Republicans trade immigration barbs in wake of Cantor’s defeat

Following Eric Cantor’s loss in a Republican Primary last night in which pundits say his position on immigration reform played a major role, Phil Berger Jr. today launched a radio ad aimed at his opponent in the runoff for the Sixth District Nomination.

Cantor, a Virginia Republican, had served as House Majority Leader under Speaker John Boehner. He was defeated by a grassroots candidate in a Republican primary held yesterday. Cantor had presented a mixed message to voters, claiming in campaign materials to oppose immigration reform, while advancing legislation in Congress toward that end.

Berger Jr.’s campaign wasted no time in the wake of Cantor’s defeat to seize on the obvious passion that conservative Republican voters have for a zero-tolerance approach to giving a pathway to citizenship to those in the country illegally.

The campaign released a radio ad today in which Berger Jr. highlights opponent Mark Walker’s supposed support for immigration reform.

“As a prosecutor, I’ve seen first hand the effect of illegal immigration: the overcrowding of our jails, illegals feeding off our tax dollars, and jeopardizing public safety,” Berger Jr. said in the ad. “My opponent Mark Walker promises to give amnesty to illegal aliens. Walker supports creating a pathway to citizenship for the millions who broke the law and came to this country illegally. His legislation would only encourage more illegal immigration and would make our problem worse, not better.”

A campaign spokesperson said the ad was “a major media buy” and would debut on conservative talk networks across the district.

At issue are comments on a Walker website from early in the campaign when he suggested incremental immigration reform that could provide a pathway to citizenship. Walker said at a recent candidate forum that he did not support amnesty for illegal immigrants or a pathway to citizenship, as reported by the Rhino Times.

Walker said in a telephone interview that the Berger Jr. campaign had quoted him inaccurately, accusing the campaign of pulling a partial quote from a blog post Walker made early in the campaign as he began to put his platform together. Walker said that his background as a pastor and working in immigrant and refugee communities had played a part in those comments.

“My heart is for people from all walks of life,” Walker said. “My oath to the Constitution is to protect the border and the ports.”

Walker said that he does not favor any form of amnesty.

“We need to make sure our border and ports are very secure before we can get into legislation, otherwise you have an open ended situation to deal with,” Walker said.

Walker also pointed to the fact that he had been endorsed by Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson, whom Walker called “the strongest anti-amnesty sheriff in the district.” Walker said that no sheriff in the district had endorsed Berger Jr.

“I think it’s interesting that as a DA he doesn’t have his own sheriff’s support or the support of any sheriff in the district,” Walker said. “I think if you are going to talk about obeying the law, you need to ask why is that?”

The Walker campaign also seized on Cantor’s loss by highlighting the Berger Jr. campaign’s tenuous connection to political strategists used by the former House Majority Leader.

“It is clear that Phil Berger, Jr., is the D.C. establishment candidate in this race,” Walker said in a press release. “Political insiders on Capitol Hill have handpicked Berger to come to D.C. and serve as a rubber stamp for their agenda. Berger’s wealthy friends have paid Cantor’s team tens of thousands of dollars to come to North Carolina and attack me, while promoting him. It says a lot when his Super PAC is being run by Eric Cantor’s political henchmen. The political class is investing all this money to support Berger for a reason.”

The connection comes in the form of Ray Allen, a political consultant from the Richmond firm Creative Direct, which Cantor used. A Super PAC from Raleigh, Keep Conservatives United, also used Creative Direct in its advocacy for candidates leading up to the May primary. Keep Conservatives United expressed support for Berger Jr. and launched several negative ads and direct mail pieces at other candidates in the race. Candidate campaigns are prohibited by law from coordinating with Super PACs.

 

 

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Coble endorses Berger Jr. in Sixth District

In what is sure to be a major step in his quest to secure the GOP nomination in the Sixth Congressional district, Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. today received the endorsement of incumbent Rep. Howard Coble.

Coble kept his preferences under wraps prior to the May 6 primary, opting instead to appear with several candidates to promote general voter turnout. Berger Jr. took the top spot on election day, but failed to clear the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff with second place finisher, Mark Walker.

Coble made his endorsement known this morning at Berger Jr.’s campaign headquarters on Battleground Avenue in Greensboro.

“It’s clear to me that Phil Berger is the right conservative for the job. He has the experience, knowledge and determination to hit the ground running in Washington,” said Coble, in a release prior to the public endorsement. “He’s a solid, proven conservative with the kind of values and energy we need to keep North Carolina on the right track. I’m pleased and proud to offer my endorsement to Phil Berger.”

Coble’s endorsement should provide solid momentum to the well organized and monied Berger Jr. campaign. Coble’s brother and other family members have endorsed Walker, causing confusion among some and pushback from long-time observers who felt Walker was attempting to associate himself with the congressman.

Several of Berger Jr.’s vanquished primary opponents are considering a Walker endorsement, but Coble’s stamp of approval likely carries more weight.

“It’s an enormous honor to receive the endorsement of Congressman Coble,” said Berger. “His legacy of service to this district is outstanding. The state of North Carolina and the Republican party have benefitted greatly from his leadership, honor and integrity. Howard Coble is a true public servant who has dedicated his life to this state and his constituents. I will strive to continue Howard’s legacy of service as we work for a prosperous North Carolina.”

The runoff is set for July 15.

Walker released a statement via social media that addressed the Coble endorsement. He said the campaign was made aware of Coble’s preference two weeks ago but felt he “might refrain from being a factor in the race.”

Beyond that, Walker alluded to some opposition research Berger Jr.’s campaign is conducting.

“There is no doubt that we are in the crosshairs of a very powerful, well-funded and influential political machine,” Walker said. “Over the last few weeks, the opposition has been pressuring many elected officials and other Washington representatives for endorsements. Private investigators continue to call people and places we’ve served in looking through every aspect of our lives.”

Walker said that he remains committed to a different style of politics, one beyond the traditional Republican method of shredding your opponent with smear tactics.

“Though it has been tempting at times, we have maintained our goal of running a clean campaign that would make North Carolinians proud.”

 

Matheny continues to play the “reasonable” card

Greensboro City Councilman Zack Matheny continues to position himself as a “reasonable” alternative to the right-wing front-runners in the race for the Republican nomination in the Sixth Congressional district.

While front-runner Phil Berger Jr. continues to lead the pack in the eyes of most observers, Matheny is locked in a three-way battle with viable candidates hoping to get enough votes to force Berger Jr. into a runoff.

Matheny has scheduled a press conference for 3 p.m. today at which he plans to speak out about the mudslinging Berger Jr. and  Bruce VonCannon have stooped to in recent days.

“Phil Berger Jr. is a negative campaigner and the tactics he is employing are exactly the type of tactics current Congressman Howard Coble asked all Republican candidates vying for his seat not to participate in,” Matheny said in a press release today. “Voters want to hear how we intend to create jobs, revitalize the economy, and rebuild North Carolina. They don’t want to hear ugly politics as usual. Negative campaigning will only lower voter turnout and hurt the Party.”

Matheny’s press conference will take place at his campaign headquarters in Greensboro.

A political action committee backing Berger Jr. launched the mud-fest with attack pieces financed by known Berger Jr. donors. The direct mail pieces and television ads targeted Mark Walker, felt to be a solid second place contender, and the upstart VonCannon campaign.

VonCannon punched back with ominous television spots that criticized Berger Jr. for a plea-deal he offered a child molester and for the office-wiring incident Berger Jr. was involved with at the Rockingham County Courthouse.

 

 

Zack strikes back at Berger Jr.

Greensboro City Councilman Zack Matheny hit back at Sixth District GOP front-runner Phil Berger Jr. today by issuing a press release criticizing the “smear campaign” conducted by an out-of-district PAC funded in part by Berger Jr. donors.

In a press release, the Matheny campaign says that Berger Jr. has “failed to gain voter support in North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District.”

“In response, Berger Jr.’s special interest backers are dumping even more money into the race, buying ads attacking fellow Republican candidates,” the release states. “These are exactly the type of tactics that current Congressman Howard Coble asked all Republican candidates vying for his seat not to participate in.”

Keep Conservatives United, a political action committee based in Wake Forest, has spent more than $150,000 on advertisements attacking Berger Jr.’s opponents in the race. The PAC, via its founder Bob Harris, has repeatedly endorsed Berger Jr.

“It is unclear why this group and their contributors are so interested in this race,” the Matheny campaign said. “Whenever special interest groups are involved in campaigns there is always the fear that they are buying a candidate rather than supporting one.”

More here and here.

Political hit piece called “laughable” by Greensboro residents

An independent PAC operated by a former Jesse Helms foot soldier made
big news in Greensboro this week with a political attack piece
targeting Sixth District Congressional candidate Mark Walker.

The card, mailed on April 16, hit Walker for his service on the
Greensboro War Memorial Commission, which oversees the Coliseum
Complex. The debate over funding of the coliseum is an annual show in
Greensboro, with budget hawks pointing to the perpetual shortfall in
operating revenues specific to the venue opposed by boosters who point
to the throngs of people who come into the city and spend money around
town. This, they argue, increases overall tax revenue and offsets the
debt specific to the building itself.

The coliseum director, Matt Brown, is also one of the highest paid
city employees, and is often a target of conservative ire given his
robust salary.

Keep Conservatives United, an independent political action committee
based in Wake Forest, mailed the card. According to their campaign
finance report filed April 18, the group spent $18,373 on the piece.
The card shows a picture of Walker, obscured by parted venetian
blinds, with the bold headline “Hiding from his record of running up
deficits and wasting taxpayer dollars.”

In his campaign bio, Walker touts his service on the commission, which
is a volunteer oversight board without legislative control of its
budget.

Walker did not appear to respond publicly to the card, but several
prominent supporters in Greensboro called it “laughable.”

Former Rhino Times publisher, William Hammer, wrote an extended
Facebook statement along with a picture he posted of the card.

“It’s very unusual that I get a piece of mail that makes me burst out
laughing,” Hammer wrote. “But that is exactly what I did when I pulled
an oversized postcard from my mailbox that said Congressional
candidate Mark Walker was “Hiding from his Record.””

The post was heavily shared and commented upon, with agreements coming
from a prominent Republican couple and the wife of a state legislator,
among others.

Keep Conservatives United, the group that mailed the card, is the
brainchild of former Jesse Helms researcher Bob Harris. Harris started
the group in 2009 to support Michelle Bachman against Rick Perry in
early right-wing jockeying for position in advance of the 2012
presidential election. Harris has kept the group active, working for
several congressional candidates, including Renee Ellmers, George
Holding and Robert Pittenger.

Harris has repeatedly endorsed Walker’s opponent in the Sixth District
race, Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr., a fact not
lost on many who commented via social media about the direct mail
piece.

Records show that Harris paid Richmond, Va.-based Creative Direct LLC
to produce the card. The finance report also shows a second piece
aimed at Walker set to be mailed on April 21.

The group received one contribution recently, a $25,000 influx from
Pita Raleigh LLC, a nebulous company created by former Republican
candidate for governor, Bill Graham, an attorney from Salisbury. The
contribution was received on April 9.

Keep Conservatives United also made a $5,000 contribution to the NC
Values Coalition. The group made several joint appearances with Berger
Jr. during the run up to the anti-gay marriage vote on Amendment One
in 2012.

Movement in the Sixth District race

After months of posturing and grassroots efforts, it looks like the media campaign in the race for the Republican nomination in the Sixth Congressional District is kicking off.

First today in the inbox was an email from Greensboro City Councilman Zack Matheny announcing a rally at the NewBridge Bank Park in downtown Greensboro. The campaign event is set for March 29 and features family friendly kids events and free hotdogs. But the political kicker is the news that incumbent Rep. Howard Coble will be in attendance.

“Congressman Coble and I will share a few words with the crowd …,” the message states in part.

Coble is normally coy with his alliances and especially endorsements.

When reached by phone Saturday, Matheny said he did not expect an endorsement.

“What (Coble) is wanting people to know is that this is an important race and he cares about it and he hopes that others will,” Matheny said. “He is raising awareness for Republican candidates and the race as a whole.”

Coble has stated that he is not endorsing anyone in the race, Matheny said, but the councilman expressed his gratitude for the appearance of the veteran congressman who announced his retirement earlier this year.

“I respect Howard tremendously and he’s been a mentor to me for as long as I’ve been around,” Matheny said. “Howard is a friend and a mentor and somebody that I want and strive to be like as a representative. So it means a lot.”

Phil Berger Jr. highlights his conservative credentials in a glossy direct mail piece.

Phil Berger Jr. highlights his conservative credentials in a glossy direct mail piece.

In the physical mailbox was a glossy mailer from Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. Considered to be a front runner with Matheny and grassroots favorite Mark Walker, Berger touts his Christian faith and values that guide him every day. In addition to his faith, Berger highlights his support for Second Amendment rights and “our right to own and carry firearms”, his lifetime membership of the NRA, his 100-percent pro-life stance and opposition to “all federal funding or support for abortions.”

Berger also highlights his leadership in the passage of North Carolina’s Marriage Amendment.

Also of note is Berger’s mention of being a “lifetime North Carolinian”, perhaps a dig at Walker and others who are not natives to the state, which may be a deciding factor for some grassroots voters in such a crowded Republican field.

IMG_20140322_134035_120Interesting as well is a final dig at the Affordable Care Act, with an offer to ship a free “Stop Obamacare Sign” that is a Berger for Congress sign with a “Stop Obamacare” header.

Race for the Sixth

Moving deeper into primary season we will begin to increase the attention we give the Republican primary race to replace Rep. Howard Coble, who has represented the Sixth District as long as anyone can remember.

Democrats believe the district is competitive, but that remains to be seen. What is most likely is that the winner of the Republican primary in May will have a solid chance of becoming the next congressman from the central Piedmont region.

Zack Matheny launches jobs-oriented campaign website.

Zack Matheny launches jobs-oriented campaign website.

Greensboro Councilman Zack Matheny announced his jobs plan this week with a website devoted specifically to the issue. The plan is standard Republican fare, with calls for lower taxes and less regulation. Matheny touts his experience as a business owner and growth-oriented member of the city council.

“After speaking with Howard Coble, I realized that I could be more effective as a member of Congress and that was a large factor in my decision to run for his seat,” Matheny stated. “When elected, I will bring my regional approach to job creation to life for everyone in North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District. I will not rest until everyone who wants a job can find one — so that everyone who still believes in the American Dream can have the opportunity to see that dream fulfilled.”

That seems like a tall order given the region’s struggling labor market and the constant threat that big companies in the area could be bought and moved or otherwise lured away.

Phil Berger Jr. continues to form his campaign team. The Rockingham County District Attorney announced this week that Paul J. Norcross will serve as Chief Political Advisor for the campaign.

Norcross founded Global Supply Solutions Group and co-founded Phoenix Academy, a charter school in High Point. Berger said that Norcross has resigned posts as the Chairman of the High Point Republican Party, the Executive Director of the Guilford County GOP, and the Regional Chairman of the North Carolina Alliance for Public Charter Schools to join the campaign.

“There are serious challenges facing our world, our country, and our state,” Norcross said. “We desperately need a serious person in Washington that we can trust. Phil Berger will keep his promises and protect our interests. He is the only candidate in this race with the qualifications, resources, and background necessary to win in November.”

Campaigns that want our attention here at Yes! Weekly should add editor at yesweekly dot com to their media distribution lists. We will be scheduling one on one candidate interviews soon.