AND ENTERS THE 2024 RACE FOR GOVERNOR
MIKE MORGAN ENTERS
2024 RACE FOR GOVERNOR
By Cash Michaels
Saying that he has a ‘better chance of winning the general election” race for North Carolina’s next governor, retired Associate State Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan entered the Democratic race Sept. 12th, setting up a primary confrontation with state Attorney General Josh Stein.
Stein announced last January that he was running to succeed outgoing Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who is two-term limited.
Sounding quite declarative, Morgan told the N&O, “I will be the most qualified, and the best qualified, and certainly the most electable to be governor on the Democratic ticket.”
Morgan, 67, made his announcement Tuesday in a video shot by a News and Observer reporter, not a campaign worker. He said he began thinking about running for governor once he decided not to run for reelection to his state Supreme Court seat because of the imposed age restriction.
“I feel as though that unique blend of what I bring as a judge, a longtime participant in, an observer of, the state government system — traveling the state, meeting people across the board, whether it was in my job or whether it was related to my own personal extracurricular activities — I just felt as though being in the executive spot and being able to make the greatest and most effective difference I could was where I should place my energies,” Morgan told the paper.
When the Democratic jurist left the High Court last week, it was bittersweet.
Morgan posted two pictures of himself on Friday, Sept 8th on Facebook in the hearing room of the state Supreme Court. He was neatly dressed in a dark suit, not the judicial robes he usually wears. In one picture, he was standing, facing the camera with the state Supreme Court judicial panel in the background, slightly smiling. In the other picture, Morgan is seen walking out the courtroom door, his back turned as he steps out. He is holding a black garment bag, presumably containing his robe, if not other garments.
Morgan was not looking back.
The caption over both pictures read, “North Carolina, thank you for the opportunity to serve you. See you soon!”
On a July 31st Facebook post, Justice Morgan posted, “August 2023 marks my 44-year anniversary of service to the people of North Carolina as a representative of our state government. I’m thankful that my abilities have grown with my experience. It’s an honor to serve!”
Even before Morgan, son of a prominent Eastern North Carolina political family, announced his intentions to run for governor, there were some in the Democratic Party who wished out loud that he wouldn’t.
Gov. Cooper, apparently in a bid to fire a rhetorical warning shot across the bow of Mike Morgan’s possible gubernatorial ambitions, publicly endorsed Stein on August 30th while Justice Morgan was still on the state Supreme Court.
“It’s been my honor to have worked shoulder to shoulder with [Stein] over the past two decades,” said Cooper in a video for social media. “And I am immensely grateful for his support of my campaign for governor to continue moving North Carolina forward.”
“Term limits prevent me from running again, but I know he will double down on the progress that we’ve made,” the governor added. “With a record of results and a clear-eyed vision for our future, Josh is ready to do this job.”
Cooper was indeed expected to endorse Stein, given the close political relationship the two men have had in the past.
Why the governor felt it necessary to issue his glowing endorsement now, several months before any challengers to Stein could register as candidates in opposition, can only be a source of speculation.
But many question the political influence of the lame duck Democratic governor, who failed to save the job of the previous NC Democratic Party chairwoman during the last race.
Democratic political analyst Thomas Mills, the publisher of the weekly Politics NC newsletter, also thinks that Stein should be the next governor, and Morgan should look elsewhere for future employment.
In fact, in a recent column titled, “Run for AG, Justice Morgan. NC Needs You,” Mills said exactly that.
“Speculation is swirling in state-politics circles about the future of Mike Morgan,” wrote Mills before Morgan stepped down. “Morgan, a justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court, has announced his retirement from the post he currently holds and has proffered some indications that he plans to seek another office. Most of the earliest rumors have centered on the governorship, a position Roy Cooper’s vacating that will be open for new challengers next year. But more recently other observers have begun to speculate that Morgan may be encouraged to attempt a run at the Attorney General’s office. Consider me supportive of this proposition.”
Mills went on to cite Justice Morgan’s many years serving on various state courts over several decades, and the wealth of experience he would bring as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, an office Stein is leaving to run for governor.
Mills added that Morgan would “…bring a diversity to the ticket,” presumably running for state attorney general while Stein ran at the top of the ticket for governor.
But now, Mike Morgan has made it clear that he has his eye solely on the top spot in state government. He admits that his campaign for governor will be “lean,” but he got over 2 million votes before to be elected to the state Supreme Court, and feels that he has what it takes to parlay those votes in a run for governor, especially against the likely Republican gubernatorial candidate, conservative culture warrior Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.
If the two were to face-off in 2024, then for the first time in North Carolina history, two Black men would vie for the top executive office of this state.
If Morgan can get past Josh Stein in the Democratic primaries next March, history could be made in 2024.
JUDGE ALLISON RIGGS
WITH JUSTICE ALLISON RIGGS,
ANITA EARLS AS DEMOCRATIC
TAG TEAM PARTNER
By Cash Michaels
When Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Appellate Judge Allison Riggs to fill the unexpired term of former state Supreme Court Associate Justice Mike Morgan Monday (Morgan resigned Sept. 8th), he was sending a very distinct message to the High Court’s Republican majority.
“You think have problems with one Democratic woman standing firm for justice. Now try dealing with two.”
Like Associate Justice Anita Earls, Judge Riggs cut her teeth as a skilled voting rights attorney, so, like Earls, Riggs will not back down, nor back up when it comes to writing opinions that virtually put her Republican colleagues on the state Supreme Court on trial.
“The need for fair-minded, even-handed, honest, experienced judges is more important than ever as our society and our courts wrestle with many critical issues,” said Governor Cooper in a statement Monday. “I am grateful for the willingness of Judge Riggs…to serve our state’s judicial system in these new roles. [She has] deep experience and [an] admirable [career] of public service that will continue to bring value, honor and integrity to the judicial branch of state government.”
According to a press release from the Governor’s Office, “Judge Allison Riggs is currently a judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Prior to serving on the bench, Riggs held a variety of positions at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice including Co-Executive Director and Chief Counsel for Voting Rights. Riggs was a civil rights litigator and community lawyer who served as lead counsel in numerous voting rights cases, including twice arguing before the United States Supreme Court and many times before the North Carolina Supreme Court. Riggs received her Bachelor’s Degree, Master's Degree and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida.”
“Governor Cooper’s faith in me and the excitement surrounding my service has been truly humbling,” Riggs said .“I’m also immensely grateful to the community-based organizations and leaders across the state of North Carolina who first let me represent them in their fights for justice and now trust me to ensure that the phrase ‘equal justice for all’ lives up to its promise in this state.”
Morgan’s state Supreme Court seat is up for election in 2024, so Riggs, if she chooses, will have to file by this December 15th to run to keep it. One of her conservative Republican colleagues from the state Court of Appeals, Jefferson Griffin, has already announced that he is running to take that seat in 2024.
In December 2022 after Riggs was appointed to the Republican-majority state Court of Appeals, Dr. Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center of the conservative John Locke Foundation wrote, “Her tenure will also likely be unhappy. When she starts her term in January, 11 of the court’s 15 judges will be Republicans. The Court of Appeals sits in panels of three, so she will usually be in the minority on contentious cases.”
Well now Justice Riggs will be one of two Democratic women on a Supreme Court led by five Republican justices. Gov. Cooper wouldn’t have chosen Riggs to join Justice Earls if he didn’t think she couldn’t handle either the pressure of always being in the minority, or the opposition.
Judge Riggs seat on the Appellate Court will be filled by former Superior Court Judge Carolyn Thompson.
GOV. COOPER DECRIES
GOP VOTING RIGHTS
By Cash Michaels
With the decisive 2024 presidential and gubernatorial elections just around the political corner, and his time in office waning fast, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper sent up a rhetorical red flare to the nation last week by way of an op-ed on CNN’s website titled, “ Our State is on the Front Lines of Voting Rights Battle.”
The governor’s op-ed on a national news website, in addition to numerous appearances on cable channels CNN and MSNBC, has certainly raised his political profile across the country, with some even suggesting that he’d be a worthy moderate choice for president should Pres. Joe Biden ultimately decide not to run for reelection.
At the very least, Gov. Cooper, who enjoys significant African American voter support, might be considered a viable Democratic senatorial candidate after he finishes his two-term limited time in office next year.
Thus, the interest in his recent frequent national press appearances, and the political credentials that come with it.
No doubt, taking on the Republican Party machine in North Carolina, as he has done since taking office in 2017, will get the governor the kind of attention he’ll need for running for national office if he decides to do so.
In his blunt Sept. 6th CNN.com op-ed, Gov. Cooper beats the bully pulpit, stating categorically that there is a “…nationwide Republican war on democracy…raging fiercely in North Carolina.” Cooper continued that the “right-wing” NCGOP are attacking free elections by using “the big lie” of election fraud as cover. He further accuses NC Republicans of “…moving to limit access to the ballot box and sow chaos in our election certification process.”
What Gov. Cooper states is significant because unlike Georgia, which Donald Trump lost in 2020 and now stands indicted for alleged election tampering in, he actually won North Carolina in the last presidential election. Yet the GOP are behaving like the election was flawed somehow.
Saying that “… these sinister efforts aren’t new…..,” Cooper maintains that many of them have been stopped before in North Carolina, but thanks to Trump, the Republicans are “…back at it.” And he warns that this time, they have the combined power of a legislative supermajority, “…and a court system stacked with ultra-partisan Republican judges.”
The situation is so dire, Cooper warns, that “…North Carolinians and people across the country must take heed.”
Gov. Cooper then goes on to warn of “pernicious” legislation from the Republicans in “a blatant attempt to entrench its power further by targeting young and nonwhite voters who tend to vote more often for Democrats.
Cooper warns of GOP election legislation with “deceptive packaging,” adding that he considers it “more dangerous” because “it would change the structure of the state and county boards of elections in a backdoor attempt to limit early voting and consolidate the legislature’s quest for the power to decide contested elections.”
By calling for an even number of Democrats and Republicans on state and county election boards, political observers say contested elections will be thrown into the “hyper-partisan” state Court of Appeals and Supreme Courts, resulting in, Gov. Cooper says, “..serious harm.”
Cooper then echoed something that has been said before, that North Carolina is a virtual laboratory to test the kind of “diabolical” legislation the GOP plan to launch elsewhere in the nation.
“In this case that means finding ways to exploit our election laws on both ends - making it harder to vote and easier to create turmoil in the election certification process,” Cooper opines.
“For all the right-wing fearmongering about near nonexistent election fraud, the truth is that they’re the ones using the long arm of the law to rig elections and threaten our democracy.”
“We can’t let them get away with it,” Gov. Cooper says.