Political Notebook: Butterfield faces pressure to back Green New Deal

Posted 7/1/19

Today marks the return of The Wilson Times’ Political Notebook, a weekly roundup of initiatives, announcements, votes and actions affecting voters and constituents in the greater Wilson area. …

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Political Notebook: Butterfield faces pressure to back Green New Deal

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Today marks the return of The Wilson Times’ Political Notebook, a weekly roundup of initiatives, announcements, votes and actions affecting voters and constituents in the greater Wilson area.

The Political Notebook previously appeared in the Times in the early 2000s and carried former staff writer Alex Keown’s byline. Its modern incarnation is the work of multiple Times journalists. The bulk of its reports are gleaned from news releases, reader tips and public records.

Environmental critics press Butterfield

Young environmental activists plan to protest outside U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s Durham office today because he has not publicly supported the Green New Deal.

Sunrise, a grassroots group led by young people concerned about climate change, will hold the demonstration from 9-10 a.m. at the 2741 Campus Walk Drive district office, according to a news release.

“Sunrise Durham activists have sustained a month-long phone campaign and asked repeatedly over the past two months for a meeting with Rep. Butterfield’s staff to discuss the Green New Deal and have continued to be ignored by our elected official,” spokeswoman Kathleen Horvath said in the release. To date, Rep. Buttefield has yet to even make a statement about the Green New Deal, so we are escalating our action to so we are escalating our action to demand a response.”

Butterfield is the only Democratic member of Congress from North Carolina who has not expressed public support for the environmental resolution, Sunrise said.

A message requesting comment from Butterfield communications director Nicole Julius was not returned by press time Monday.

The Green New Deal is U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution seeking large-scale public investment for renewable energy to combat manmade climate change.

Butterfield, D-Wilson, is a member of House leadership, serving as chief deputy majority whip.

Wilson County’s third state lawmaker

Officially, Wilson County’s legislative delegation includes two members — Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, and Sen. Milton F. “Toby” Fitch, D-Wilson. But Wilson’s former state senator is still working to help the county he represented in his freshman Senate term.

Sen. Rick Horner, R-Nash, secured a $200,000 state budget appropriation to help build the Wilson County Animal Shelter, the Times reported on the front page of Monday’s edition.

“I promised the citizens of Wilson County that even though I would not be representing them after redistricting that I would still try to represent their interest in Raleigh. I keep my word,” Horner wrote on Facebook. “Now let’s get a budget passed.”

Horner has ties to both Wilson and Nash counties. He grew up in Bailey and served on the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education for 14 years, including a stint as the school board’s chairman. But it was Wilson that launched his career in state politics — he was first elected in 2016 to the Senate District 11 seat vacated by Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, in his bid for attorney general.

Court-ordered redistricting in 2017 drew Wilson County out of the district. Horner had lived in Wilson but moved back to his childhood home in Bailey to win re-election in 2018. As a two-term senator and member of the majority party, he now co-chairs the Senate Education Committee and has seen his influence in Senate leader Phil Berger’s chamber rise.

Forest camp slams ‘multiculturalism’ critique

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is firing back after the News & Observer reported on a liberal news website’s story about his comments on multiculturalism and diversity at a church in Salisbury.

Jamey Faulkenbury, the lieutenant governor’s communications director, released a Monday afternoon statement slamming the reporting and contending the comments were taken out of context.

Forest “believes that when ‘diversity’ and ‘multiculturalism’ are used as weapons to divide our nation and create factions based on identity politics, then that is bad for our country,” Faulkenberry wrote. “He believes that all people are created in the image of God and that we need to work together across race, religion, and political divide to bring people together, not pull them apart. The speech in context was about loving your neighbor, and he delivered it to a diverse and multicultural audience. The lieutenant governor received a standing ovation at the end of the speech.”

The website ThinkProgress.org reported Forest’s comments made at Cornerstone Church in Salisbury under the headline, “GOP lieutenant governor uses white nationalist language to denounce diversity in hate-filled sermon.”

At Cornerstone, Forest is quoted as saying “No other nation, my friends, has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today, because of a lack of assimilation, because of this division and because of this identity politics.”

Faulkenberry notes that Forest was speaking to “a diverse and multicultural audience” and that he “received a standing ovation at the end of the speech.”

Forest’s spokesman adds that the quotes “have been stripped of context and were being used to create division.”

The two-term Republican lieutenant governor is an announced candidate in North Carolina’s 2020 gubernatorial race.

Democrats tout Medicaid expansion jobs boost

The North Carolina Democratic Party cited a nonpartisan report that indicates Medicaid expansion would help 634,000 more state residents gain access to health care.

“Expanding Medicaid would create nearly 40,000 jobs, bring $11.7 billion to North Carolina and produce economic gains in all 100 counties, according to the new report” said a release from Sarah Flowers, a spokeswoman for the state party.

The Economic and Employment Benefits of Expanding Medicaid in North Carolina report, updated in June, was produced bv the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University and backed by the Cone Health Foundation and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

“While Republicans are desperately clinging to false talking points to defend their refusal to expand Medicaid, the new report is gaining attention across the state with local publications highlighting the jobs, dollars, and health care coverage it would bring to their communities,” the release states.

High court ruling divides liberals, conservatives

The North Carolina Justice Center and Equality North Carolina expressed disappointment that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn partisan gerrymandering in the state’s congressional districts in its Common Cause v. Rucho ruling while the North Carolina GOP celebrated the development.

“It is discouraging that the highest court in our nation would deny our state’s residents a voice in Washington; that they now use the political question doctrine as a way to avoid dealing with a political issue created by partisan, political interests; and that our redistricting system remains broken,” the North Carolina Justice Center said in a release.

“Gerrymandering is a deplorable practice that has enabled Republicans to maintain power and control in unconstitutional ways throughout the state of North Carolina,” states a release from Equality NC. “The decision to not hold these lawmakers accountable continues to underscore the Trump administration’s disregard for the most vulnerable Americans, and their interest in self-preservation above ethical and equitable democratic systems. Equality NC stands with families and individuals across North Carolina who continue to be disenfranchised under North Carolina’s unjust voting maps.”

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court declined to overrule the sovereignty of states and has held that the power to draw Congressional Districts lies with state legislatures and not the courts,” said Michael Whatley, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party.

“For nearly a decade, Republicans have silenced the voices of North Carolinians using racial and partisan gerrymanders to pass extreme legislation and hold onto power at all costs,” said North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin. “The Supreme Court rewarded undemocratically elected politicians who continue to show they will rig our state and our country to hold onto power no matter the cost. North Carolina Democrats are committed to fighting for the fair maps and independent redistricting the people of our state deserve.”

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK is a weekly roundup of local and state political news from The Wilson Times’ reporting staff. Send tips and comments to