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Political Notebook: Garland Tucker stockpiling cash in Senate primary

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Garland Tucker, a conservative businessman with ties to Wilson, has kicked his fundraising into high gear in a bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis in the Republican primary.

Tucker raised $339,236 in the second quarter of 2019, according to his Federal Election Commission filing. Reports also show he made a $700,000 loan to his campaign in May.

Tucker, whose family founded Tucker Furniture and who grew up in Wilson, announced in May that he would challenge North Carolina’s junior senator, who is seeking re-election.

President Donald Trump endorsed Tillis for the seat late last month. Durham County Republican Party member and political commentator Andy Nilsson tweeted Monday that Tillis’ Trump bump “poured cold water” on Tucker’s primary bid.

“Tucker can’t tack right, so has to look for non-Trump support (among) unaffiliated and suburban, mainly female,” Nilsson wrote in the tweet. “But they’re not his type.”

Tillis condemns Turkey's air defense system 

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., joined with three other officials in issuing a statement following Turkey’s acquisition of Russian technology designed to attach the American F-35.

“Turkey is trying to play both sides, but we will not allow sensitive U.S. military technology in the F-35 to be at risk. Turkey cannot have both Russian and American defense equipment sitting side by side,” according to the statement.

“As long as President Erdogan insists on putting U.S. and NATO assets at risk by acquiring Russian defense technology, the U.S. will withhold our fifth-generation fighter jets and apply our normal restrictions on any government that purchases Russian military equipment.”

The group of senators led a bipartisan effort in March with the introduction of a bill to prohibit the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey if the country accepted the Russian defense system. The Senate also included this provision in the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act in June.

Democrats, GOP name new executive directors

New executives will helm 2020 campaign efforts for North Carolina’s Democratic and Republican parties.

State GOP Chairman Michael Whatley announced last week that Jonathan Sink will take over as the party’s executive director, starting work next Monday.

Sink formerly worked as general counsel to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, a Republican. Prior to that, Sink served as an attorney and deputy chief of staff for N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland. Sink spent several years as an in-house attorney on special education and civil rights issues, according to a release from the NCGOP.

On Saturday, the N.C. Democratic Party announced that Meredith Cuomo will serve as executive director.

Cuomo brings nearly 20 years of experience working to elect Democrats in North Carolina. She has a “proven history of raising and executing multi-million-dollar budgets, building relationships with elected officials and party leaders, and overseeing much of the day-to-day work at the party” according to a statement.

Cuomo previously served as the party’s finance director during the 2018 cycle and helped build a $19 million budget in a historic “blue moon” election.

Lawmakers raise penalty for shooting officers

Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday signed a bill designed to protect law enforcement officers by boosting the prison time defendants convicted of shooting them will receive.

House Bill 224 changes the crime of assault on an officer with a firearm from a Class E felony to a Class D felony. Under North Carolina’s structured sentencing law, that means a difference in presumptive sentence from 20-25 months in intermediate or active custody to 51-46 months in active custody.

The law applies to shootings committed against sworn law enforcement officers, probation and parole officers, prison guards and North Carolina National Guard members.

Freshman Rep. Lisa Stone Barnes, R-Nash, was one of the bill’s four primary sponsors.

“I am proud to be an advocate for LEOs in our state in honor of fallen Shelby K-9 Police Officer Tim Brackeen and his family,” Barnes wrote in a Monday tweet.

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, introduced the legislation with Rep. Kelly Hastings, R-Gaston. Both lawmakers represent Shelby, where Brackeen was killed in a September 2016 shooting. A man has been charged with first-degree murder in the officer’s death.

Cooper signs bill to employ retired teachers

Gov. Roy Cooper signed 12 bills into law on Thursday, including Senate Bill 399 that allows retired teachers to return to the classroom without detriment to retirement benefits.

“We desperately need more good teachers, and getting retired veteran teachers to go back into the classroom is helpful,” Cooper said in a release. “But the best way to have a good teacher in every classroom is better teacher pay and more investment in education instead of corporate tax cuts.”

Senate Education Committee Co-Chairman Rick Horner, R-Nash, introduced the legislation and said it could benefit school systems across the state, including Wilson County Schools.

Forest to kick off gubernatorial campaign

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has announced the kickoff of his 2020 campaign for North Carolina governor.

The two-term Republican lieutenant governor has scheduled a campaign announcement and rally for 2 p.m. Aug. 17 at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds. Though Forest is a declared candidate and is campaigning through an exploratory committee, a news release notes he will “formally enter the 2020 race.”

“Effective immediately, the words ‘Exploratory Committee’ will be dropped from the campaign’s official name,” the July 9 release states. “The committee will now go by the name Dan Forest for Governor.”

Forest is widely known as a staunch supporter of House Bill 2, the “bathroom bill” that was substantially repealed in an early 2017 compromise between first-term Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislative leaders. He also piloted North Carolina’s campus free speech bill to passage in the summer of 2017.

Environmental advocate pans Trump speech

Derb Carter, director of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s North Carolina office, criticized President Trump’s July 8 White House speech on the environment.

“President Trump claims climate change is a hoax, but the real hoax is him trying to claim credit for protecting the environment,” Carter said. “The Trump administration is doing everything it can to reverse decades of progress in making our air and water cleaner and healthier. One of his first actions as president was to abandon global leadership or even participation in the rest of the world’s effort to address climate change, the greatest environmental challenge of our time.

“The Trump administration has sided with oil companies on opening our coasts to drilling, chemical companies in polluting our waters, developers in destroying our wetlands, mining companies in destroying our public lands and coal companies in hastening climate change.”

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

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