Thursday, March 21, 2013

By not taking a side, US Airways takes a side

US Airways CEO Doug Parker told the Observer today that his airline is not taking sides in the dispute over who should run Charlotte Douglas International Airport. But by not taking a side on legislation that's headed toward passage, the biggest heavyweight in the debate is taking a side.

Parker said the airline, which controls about 90 percent of the gates at CLT, doesn't care if the airport continues to be run by the city or is instead governed by a newly created independent authority. All Parker cares about, he says, is that the airport continues to be run efficiently, and that the airport director have the autonomy to make that happen.

But that, of course, ducks the question. Everyone on all sides wants the airport to continue to keep costs low. The question is whether the city can best do that, evidenced by an 80-year track record of strong management, or whether an authority should because airport director Jerry Orr is expected to retire soon and the city might deny his successor the latitude Orr has enjoyed.

US Airways, by being silent on that question, is allowing the push for an authority to proceed without a major roadblock. Sen. Bob Rucho's bill passed the N.C. Senate this month and the House is expected to begin debating it soon. US Airways, because of its importance to Charlotte and North Carolina, could stop the bill dead in its tracks by opposing it. By taking a pass, the airline is giving the legislature its unofficial blessing to move ahead.

Parker told us that he has "absolutely" been happy with the airport's efficiency under Charlotte's control. And he said he's not aware of the city making any significant changes that the airline opposes.

But he said that Orr expressed concerns that the city was taking away some of his autonomy. And since US Airways likes Orr and his autonomy, "that gets our antenna up."

"We like the existing model, so anyone suggesting that the existing model is somehow changing is concerning to us," Parker said.

You can't blame Parker for that. The low costs at Charlotte Douglas are a major help to US Airways' bottom line. Anything that threatens that could have a material effect on the company.

Parker says the airline is not taking sides. He points out that Orr has thrived under the city's governance for most of his 20-plus-year tenure and that "has worked fantastic over time." He says having an authority run the airport "hopefully would work just as well."

But it's not that easy for US Airways to sit on the fence. The airline is ultimately the most powerful potential opponent to the authority who could keep it from happening. And it's choosing to let the bill proceed with takeoff.

-- Taylor Batten

US Airways CEO backs Foxx for Obama cabinet

US Airways CEO Doug Parker told O-pinion this morning that he thinks Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx would make a great U.S. Secretary of Transportation, and he hopes he gets the job.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"He's an extremely bright individual who I think would be good as the secretary of transportation," Parker said.

"We think highly of the mayor. And if indeed he's secretary of transportation, I think he'd be great at that. What we know is, this community and this airport is the standard-bearer of how we think communities and air service can come together to create a stronger community. And irrespective of the debate that's going on now (over who should govern the airport), he's been the mayor of that community. And I know from talking to him that he understands that connection.

"We've been very impressed with his overall capability and skill set and we welcome him being the secretary of transportation."

Bloomberg News reported that President Obama is considering Foxx for the job. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced in January that he will be stepping down.

We agree with Parker that Foxx is bright, capable and skilled. Still, we'd think Obama would want someone with a more extensive transportation background to lead the nation on that issue.

-- Taylor Batten

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Things we like about Gov. McCrory's budget

Gov. Pat McCrory's first budget, a $20.6 billion effort, will get lots of scrutiny over the next few days. It still comes up short on meeting some grave needs in the state. It will reportedly mean state agencies on average will see their budgets cut 1 percent to 3 percent from the current year’s $20.2 billion spending plan, leading to some jobs cuts and the elimination of longtime state interests.

But McCrory deserves credit for including a few things that Republican leaders unwisely rejected or cut during the last two legislative sessions: The governor's budget re-establishes funding for drug treatment courts, a proven aid to tackling addiction and the crime and violence that often accompanies it. The $7.2 million arguably isn't enough but it's a step in the right direction.

Also, a step in the right direction is funding for pre-kindergarten programs. Lawmakers took a break from commonsense two years ago when they slashed the program by 20 percent and tried to institute a co-pay for struggling poor families qualifying for the program. The courts intervened and some of that money was restored through an executive order from then-Gov. Bev Perdue last year. We hope the 5,000 new slots funded in McCrory's budget are in addition to the 6,300 slots Perdue found money for from other programs in 2012.

Kudos also go to McCrory for providing $10 million to compensate victims of the state’s former eugenics program, an embarrassing episode in the state's history that state lawmakers should have rectified years ago. They had a chance to do so last year when House members including GOP House Speaker Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg approved the move. But Senate leader Phil Berger balked and the issue got nowhere. We hope wiser and more compassionate heads prevail this time. There are nearly 150 verified living victims of the state's sterilization program, the longest running in the nation. But victims are getting older each day. It would be an additional shame for the state to stall on making this restitution until all the victims died. The $50,000 each would get is small compensation for having to endure what the state put them through.

Here's something else of interest in McCrory's budget. He included money to provide Saturday service at 30 Division of Motor Vehicles offices to improve service. If you recall, McCrory made a point in his State of the State address of decrying DMV service problems  after, he said, he "and 60 or more people took time off their jobs to wait in line for over an hour and a half to get their driver's license renewed."

Well, if it takes a personal offense to get a problem addressed in the state budget, so be it.

Will McCrory's budget quell talk about his leadership?

On Tuesday, after state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and Senate education co-chairs Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) and Sen. Dan Soucek (R-Watauga) unveiled their “Excellent Public Schools” bill, Berger was asked about Mayor Pat McCrory’s budget that will be released today. His answer should keep the tongues wagging in the “who’s in charge” debate pitting the new Republican governor against the GOP power-shakers moving the legislature – Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis.

He’s “interested” in any “suggestions” that Gov. McCrory will make, he said. Suggestions? Ummm. Berger also said he was particularly interested to hear “what he (McCrory) will do with Medicaid.”

He’s got some liberal company in wondering about that. Chris Fitzsimon writing on an N.C. Policy Watch blog Tuesday pondered of McCrory’s budget reveal: “Will the misinformation and attacks on Medicaid continue? McCrory continues to draw criticism for his decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to provide health care coverage to more than 500,000 low-income adults.

His response has been to claim that Medicaid is broken even though much of the overspending cited in a recent audit was the result of unrealistic cost savings included in the budgets passed by the General Assembly in the last two years even after lawmakers were told the savings were impossible to achieve.”

Fitzsimon also wondered what McCrory would say about education, noting that “a bizarre music video press advisory released by McCrory’s office Tuesday included clips from McCrory talking about his commitment to education. But recent reports have ranked North Carolina 48th in the country in per pupil expenditures and 46th in teacher pay with starting teachers working 14 years to earn $40,000.”

That brings us back to Berger and company, and their education bill. Senate Bill 361 includes what the lawmakers dub as “efforts to strengthen student literacy, improve graduation rates, increase accountability in the classroom, reward effective teachers and give parents tools to make better informed decisions about their children’s education.” But it fails to tackle at all the recent news about the state long-ranking on teacher pay.
The legislators said the pay scale will remain similar to how it is now but the bill calls for bonuses or salary supplements “for teachers who perform above and beyond.”

 The bill also calls for hiring teachers on contracts of one year up to four years. It also reiterates an intent to go to a “pay for excellence” or merit pay system as soon as a “robust evaluation instrument and process that accurately asseses and evaluates the effectiveness of teachers, especially in the area of student growth,” is developed. When will that be? “DPI (the Department of Public Instruction) is working on it,” was the reply.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thom Tillis: Fraud 'not the primary reason' for Voter ID

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In case you missed it, N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis appeared on MSNBC this weekend with a bit of a revelation: Voter fraud is "not the primary reason" for N.C.'s impending voter ID legislation. 

Well, that's a bit of new messaging from Republicans. But it's also progress. As critics of voter ID laws have long said, they solve a problem that doesn't exist - fraud at the polls - while ignoring the fraud that's more likely to occur in registration or absentee ballots.

So if it's not really fraud that North Carolina's legislation is tackling, what will the bill try to accomplish? "We call this restoring confidence in government," Tillis told host Craig Melton.

And people might lack confidence because of ... "the potential risk of fraud," Tillis says.

Got it? No? Let's clear this one up for you. N.C. Republicans are introducing a bill designed to make North Carolinians more confident in the voting process. The reason some voters might not be confident in the voting process is because Republicans manufactured the fiction that voter fraud is a problem.

As we've said here before, we could live with voter ID laws, so long as they ensure that not only are those IDs free, but that the paperwork required to get the IDs (such as birth certificates) is also free and easy to obtain. That way, tens of thousands of N.C. voters are not blocked from casting a ballot.

Or, it might be easier and less costly for N.C. Republicans to just say, "After looking into it, turns out that voter fraud at the polls isn't really an issue. Let's focus on important stuff." That might restore some confidence in government - and also N.C. Republicans.

Peter St. Onge

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Time to rev up N.C.'s executions? No

It's time to juice up the needle. No more slacking off on sending the N.C. death-row inmates to the death chamber for their lethal injection.

That's the thinking behind a new bill introduced Wednesday by New Hanover Republican senator Thom Goolsby. Goolsby's Senate Bill 306 would repeal the 2009 N.C. Racial Justice Act, a law state Republicans already gutted last year. The changes drastically reduced the ability of judges to use general statistics and data to decide whether a death row inmate was given the death penalty because of his or her race. Goolsby gave his support for that revamped bill lawmakers approved, saying then that he didn't "trust statisticians or people who come in after the fact to find some way to get coldblooded killers off of death row."

But that wasn't good enough and now he's calling for the law's total revocation. His bill also calls for doctors, nurses and pharmacists to participate in executions without fear of punishment from state licensing boards, something the courts have already declared permissible. And it also requires a somewhat ghoulish death watch by lawmakers with mandated updates to the General Assembly on the status of post-conviction death penalty cases, and on the training of executioners.

This editorial board supported toughening the RJA. The amended law narrowed which statistics could be considered valid and it put a higher burden on inmates to show discrimination in their individual cases. But this board has also noted that the law has a simple and justifiable premise. Statistics show decades of racial bias in death penalty cases and judges should be able to consider that history in some fashion when reviewing a sentence. The revamped law allows that within narrower limits. Defendants can use statistics they they think prove racial bias from a time span 10 years before a slaying and two years after a sentence. Before there had been no time limit. The revamped law also says statistics alone cannot prove race was a significant factor in a death row inmate's conviction or sentence. Statistics also are now limited to conduct of prosecutors near where the murder occurred, rather than anywhere in the entire state as the previous law allowed.

The impetus for Goolsby's bill though is less about the particulars of the Racial Justice Act than about an ideological stand on the death penalty. He forthrightly says he just wants to get these state killings back in action. “We have a moral obligation to ensure death-row criminals convicted of the most heinous crimes imaginable finally face justice,” he said Wednesday. “Victims’ families have suffered for far too long. It’s time to stop the legal wrangling and bring them the peace and closure they deserve.”

This board agrees that those convicted of the most heinous crimes must be punished appropriately. But in this state some convicted of the most heinous murders do not end up on death row, and others whose crimes are arguably less heinous do. 

In 2006, for instance, when Samuel Flippen was executed for killing his 2-year-old stepdaughter, David Crespi of Charlotte was sentenced to life for murdering his 5-year-old twin daughters. Flippen was the last person executed in North Carolina, by the way. In 2010 in two highly publicized heinous crimes, Demario Atwater was sentenced to life for the murder of UNC student Eve Carson and former Marine Cesar Laurean was sentenced to life for the murder of pregnant Marine Maria Lauterbach.

Prosecutors decide to seek the death penalty in some cases and not in others for any number of reasons. Juries decide to give the death penalty in similar fashion. The heinous nature of the crime is not always the deciding factor.

Additionally, North Carolina has a troubling track record of wrongful murder convictions, convictions that have only been overturned in recent years as inmates have gained access to DNA that can prove their innocence.

This board has said before and repeats that a better way to deal with the problematic application of the death penalty is to stop using it and go to a system of life without the possibility of parole. That is the mandated sentence even if an inmate can prove discrimination under the Racial Justice Act. This is no get-of- jail-free card as opponents of RJA had once claimed. 

North Carolina then would be in line with the changing national attitude. Thirty-three states have the death penalty and 17 have abolished it. But more and more are moving toward abolition, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. So far this year legislators in several states have introduced legislation to either abolish or reform the death penalty. Among them are lawmakers in Alabama, Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire and Oregon. Texas, which has recorded the largest number of executions annually, is also considering reforms and an Innocence Commission to deal with wrongful convictions. 

Even with the death penalty in place, only nine states carried out death sentences last year, equaling the fewest number of states to do so in 20 years. More than half the nation's states, 29, have not carried out an execution in five years. The 43 executions in 2012 was 56 percent less than the number of executions in the peak year of 1999. Five states in five years have abandoned the death penalty.

Instead of trying to restart the state killing industry, North Carolina should join those states abandoning it. It's too often unfairly administered even when race is not a factor. 

Charlotte: Airport-less and hip-less?

N.C. legislative leaders are swooping in for the kill in the takeover of the Charlotte Douglas Airport. The Senate on Tuesday approved transferring from city ownership (stealing it from the city fits as well) the airport to an appointed regional airport authority. The senseless power grab is putting frowns on the faces of locals.

But maybe this will cheer them up - or not.

Drum roll, please. Charlotte has made another elite list. It's in the top 10... of the least hipster-friendly cities.Yeah, yeah. The list is a publicity ploy - at least partly. But we couldn't resist this top 10 national ranking for the Queen City though some won't find it anything to crow about.

This ranking comes to us from a real estate service called the Movoto blog. The bloggers used this criteria - young people, walkability, bikeability, vintage stores, dive bars, vegetarian restaurants, artsy jobs and vinyl stores (that is, stores that sell the old-style vinyl records; the sound is better) - and ranked the nation's 30 most populous cities accordingly.

The top 10 list? 1. El Paso, TX; 2. Jacksonville, FL; 3. Fort Worth, TX; 4. Oklahoma City, OK; 5. Houston; 6. Ta-da! Charlotte; 7. Memphis; 8. San Antonio, TX; 9. Indianapolis; 10. Dallas.

The raters give some pretty interesting assessments of places that place high on the hipster-friendly scale while dogging those of us at the bottom. For instance, Columbus, Ohio, edges out Boston on the youth scale because of Ohio University. All those students at Harvard and MIT just couldn't match the numbers. Portland beat Seattle in bikeableness. New York beat San Francisco for most walkable. On dive bars (those cheesy, cheap beer places), Portland again comes out on top squeaking past San Fran. And on the sellers of vinyl, Seattle gets the crown over, guess who, Portland.

Any places on your hipster list? Or your least list? How about most meddlesome N.C. lawmaker in Charlotte-Mecklenburg affairs? Given the airport drama and other issues, we're sure you might have a few people to nominate for that list.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Why were commissioners kept in the dark on MetLife?

Seems like a lot of public officials knew MetLife was being wooed to North Carolina. Wake County commissioners learned back in December, according to an Observer report Tuesday. Charlotte city councilman Andy Dulin knew sometime before the council approved the incentives in a closed door session that likely happened earlier this month.

Yet Mecklenburg County commissioners didn't find out about MetLife's impending relocation until March 5, and less than a half-hour before they had to vote on sealing the deal by offering $1.9 million in business incentives to the company. Commission chair Pat Cotham said the board had about 15 minutes to offer a yay or nay on the incentives. That's not quite the kind of deliberate reflection we'd prefer our representatives have.

So what happened? Charlotte Chamber official Natalie English tells the Observer that the chamber signed a non-disclosure agreement with MetLife that prevented it from letting commissioners know. But other Charlotte officials were in on the secret, and MetLife apparently didn't need such assurances from the Wake chamber.

Here's an alternative theory: Bill James.

It's no secret that the Distict 6 commissioner considers very few things a secret. James is a prolific provider of emails and documents concerning county issues, county business, and county spats. It's earned him a reputation in the corridors of the Government Center and throughout Mecklenburg. Primary opponent Ed Driggs even mentioned it during his unsuccessful attempt to unseat James last year.

You might guess that the media have a different perspective. Readers of the O know that we've regularly been critical of James' public homophobia and inflammatory comments regarding ethnicity. But James also understands what too few public officials get - that although they run the government, they don't own it. The public does, and the public is entitled to access to the meetings and public records that show us what our government is doing.

That's why we applauded James a year ago during Sunshine Week, which also happens to be this week.

Does James think he's at least partly responsible for the MetLife shush? He's not sure, but "probably," he thinks. In an email today, he says: "I guess it would be an honor of a sort to claim credit for scaring the Chamber so much that they refused to tell the other Commissioners."

That doesn't necessarily mean he would've blabbed the MetLife news, had he known. "I doubt it, but the issue for me is whether the disclosure of specific confidential information is necessary for efficient and good government," he says. "Admittedly, it is a judgment call, and I am the one that makes the call."

Cotham, meanwhile, wants the board's economic development committee, which was revived this year, to review future requests for incentives before making a recommendation to the full board. MetLife is likely a good deal for Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, but not all such incentives will be. Our representatives should have the time they need to contemplate those decisions. Governing shouldn't be a pop quiz.  

Peter St. Onge

What happens when you tax the poor

We haven't heard much from N.C. lawmakers lately about tax reform, save for a flurry of discussion as the session opened in January. But N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger said then we'll have tax legislation before everyone goes home this spring. It's a priority for Republicans in the House and Senate. So it's coming.

That's a good thing. As we've said regularly here, our state has an antiquated tax code, based on an agricultural economy that no longer drives North Carolina. We need a tax system that produces enough revenue to meet the state's needs, of course, but one that also can absorb the volatility of booms and recessions, is attractive to businesses who might want to move here, and is fair.

We're worried, however, that Republicans don't care so much about that last part. Berger and others have been clear that new legislation will lower and maybe eliminate corporate income taxes and personal income taxes, and that the revenue lost from those sources will come instead from increased state and local sales taxes.

It's far from a new approach to tax reform. In an op-ed Monday for the New York Times, Katherine Newman notes that while the federal government has largely stuck with the principle of progressive taxation, states in the South and West have opted for the regressive route - lowering income taxes and raising fees and sales taxes, as North Carolina is considering.

That approach places a greater burden on the poor, said Newman, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University and co-author of "Taxing the Poor: Doing Damage to the Truly Disadvantaged."

What kind of damage is done? Newman analyzed the combined burden of sales taxes, plus state and local income taxes on poor households in 49 states, from 1992 to 2008. She found some unsurprising, but troubling, trends:

Southern states have far higher rates of strokes, heart disease and infant mortality than the rest of the country. Students drop out of high school in larger numbers. These outcomes are not just a consequence of a love of fried food or higher poverty levels. Holding all those conditions constant, the poor of the South — and increasingly the West — do worse because their states tax them more heavily. They have less money to buy medication, so their health problems get worse. High sales taxes make meals more expensive, so they shift to cheaper, unhealthy food. If people can’t make ends meet, they may turn to the underground economy or to crime...
The fact is, the more the poor are taxed, the worse off they are.
Newman notes that everyone ends up paying, eventually, as federal programs are forced to swoop in with Medicaid payments, food stamps and disability benefits. She instead recommends exempting necessities like food, medicine and children’s clothing from sales taxes, issuing tax rebates and preserving earned-income credits. Those measures would put more money in the hands of low-income households, and since poor families tend to spend all of what they take in, these protections would stimulate the economy and preserve the job base.

N.C. Republicans are moving the opposite direction. They've floated plans that would quadruple the the sales tax on grocery, and they've ratified a bill that repeals the state earned income tax credit for low and moderate income earners.

Lawmakers argue that lowering corporate and personal income taxes would attract more business to the state and spur job creation, all of which would benefit the poor. And while it's true that the state's corporate rate should be lowered to make us more competitive with our neighbors, that trickle down of goodness to the poor has been hard to find in states that make up for it with higher sales taxes. As for the states in the Midwest and Northeast with more progressive tax systems - they also boast better statistics in categories like premature death and property crime. 

North Carolina has long tried to distance itself from its Southern neighbors - which lag behind the nation in education and health rankings. Do we really want to follow their examples on taxation?

Peter St. Onge

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Best. Awkward. Hug. Ever.

You know how sometimes, something is funny the first few times you see it, then not so funny after that? This is not one of those things.

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory are not, well, close. Here's a chilly moment from a March 4 announcement that Areva was moving its corporate headquarters to Charlotte: 

The two appeared together again at last week's news conference announcing MetLife moving 1,300 jobs to Charlotte.

From our friends at WCNC, a gif that's making the rounds in these parts:


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

N.C. Republicans: 'We want to listen on voter ID'

Updated: 4:46 p.m.

The encouraging news from Raleigh this morning is that Republican lawmakers would like to have a deliberate and productive discussion, even with opponents, on a potential Voter ID bill.

At a news conference at the capitol, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Rep. David Lewis encouraged lawmakers and others who disagree with them to come to the table to talk. Said Tillis: "We're looking for feedback from anyone who wants to engage productively."

The less-than-encouraging news: They've already made up their mind on the issue.

Tillis and Lewis made it clear that when a bill is introduced - probably sometime in April - it will require that voters show a photo ID before casting a ballot. That means no compromise that might involve voters showing forms of ID that didn't include a photo. Tillis and Gov. Pat McCrory seemed to voice support earlier this year for accepting such alternatives, but Tillis put an end to that notion today. (Update: McCrory, however, reiterated to the Raleigh News & Observer today that he was open to other forms of ID.)

As for Tillis' invitation to engage in feedback? The key, apparently, is "productively." If you want to talk about anything other than a photo ID, that's not productive.

As we've written before, we could live with Voter ID, but we worry that requiring a photo might unnecessarily block tens of thousands of voters from their constitutional right to cast a ballot. A report in January from the State Board of Elections found as many as 613,000 voters, or 9.25 percent of North Carolina voters, may not have a state-issued driver’s license or identification card.

Lewis said that any bill should address how to get those voters-to-be a valid photo ID. It also should ensure not only that those IDs are free, but that the paperwork required to get the IDs (such as birth certificates) are also free and easy to obtain.

Said Lewis: "The gold standard is that every citizen of this state who is able to vote, who is lawfully allowed to vote, has what they need to participate in the process."

Funny, we thought that's how it already is.

Voter ID laws attack a voter fraud problem that research shows doesn't exist at polling places. Potential fraud is more likely to involve absentee ballots or registration fraud. We're encouraged, at least, that Lewis said he wants a Voter ID bill to also address absentee ballots.

But if Republicans really want to ensure that all eligible voters get an opportunity to cast their ballots, they might want to focus on issues like North Carolina being 11th worst in the country in waiting time at polling places, according to research this month from Pew Charitable Trusts. Or, at the least, they can vow to stop trying to restrict early voting or Sunday voting.

Otherwise, a strict photo ID voting bill seems designed to limit voting, not ensure it.

Peter St. Onge  

Monday, March 4, 2013

We knew Mark Sanford had chutzpah, but...

"We're putting the band back together." For Jake and Elwood in The Blues Brothers, it was "a mission from God." But when Mark Sanford tried to put the band back together in South Carolina, things didn't work out so well.

New York Magazine is out with a close-up profile of Sanford, the former S.C. governor who lost all credibility after "hiking along the Applachian trail" -- with his Argentinian mistress in 2009. We knew Sanford had chutzpah, but the profile reveals that in spades: Sanford asked his ex-wife, Jenny, to run his current congressional campaign. "We could put the team back together," he told her.

Jenny Sanford, one of the nation's most publicly cheated-on spouses, was having none of it. She was mentioned as a possible candidate for this congressional seat herself, setting up the prospect of a Sanford-vs.-Sanford campaign. Running her cheating ex-husband's campaign? Uh, no. According to New York Magazine, the two have barely been on speaking terms since their divorce.

Mark Sanford is running for the coastal S.C. congressional seat he represented for three terms before becoming governor (and, briefly, a presidential prospect). It came open when Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Rep. Tim Scott to replace Sen. Jim DeMint, who left the Senate to run the Heritage Foundation. Sanford is expected to win the March 19 Republican primary and face Elizabeth Colbert Busch, comedian Stephen Colbert's sister, in the general election in May.

Jenny Sanford ran her husband's earlier campaigns, and former press secretary Will Folks says "there's absolutely no way" he would have been in Congress or governor without her. Her services were free in those campaigns. When she told him she wouldn't run his campaign this time, he made one last-ditch effort: "I could pay you this time," he told her.

New York Magazine quotes one Sanford associate as saying Jenny Sanford could make or break her ex-husband's campaign. If she backed him, he'd win easily. If she came out and talked about how he mistreated her, "she'd automatically sink his campaign." So far, she's doing neither.

Mark Sanford was censured by the S.C. House for bringing "ridicule, dishonor, shame, and disgrace to himself, the state of South Carolina, and to its citizens." Now it looks like South Carolinians are ready to let him potentially do it again.

-- Taylor Batten