New election ordered in disputed North Carolina House race
By EMERY P. DALESIO
Friday, February 22
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s elections board Thursday ordered a new election in the nation’s last undecided congressional race after the Republican candidate conceded his lead was tainted by evidence of ballot-tampering by political operatives working for him.
The State Board of Elections voted 5-0 in favor of a do-over in the mostly rural 9th Congressional District but did not immediately set a date.
In moving to order a new election, board chairman Bob Cordle cited “the corruption, the absolute mess with the absentee ballots.”
The board action came after GOP candidate Mark Harris, in a surprising turn, dropped his bid to be declared the winner and instead called for a new election. He reversed course on the fourth day of a board hearing at which investigators and witnesses detailed evidence of ballot fraud by operatives on his payroll.
“Through the testimony I’ve listened to over the past three days, I believe a new election should be called,” Harris said. “It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the 9th District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”
At the same time, Harris denied any knowledge of the illegal practices allegedly used by those working on his behalf.
Harris left the hearing room without answering questions. It was not immediately clear whether he intends to run in a new election.
The Democrat in the race, Dan McCready, hailed the board decision as “a great step forward for democracy in North Carolina.”
“From the moment the first vote was stolen in North Carolina, from the moment the first voice was silenced by election fraud, the people have deserved justice,” McCready, the Harvard-educated founder of a solar energy company, said in a statement.
The decision could leave the congressional seat empty for months, perhaps until the fall, board attorney Josh Lawson said. New primaries will be held in addition to a new general election, with the dates set by the elections board.
Harris’ reversal and the board’s subsequent decision averted the possibility of a drawn-out court battle, had either candidate disagreed with the outcome of the hearing. The move also spared the new Democratic leadership of the House from having to intervene under its constitutional power to decide who can be seated as a member.
Harris led McCready by 905 votes out of about 280,000 cast last fall in a district that includes part of Charlotte and extends eastward through several counties along the southern edge of the state. But the state refused to certify the outcome as allegations surfaced that Harris political operative Leslie McCrae Dowless may have tampered with mail-in absentee ballots.
According to testimony and other findings detailed at the hearing, Dowless conducted an illegal “ballot harvesting” operation: He and his assistants gathered up absentee ballots from voters by offering to put them in the mail.
Dowless’ workers in rural Bladen County testified that they were directed to collect blank or incomplete ballots, forge signatures on them and even fill in votes for local candidates.
It is generally against the law in North Carolina for anyone other than the voter or a family member to handle someone’s completed ballot.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case.
Harris, former pastor of a Baptist church, testified that Dowless had assured him that he wouldn’t collect absentee ballots in violation of state law.
“I’ll never forget. He said it again and again. He said, ‘We do not take the ballot,’” the candidate testified. Harris also insisted: “Neither I nor any of the leadership of my campaign were aware of or condoned the improper activities that have been testified to in this hearing.”
Harris admitted hiring Dowless over his own son’s warnings. While Dowless was known for getting results, he went to prison in the 1990s for fraud and was dogged by suspicions of political chicanery in his get-out-the-vote efforts in 2016.
Harris appeared to tear up on Wednesday when his son testified that he warned his father not to do business with Dowless.
The congressional seat has been in Republican hands since 1963.
The board is made up of three Democrats and two Republicans.
Follow Emery P. Dalesio on Twitter at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/emery%20dalesio .
Virginia’s Fairfax compares himself to lynching victims
By ALAN SUDERMAN
Monday, February 25
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Embattled Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax compared himself to Jim Crow-era lynching victims in a surprise speech Sunday, as he resists widespread calls to resign prompted by allegations of sexual assault.
Fairfax strongly defended himself and lashed out at his critics from his rostrum in the state Senate as the 2019 legislative session was coming to a close.
“I’ve heard much about anti-lynching on the floor of this very Senate, where people were not given any due process whatsoever, and we rue that,” Fairfax said, referencing legislation the General Assembly passed expressing “profound regret” for lynchings in Virginia between 1877 and 1950.
“And we talk about hundreds, at least 100 terror lynchings that have happened in the Commonwealth of Virginia under those very same auspices. And yet we stand here in a rush to judgment with nothing but accusations and no facts and we decide that we are willing to do the same thing,” Fairfax said.
When he finished his five-minute impromptu speech, stunned senators sat in awkward silence.
Fairfax, who is black, has been accused by two women of sexual assault. Both of the alleged victims are African American.
Earlier this month, Vanessa Tyson publicly accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex in his hotel room during the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004. Her lawyer said last week that Tyson plans to meet with prosecutors in Massachusetts to detail her allegations.
Meredith Watson has also publicly accused Fairfax of sexual assault. She issued a statement accusing him of raping her 19 years ago while they were students at Duke University.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but both women have come forward voluntarily.
House Republicans announced plans Friday to hold a public hearing where Fairfax, Tyson and Watson can testify, a move that Fairfax and some Democrats have panned as a political ploy.
Fairfax has indicated he won’t participate in the hearing, leaving it an open question whether Republicans will try to compel him to testify. Fairfax has said the accusations should be investigated by law enforcement.
Republican House Majority Leader Del. Todd Gilbert said Fairfax’s comments about lynchings were highly inappropriate.
“That is the worst, most disgusting type of rhetoric he could have invoked,” Gilbert said. “It’s entirely appropriate for him to talk about due process and we would intend to offer him every ounce of it, and he’s welcome to take advantage of that anytime he would like.”
But black lawmakers did not object to Fairfax’s speech.
“He said what he needed to say,” said Sen. Mamie Locke.
Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Del. Lamont Bagby said he’s heard similar rhetoric from his constituents, who have expressed concerns that Fairfax is being treated unfairly because of his race.
Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, both Democrats and both white, are embroiled in their own scandal after acknowledging they wore blackface in the 1980s. Northam has also resisted widespread calls to resign and instead said he intends to devote his remaining years in office to addressing the state’s deep and lingering racial divisions.
The trio of scandals has rocked Virginia politics and exposed deep divides among Democrats.
State Democrats have expressed fear that the uproar over the governor could jeopardize their chances of taking control of the GOP-dominated Virginia legislature this year. The party made big gains in 2017, in part because of a backlash against President Donald Trump, and has moved to within striking distance of a majority in both houses.
At the same time, the Democrats nationally have taken a hard line against misconduct in their ranks because women and minorities are a vital part of their base and they want to be able to criticize Trump’s behavior without looking hypocritical.
Wyatt Tee Walker: Chief strategist for Martin Luther King Jr. in the struggle for civil rights
February 25, 2019
Author: Taylor McNeilly, Reference and Processing Archivist, University of Richmond
Disclosure statement: Taylor McNeilly does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Richmond provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Much of the civil rights movement is remembered through the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. There were a number of people who also made valuable contributions but aren’t known as well.
Among them was Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker – hailed as “one of the keenest minds of the nonviolent revolution” by none less than King himself.
Walker worked closely with King and was the chief strategist for the 1963 Birmingham campaign, which turned out to be one the most influential moments for the civil rights struggle.
Born in 1929 in Brockton, Massachusetts, Walker attended Virginia Union University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics. He later went on to do graduate studies in theology at the university, setting him on his future path as a minister.
He met King at an interseminary group in 1952, an organization that planned meetings between students of various seminaries. At the time, King was president of the student body of Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. They soon became personal friends.
This friendship lasted until King’s assassination in 1968. It would inform much of the crucial civil rights work that the two would do together.
While working as a minister at Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia in the 1950s, Walker began organizing large-scale civil rights protests. King assisted Walker in some of this work, including sending recorded remarks of support for a demonstration in Richmond in 1959 protesting Virginia’s decision to shut down schools rather than integrate them.
Walker was also involved in several civil rights groups, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was founded by King and other civil rights leaders. In 1960, Walker took charge as the first full-time executive director of the conference – a position from which he would oversee some of the most important moments of the civil rights movement, including one of the most significant campaigns – Project C, or Project Confrontation.
Popularly known as the Birmingham campaign, Project Confrontation was a series of coordinated boycotts and demonstrations supporting the ongoing efforts against segregation in the city. Demonstrations included marches, sit-ins, and kneel-ins in white churches by black protesters.
Walker and the Letter from Birmingham Jail
What Project Confrontation is perhaps best remembered for is the Letter from Birmingham Jail, an open letter authored by King while jailed in Birmingham due to his participation in the protests.
The letter was written in response to a public statement by a group of eight ministers criticizing the Birmingham campaign. These ministers believed that the direct action of boycotts and demonstrations were too disruptive to daily life and should be stopped in favor of peaceful negotiations.
Handwritten on the few scraps of paper that King was allowed in his cell, the letter was smuggled out piecemeal by his lawyers.
In order for the letter to be published, it had to be typed, but first, it had to be read.
Walker claims in a 2016 oral history, conducted by the University of Richmond where I am the reference and processing archivist, that this role fell to him because he was “the only one in Birmingham who could understand and translate King’s chicken-scratch writing.”
Walker goes on to say that his secretary typed the letter while he read it aloud to her. When his secretary fell asleep working on the letter late at night, Walker finished the typing.
Walker also claimed credit for the title, turning down the Friends Committee’s suggestion of “Tears of Love.”
Walker and Project ‘C’
Walker’s role in Birmingham was not limited to guiding one of the most famous pieces of 20th-century writing to publication.
In fact, Project Confrontation was designed and organized by Walker.
“Dr. King gave me the assignment to go to Birmingham and plan it out. And that ended up becoming Project C,” Walker states in the same 2016 oral history.
Explaining his strategy, he says, “I knew that two things would move Birmingham: Mess with the money and make it inconvenient for the white community. That was the way to make change come.”
The demonstrations were specifically timed to make it onto the evening news, creating national attention for what had been considered a regional concern. Walker’s work included everything from high level strategy, such as the timing of demonstrations, to the detailed work of counting seats in restaurants and churches to coordinate the sit-ins and kneel-ins.
Birmingham 56 years later
Project “C” went on to be a major success for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The methods and strategies became a template for future campaigns.
As Walker states, “the Birmingham campaign led to the 1964 Public Accommodations Act, which desegregated America.”
Birmingham showed that nonviolent, direction action focused on disrupting the economy and doing things that were “inconvenient” for the white community could generate positive results.
Wyatt Tee Walker had a key role to play in this change.
Stop the BS – when you hear a negative statistic about black students, question it
February 25, 2019
Author: Ivory A. Toldson, Professor of Counseling Psychology, Howard University
Disclosure statement: Ivory A. Toldson is affiliated with Howard University.
Evidence suggests white teachers are more negative with – and have lower expectations for – black students.
As a counseling professor who specializes in educating black children, these findings do not surprise me. I often hear education professionals and others use simplistic negative statistics to explain complex challenges facing black students.
In my book, “No BS (Bad Stats): Black People Need People Who Believe in Black People Enough Not to Believe Every Bad Thing They Hear about Black People,” I refer to these kinds of negative statistics as “BS.” “BS,” or “bad stats,” are data points that are incomplete, poorly contextualized, usually negative and sometimes wrong. My book uses data, research and anecdotes to confront nine lies about education and black students.
I give three examples of the falsehoods here.
Myth #1: More black men are in prison than college
In 2002, the Justice Policy Institute released a report called “Cellblocks or Classrooms.” The report was meant to spur policymakers to invest in college education for black males. One line resonated and echoed more than others: “Nearly a third more African American men are incarcerated than in higher education.”
Was it ever true? As I noted in an interview with the BBC in 2013, the Justice Policy Institute accurately reported the federal education data available at the time. The problem is that data was incomplete. For instance, several historically black colleges and universities, as well as my alma mater, Temple University, where I was enrolled as a doctoral candidate in 2001, reported no black male students in 2001 – which would have been impossible. Colleges have apparently gotten better at reporting race and gender data since.
When documentary filmmaker Janks Morton and I first published our 2011 response to the claim that there were more black men in prison than in college, we refuted it by showing that there were about 1.3 million black men in college and 840,000 black men in prison. By 2015, the total number of black men in college was 1,437,363 and the total incarcerated was 745,660. A chart that I produced in 2013 shows the trend in black male incarceration and college enrollment over the 10 years after the JPI report.
Not only is “more black men in prison than college” false, it may lead to bad policy and practice for black boys. In my view, educators who believe their black male students have a better chance of ending up in jail than college might focus more on preventing delinquency, rather than preparing helping them realize their college potential.
Myth #2: Black students lag in reading ability
During a panel discussion, I once heard a principal of a predominantly black high school state that “100 percent” of the students at her school were reading below grade level. Another panelist added the common myth that low reading scores in the third grade help prison builders calculate the need for future prison beds. But assessing reading ability involves much more than using standardized tests of reading proficiency.
For instance, scoring errors, lack of motivation, fatigue, resentment and attention deficits can reduce the accuracy of standardized reading test scores. These sources of error may be more prevalent in predominately black schools with substandard conditions.
Before writing off an entire school because of test scores, educators should become familiar with the specific assessments used, the circumstances by which the test was administered and the basic concepts of testing theory. Consider Orange County School Board member Rick Roach who – in a quest to understand reading tests better – took Florida’s state test for reading comprehension. Although he has two master’s degrees, he failed. Rick Roach’s experience backs up research that recommends educators look for beyond the tests to assess achievement.
Myth #3: Single mothers are to blame for problems among black students
In a training, a teacher told me that single mothers were the “number one” reason for black boys getting suspended. When I asked the teacher what research supports this conclusion, he insinuated that it was common knowledge.
In my book, I detail the research that I have conducted and reviewed on the connection between parents and academic success. Although 69 percent of black children live in homes without both biological parents, there’s little conclusive evidence that household composition determines educational outcomes.
In my 2013 analysis of more than 12,000 parents who completed the National Household Education Surveys-Parent and Family Involvement Survey, I found that parents who were black and Hispanic, non-native English speakers, lived in unsafe neighborhoods and had less than a high school education were less likely to visit school for conferences with teachers and administrators or school activities. My study found that this lack of involvement with school was statistically associated with lower levels of academic achievement among their students.
The study also found that parents of black students received less frequent and more negative communication from their child’s school. Specifically, parents of black students were the most likely to receive phone calls from school because of a problem with their child’s behavior or academic performance. Parents of white children were the most likely to receive regular newsletters.
My book details three parenting factors that increase students’ academic functioning regardless of marital status.
The first is academic socialization – that is, lessons around the goals and purposes of education and strategies for success.
The second is positive parenting, which is when parents frequently tell their children they love them and are proud of them, and reinforce good behavior.
The third is having high expectations, such as expecting children to finish college.
Why we need to stop the BS
The first step to correcting a problem is to acknowledge that it exists.
In my opinion, BS is pervasive in educational settings for black children because educators want quick and easy ways to understand longstanding and complex issues. People should question negative statistics, like those I discuss in this article, and seek a better and more nuanced perspective of the issues, instead of just accepting BS as proof of failure.
Suspect in kidnapping and sex assault arraigned
Friday, February 22
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A 41-year-old man charged with kidnapping a woman and her 5-year-old son in New Hampshire and later sexually assaulting the woman in Vermont has been arraigned on federal charges.
Everett Simpson was charged with two counts of kidnapping and two counts of interstate transfer of a stolen vehicle.
He did not attend the arraignment on Friday. A judge entered not guilty pleas.
Simpson allegedly left a Bradford drug abuse treatment center Jan. 4 and traveled to Manchester, New Hampshire, where the alleged kidnapping took place. He is then alleged to have brought the woman and her son back to Vermont, where the woman was assaulted.
Afterward, Simpson allegedly fled to Pennsylvania. He was apprehended after he crashed a stolen car while fleeing police.
He’s being held without bail.