Friday so stay tuned. In the mean time here's my story from today...

RALEIGH -- The May primary is still more than two weeks away but you can start voting as early as Thursday.

Early one stop voting opens up across the state at limited locations and if you forgot to register, for the first time in a statewide election, you can still vote during early voting.

voter registration has jumped 13-percent from 2004 and some elections officials believe turnout could reach 50-percent on May 6th.

It's exciting for voter advocates but it's causing some concern as well.

"This is a big election," Bob Hall from Democracy North Carolina said. "This is going to be a record shattering election. We want to be sure that all those early voting sites have adequate staffing."

That's why Hall and others are hoping you'll use one stop early voting that starts Thursday and continues until May 3rd.

"People that can vote early should try to vote early particularly on a weekday in the mid morning mid afternoon if they have that kind of flexibility, that's going to be the times with the least long lines," Hall added.

To help with higher turnout there are more early voting sites than ever across the state. Wake County added eight new sites for this election alone. Mecklenburg County added five for a total of 17. Guilford County officials believe they have enough with 12.

A new law allows you to register and vote on the same day during early voting, but you still cannot vote on election day.

Same day voters must bring a photo ID like a driver's license, bank statement, utility bill, or student i-d.

"Most people don't get excited about elections until right up to the time to really vote and so that's why we feel this would be something that would help to make sure those people who are thinking about that and would say I haven't registered yet and I want to vote and they will be able to do that," Lynice Williams from the Same Day Voter Coalition said.

Advocates hope the changes will lead to a smooth voting experience from now through May 6th. Each county controls the number of early voting sites and hours.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Voter registration number crunching...

Math typically makes my head hurt and wow is my head hurting right now! I should have never said in school "when will I ever need this anyway in the real world?".

Anyway, new registration numbers from the State Board of Elections are out.

First glance shows a huge number of Democrats and unaffiliated but if you compare it to 2004 you see a different picture.

Since January 1
2.6% increase
76,131 Democrats (53%)
53, 732 unaffiliated (37%)
14,911 Republican (10%)

So, you might think wow the Republicans are having issues but the numbers since January 1st are clearly representing the desire to vote in this particular primary.

If you compare registration numbers in May 2004 to today's numbers (last Presidential primary year to this year)...

Democrats - 180,036 more now (7.5% increase)
Republicans - 184,063 more now (10.5% increase)
Unaffiliated - 317,014 more now (34.9% increase)

Overall numbers show still more Democrats are registered but I thought it was interesting to note in the last four years more Republicans have registered than Democrats even including this recent push. Obviously, the wow factor sits with the unaffiliated numbers.

By the way overall there are 671,014 more registered since 04 which makes a 13.2% increase.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hey all..sorry for the lack of entries today but I was on the road and busy covering Cesar Laurean's arrest. I was in Jacksonville doing a story on the investigators.

Anywho...back to politics on Monday.

In the meantime..check out Political Connections Sunday at 11am. I have an interview with Michelle Obama and will talk about the gubernatorial race a little as well..

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Obama full court press...

Hillary Clinton's campaign is known for having incredible organization and a great ground force. She has powerful surrogates in Bill and Chelsea Clinton.

However, Obama is turning on the full court press with surrogates and supporters. Last week he had Wisconsin's Governor campaigning in NC. Today and tomorrow Kansas' Governor will campaign.

He had the Wayans brothers helping with voter registration. He's also getting help from Tatyana Ali and Sophia Bush (our younger friends will know them!) helping with voter drives across the state.

It seems we are constantly getting press releases about events going on. At the same time, Clinton's camp is sending out press releases about campaign offices that are just now having grand openings.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I had a chance to interview Michelle Obama this afternoon. Here's just a few snipits. Check out the full interview this week on Political Connections.

Her thoughts on her role in the campaing..

"My goal is to give people a better sense of who Barack is not just as a candidate but as a man. What are his values, his character that I think make him stand out not just as a candidate, but as a potential president."

Her thoughts on staying out of the spats between Bill Clinton and her husband...

"Barack is the candidate and on tough issues, policy, any skirmishes you know he's the one that has got to battle it out because he's the one who's going to be the person in the oval office so as far as I'm concerned as I look at this as a citizen, I don't want to know what Michelle Obama thinks, I want to know what Barack Obama thinks."

Her thoughts on the race here in NC...

"As far as I'm concerned Barack Obama is the underdog until he is in the oval office. People need to listen and keep their hearts, minds, and ears open because I know there is still people who are undecided who supported another candidate who is no longer in the race."
Mrs. Obama in Winston-Salem...

So, I'm at the Michelle Obama event in Winston-Salem this afternoon. We're about 45 minutes away from her arriving.

Lt. Gov. candidate Hampton Dellinger was outside working the line and handing out campaing materials. Inside, Rep. Larry Womble (D-Forsyth) is sitting in the front row. So far, that's the political types I've seen.

UPDATE- I just saw Lt. Gov. candidate Dan Besse as well. Rep. Earline Parmon is here as well.

I'm getting a chance to interview Mrs. Obama afterward so that should be interesting to get her perspective on the race here in North Carolina. I interviewed her in Columbia, SC in January but a lot has changed.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Wright guilty...

As you've probably heard by now, a jury has convicted Thomas Wright on 3 counts of fraud and he will get at least 5 years and 10 months behind bars. He was also kicked out of the state legislature a couple weeks ago.

You can check out the story at www.news14.com.

There was very little, if any, emotion from Wright and his family in court today. When the verdict was read he barely moved. After the first count was read he did slightly shake his head. His wife sat in the front row and barely moved as well without shedding a tear or showing any outright emotion. One of their sons looked similar sitting in the bench behind his mother.

His attorney, Doug Harris, said he did tell the family to expect a guilty verdict so maybe that's why they reacted the way they did. Harris did say his wife asked if Wright would go home during the appeals process and he told her no.

Wright guaranteed a victory on appeal by the way!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Exhaustion has set in after a long week of covering the Wright trial and I need to spend some quality time with the wife so sorry for the short entry.

No verdict..back at it Monday morning.

Here's my story from today..

RALEIGH -- No verdict after a day of deliberations in the Thomas Wright trial.

The former lawmaker faces four criminal counts of fraud relating to a bank loan and charitable donations.

As closing arguments began, Wright sat quiet and calm as his attorney told juror that's he's on trial because of politics.

"Tom Wright supported a Republican in the 2006 Senate election in his county," Wright's attorney Harris said. "And what happened next? One month later, one month later, Joe Sinsheimer filed a complaint with the elections board that led to all of this."

All of this includes four felony fraud charges. Investigators believe he pocketed nearly $9000 in charitable donations.

"How could you do this? You're an educated man," Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said. "How could you do this? You're an elected official."

Wright maintains it was simply slopping bookkeeping. Investigators also believe Wright used a bogus letter promising money to help secure a $150,000 loan.

Harris told jurors that Wright committed no fraud because he gained nothing.

"What kind of idiot would set up a corporation, get a federal tax id number, get three other people in the corporation, borrow $150,000 and not get any money out of the deal? What kind of idiot," Harris said.

The DA admitted to jurors that Wright has done good deeds but somehow went down the wrong path.

"His community needed his help, and he did help some folks but somewhere along the way he got his values mixed up," Willoughby added.

The jury did ask a couple questions and did ask the judge for some evidence and deliberated for about four hours but could not come up with a verdict. They will come back first thing Monday morning at 9:30am.

Wright also faces an obstruction of justice charge that he will defend in a separate trial. Investigators believe Wright failed to report $180,000 in campaign donations.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Wright is done testifying and the defense has rested and the prosecution has no more evidence. The jury has gone home and the attorneys and judge are working on jury instructions.

Attorneys will give closing arguments first thing in the morning then Wright's fate will rest in the hands of the jury!


Wright's wife takes the stand..he's on the stand now!

The prosecution has rested in the Thomas Wright fraud trial. His attorney, Doug Harris asked the judge to remove himself from this trial and future trials then asked to have the case dismissed.

Both motions were denied.

Harris then called Wright's wife to the stand. She said he's very unorganized and she has found checks written out for nearly $4000 sitting around the office in their home.

Wright's main defense is sloppy bookkeeping led to the charges and he's innocent. His wife also said she gets upset that he spends so much of their own money on his health charities and initiatives.

Wright is going through his background on the stand now.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Doyle won't budge on Easley conversation...

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle is campaigning on behalf of Barack Obama in NC today and tomorrow. He was one of the first governors to endorse Obama.

At an event in Raleigh, a fellow reporter asked during a press conference if he had conversations with Gov. Easley about the presidential race. I pushed Gov. Doyle on the question as well in a later interview.

He says he's been friends with Gov. Easley since they were both Attorneys General and now as governors. He says they have talked about the presidential race but would not say an ounce of what was in that conversation.

Governor Easley, a superdelegate, has not said who he supports. He has said he will vote for who he wants to and previous results or pressure from the public will have not influence on his vote.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Most creative campaign material?

So, I got back from covering the Thomas Wright trial and there was an overnight pkg on my desk. I shook it and it rattled a little bit. Needless to say I was nervous! You never know what can be sent to a reporter.

I opened it up and inside was a mini trash can, a mini broom, and a rug. It was from Republican Attorney General candidate Bob Crumley. The objects were meant as visual aids to represent his belief that current Attorney General Roy Cooper is sweeping under the rug any concern over potential violations of state public records law concerning Governor Easley's Press office.

Get it..sweeping it under the rug..he sent a mini rug, broom, and trash can.

Seriously. I've never met the man, but that was one of the most creative campaign pkg's I've received. Particularly, since it wasn't a gubernatorial or Senate race.

I'll try to get a pic out of it for you to see.
Obama surrogates coming...

Sen. Clinton has her husband and daughter campaigning here, now Sen. Obama is bringing his own star power.

Wisconsin's governor will travel to North Carolina Wednesday and Thursday to push Obama's middle class plans.

And, aiming for the youth vote (Chelsea visited several colleges this week), the Wayan brothers will campaign on several campusus this weekend. The Wayans are comedians and actors for those of you who have not seen In Living Color or any of their movies!

The Obama campaign is also the first to campaign outside of the 4 major TV markets. Wisconsin's Gov. will head down east to Goldsboro and Wilmington as well as Raleigh.
Wright trial-Day 2

I'm at the Wake County Courthouse covering Thomas Wright's criminal trial. If you don't know, he's the former State Representative from Wilmington who was kicked out of the General Assembly 10 days ago.

It stems from the fraud charges he now faces in court. Basically, investigators believe he used a fake letter to get a loan for a health non-profit that never really existed in the first place. There were no by-laws and there were never any meetings. He's also accused of pocketing nearly $9000 in charitable donations.

Wright's attorney, Doug Harris, has said he wanted the legislative hearing and trial delayed because he didn't have time to get a defense together.

In the first days of this trial it's becoming clear what his defense is in the case. He's maintained the money mix-up was simply sloppy bookkeeping. In opening statements, Harris said the health foundation was a failure and every man deserves a failure. He's pointed out several times to the jury that no one has complained about being ripped off by Wright. He's said several times that the bank didn't lose out on the loan.

Harris is essentially saying to the jury, Wright made some mistakes but nobody was hurt and Wright deserves to be forgiven for his mistakes.

Problem is, Prosecutors believe those mistakes broke the law and they believe he deserves to be forgiven after serving time behind bars.