Nov 27, 2004
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Morgan Answers Critics


State House Co-speaker Richard Morgan says the $1 million-plus his critics spent battling a legislative redistricting plan would have been better used helping Republican candidates.

In a letter to GOP activists and fellow legislators, Morgan attached a statement in which he says the Republicans lost seats in the state House because of “failed recruitment and lack of funding by the NCGOP establishment,” not because of the redistricting map.

“I thought it was about time to let the people of North Carolina know the real word about redistricting,” Morgan said in a brief telephone interview Tuesday.

The letter, with the two-page statement, was sent to hundreds of interested people, he said. Recipients include his fellow House members “except the lizards” and most Republican senators “except the nuts.”

“This information provides the truth that will dispel a great deal of misinformation spewed over the Internet,” Morgan says in the first paragraph of his letter.

He says the information contained in the letter and the statement is the same information previously available, and that most of it was entered into evidence during litigation over redistricting.

But one of his key opponents, Art Pope, a former state representative from Wake County, quickly shot back with a three-page response rebutting Morgan’s claims.

Pope’s response was e-mailed to The Pilot by Mike Fields, who chaired Peggy Crutchfield’s campaign for Morgan’s House seat earlier this year. Pope says Morgan’s “argument lacks believability from the start because of the simple fact the Republicans did elect a majority in 2002.”

Instead of sticking with that majority, Pope says, Morgan and his allies decided to form a coalition with the Democrats.

Pope says Morgan does not want a Republican majority in the state House but wants the results to be close enough that the Democrats will continue to need him “since he would never have the support of the Republican Caucus to be speaker.”

Morgan sees it differently.

“You should know that at the time this historic session elected co-speakers, the North Carolina House of Representatives was evenly split (60 Republicans and 60 Democrats), and this is a fact that critics of the redistricting plan blatantly ignore in their propaganda,” he wrote. “Because of this even division, it would be impossible to ‘ram through’ any plan that absolutely gives either party a distinct and clear advantage.”

Morgan, a Republican, and Jim Black, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, became the first House members to share the speakership in the North Carolina legislature. However, GOP losses at the polls on Nov. 2 mean that neither Morgan nor any other Republican is likely to be elected speaker for the 2005-06 session.

‘Failed Leadership’

Morgan’s letter cites independent sources as saying the 2003 House redistricting plan “gave Republicans a better chance to gain a majority in the North Carolina House than any district alignment in more than a century.”

Morgan says that Republicans won House majorities in 1994 and again in 1996 by working hard and providing adequate financial support for candidates.

“But the NCGOP leadership opposed me and the 2003 plan, and they failed to put forth the effort necessary to win in 2004,” Morgan wrote.

Morgan’s opponents worked vigorously for his challenger, Peggy Crutchfield, in the Republican primary election in July. His critics led a movement that was successful in ousting Morgan from the state Republican Executive Committee. Then Elizabeth Kelly, chairwoman of the Moore County Republican Party, took the rare step of openly supporting Crutchfield in the primary.

Morgan won the primary by a narrow margin. With no Democratic opposition in November, however, he won re-election.

“Once the failed leadership at the NCGOP decided they did not like the plan; however, they set out to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Morgan wrote. “Instead of recruiting enough candidates for all the races and raising money to support them, the Daughtry/Blount/Pope contingent put over $1 million into the lawsuit fighting the plan. This money could have been much better used to recruit and fund candidates instead of fighting the plan merely because I supported it.”

State Rep. Leo Daughtry of Smithfield was a primary candidate for speaker of the House when Morgan staged a coup that led to his own election as co-speaker early in the 2003 session of the House. Daughtry, a former House minority leader and former gubernatorial candidate, was the nominee of the Republican caucus.

Ferrell Blount is chairman of the state Republican Party.

Pope, a Raleigh businessman, is a member of a wealthy family noted for philanthropic gifts. The Popes donated $500,000 toward construction of a state GOP headquarters in Raleigh, and the party recognized this gift by naming the building in their honor. The building was opened last year.

Daughtry, Pope and Blount were among Morgan’s leading foes, but they were by no means the only ones.

Numbers ‘Favor’ Republicans

In his letter Morgan takes note of Remedial 14, a plan supported by his dissidents, but which he says is clearly unconstitutional.

For one thing, Morgan says, it appears to have targeted several incumbent Republicans, including Rep. Harold Brubaker, who, in the 1990s, was the first Republican to be elected speaker of the House in more than 100 years. Brubaker lives in Randolph County.

Morgan further hints that Remedial 14 also targeted him because the district would have contained all of Chatham County and less than half of Moore County. Moore County has more than enough population to constitute one district. The district to which Morgan was elected in November contains 21 precincts in Moore County, with Cameron and half of Carthage precincts in another district.

“With the numbers clearly in favor of Republicans, the question that remains is how and why did Republicans fail to win the North Carolina House of Representatives in a year when Republican candidates did very well? Political wisdom indicates two primary facts: 1) a lack of candidate recruitment and 2) a lack of financial support,” Morgan says in the statement.

Calling Daughtry/Blount/Pope “prophets of doom,” Morgan says his opponents “want us to believe that the only way to win control of the General Assembly is through a redistricting plan that gives Republicans an absolute advantage.”

Morgan calls this “a misguided fantasy with a hidden excuse designed to avoid the effort of a campaign and providing resources to candidates.”

Previous GOP successes in the House were the result of outdoing Democrats on all scores, he continues.

“Thus, the only plausible conclusion is that the NCGOP establishment and the Republican Executive Committee became the pawns of the Daughtry/Blount/Pope contingent. Together, they sold out our candidates for their political and personal self-interest, and in the end, failed us all,” he said.

‘Made No Effort’

Pope’s rebuttal supplies an answer to each point Morgan makes in his statement.

On the issue of recruitment and funding, Pope says Morgan and Republican House Leader Joe Kiser “made no effort to help all Republican candidates, either before or after the primaries.”

Pope says that Morgan and Black “have a casual agreement ...not to fiercely challenge legislators who went along with their 2002 coalition.” He calls Morgan “the self-proclaimed Republican leader.” Pope says Morgan and Black had an understanding that Morgan would not oppose incumbent Democrats.

“But now Morgan and Kiser blame the NCGOP establishment for not recruiting candidates against Morgan,” Pope continues.

Morgan adds that his opponents ignored the mandate of the state Supreme Court calling for a minimizing of splits in counties to form new districts.

“Critics of the 2003 North Carolina House of Represen-tatives Redistricting Plan are upset that the plan fully complied with the North Carolina Constitution. Our own North Carolina Supreme Court expressly held that the State Constitution requires the General Assembly to keep counties whole, to the maximum extent possible, when redrawing district lines,” Morgan wrote.

The enacted plan splits 47 of the 100 counties, but Morgan says the critics’ plan would have split 50 and thus would have been a violation of the court mandate.

“Moreover, in the only challenge to the plan, the North Carolina Supreme Court — made up of a Republican majority — ruled it was constitutional. The Daughtry/Blount/Pope contingent was willing to ignore the mandate of the North Carolina Constitution to advance their own political and highly personal agenda,” Morgan says.

In addition to targeting Morgan and Brubaker, the plan supported by his opponents also affected Rep. Debbie Clary, a five-term Republican legislator from Cleveland County, by redrawing her district to move many of her key precincts into another district, according to Morgan.

‘Indulging in Sheer Fantasy’

Morgan says the 2003 plan would actually have worked to the advantage of Republican candidates. He quotes NC Free, a nonpartisan organization, which produced an analysis showing that Republicans had a good chance to win a majority of House seats in 2005. Both parties quoted NC Free’s analysis figures.

He adds that proponents of the Daughtry/Blount/Pope plan “are indulging in sheer fantasy to think that a plan that heavily favored Republicans would have ever passed the evenly divided House and the Democrat-controlled Senate.” He says that critics were trying “to obfuscate reality with pie-in-the-sky assertions regarding the so-called Remedial 14 plan.”

Pope calls the assertion about the Supreme Court ruling “blatantly false.”

In his response to Morgan, Pope cites political maneuvering by Morgan and the Democrats to stop the earlier lawsuit, Stephenson versus Bartlett.

“In short, rather than being vindicated by the N.C. Supreme Court, Morgan worked with the Democrats to delay judicial review of their redistricting plans for the 2004 elections, the very plans which elected Democrat majorities to the state Senate and House, despite Republicans getting the majority of the statewide vote for legislative candidates,” Pope says.

Pope also says that Morgan worked with Democrats to develop a redistricting plan that would place nine Republican incumbents in five districts where each would face Democratic opposition.

“Check the campaign finance reports to see how Morgan, and his allies like David Miner, far outspent their opponents in the Republican primaries,” Pope says. “Despite this, based on the issues of betraying the Republican Party and voting with the Democrats (on) tax hikes, Morgan only won by 51 percent.

“Republican voters did oust five Republican incumbents who were members of the Democrat-Morgan Coalition: Baker, Decker, Gorman, Miner and K. Williams. On the other hand, traditional Republicans such as Russell Capps and Sam Ellis withstood challengers financed by Morgan. I regret the necessity of primaries, but I make no apologies for supporting traditional Republicans and helping defeat the members of the Democrat-Morgan Coalition.”

As for Morgan’s comment about spending $1 million on the redistricting suit, Pope says it would not have been necessary if Morgan and the Democrats had not “used our tax dollars to fight the Republican lawsuit.”

Pope says Morgan’s actions put him “in position to sell out to the Democrat minority in exchange for being co-speaker.”

Divided the GOP

In the final paragraph of his statement, Morgan says his critics used “an endless supply of money” and support from the state GOP establishment to fund challengers in an effort to unseat several loyal Republican legislators.” He calls their effort a “personal mission to divide and destroy the Republican Party as we know it today” and adds that they “were willing to sacrifice Republican seats to do so.”

Pope responds by calling this Morgan’s “most ludicrous statement” and says that Morgan and his allies “literally divided the Republican Party by joining the Democrats in 2003” after the GOP won a majority of House seats in the 2002 election.

The 60-60 division in the House came about last year when one Republican defected to the Democratic Party, taking away the GOP’s slender lead. In 2004 the defector, Michael Decker, returned to the Republican Party, and one Democrat switched parties, thus giving the GOP a majority of 62 to 58.

The Nov. 2 election gave the House back to the Democrats, who will hold 63 seats to the Republicans’ 57 in January.

“Redistricting is a highly personal, contentious and emotional process,” Morgan said. “Individual legislators care most about how a proposed plan affects their own districts and they worry about their party’s fortunes.”

Legislative redistricting is a legal requirement after each Census.

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