Topics of Discussion:
- Interview with North Carolina Representative Clark
- T3BE – Answer
Thomas: Hello and welcome to Opening Arguments, this is episode 317. I’m Thomas Smith, that over there is Andrew Torrez. I was gonna say “how ya goin’, how is it doing?” some combination of those.
Andrew: I am doing fantastic, I am going well, I am super excited, really excited for today’s episode.
Thomas: Me too!
Andrew: Yeah, how are you?
Thomas: I’m great! I am equally as excited for today’s episode, a really fascinating interview with North Carolina State Representative Christy Clark and it’s a fascinating perspective, you’re gonna love it.
Before we get to that, I do wanna say plenty of good Waynestock tickets available [Laughs]
buy tickets to the live show!
Thomas: For our L.A. show, though they are selling fast. Come to the L.A. show, it’s gonna be so fun! Seriously, it’s gonna be a lot of fun regardless of which kind of ticket you buy, either way there’s fun for everybody. But [Oh-hoh!] platinum night is gonna be really fun, I am so excited. But buy those tickets, it’s comin’ up, October 12th and we hope to see you there. Let’s see, any other announcements before we get to our really interesting interview today?
Future Episode Teaser – Rep. Clark on north carolina opoioid legislation
Andrew: Yeah, on Friday I promised a breakdown of the North Carolina lawsuit that was just filed against the Sacklers in their individual capacity, we talked to Representative Clark for, I think an hour, so we’re gonna have to do that next week. It’s really, really interesting, it is what’s going to happen, the future of litigation now that Purdue Pharma has declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, now that they have a pending settlement in connection with the opioid crisis. You won’t wanna miss that discussion, but [Laughing] it’s not gonna happen this week, sorry!
Thomas: Hey, but it’s worth it! Don’t you worry, we’ll get to it. We’ve got more important stuff. So with that said, let’s hop on over to our interview with Representative Christy Clark!
Interview with North Carolina Representative Clark
Andrew: And joining us now is North Carolina Representative Christy Clark. Representative Clark, thank you for joining us on the show!
Rep. Clark: Well thank you for inviting me, I’m happy to be here.
Andrew: We are very, very excited to have you on to sort of [Laughing] help walk us through what’s happening in North Carolina? [Laughs] In particular, in the last couple of weeks we’ve covered two stories that I think are really significant in terms of their nationwide importance.
The first is the recent North Carolina Supreme Court decision regarding the gerrymandering of the State Legislative Districts, which I can imagine probably affects you directly! [Chuckles]
Maybe we should start with the second one first, ‘cuz it seems like a crazier story, that is the secret session that was convened on 9/11 while Democrats were out ostensibly at a memorial, although there have been some reports that – whatever, whereby the Republicans used the provision in, I think it’s Section 22 of the North Carolina State Constitution that allows them to override a veto with 60% of votes of those present and so by encouraging all the Democrats not to be present they were able to muster that.
What Really Happened with the 9/11 Vote Grab?
First things first, did I get that right in terms of the general outline of the story?
Rep. Clark: Yeah, pretty much. I’ll tell you how it went down, or how it normally goes down.
In the House a basic level of trust between the parties is relied upon to do business and after the Tuesday session at 4:30, the Democratic leader went to the Republican Rules Chair and asked him, “hey, are there gonna be votes tomorrow at 8:30?” and he said, “Eff, I forgot to say that,” and he said, “no, there’s no votes.”
So our leader let us know there were not gonna be any votes at 8:30 the next morning, that went out by email to us, and sometime between that going out and the 8:30 session Republican leadership got wind of it and they realized that the no vote session had not been officially announced from the dais or by email from the Speaker and they took advantage of that situation and when they saw that there were only 12 Democrats in the chamber on 9/11 they called for the vote, and it happened in about 57 seconds, which is a little abnormal, because – and this is not meant to be in any way offensive to our Speaker – he has a pretty good, strong southern accent and I kind of relayed the way he runs Session to a bingo caller.
Rep. Clark: He’s very methodical, he has kind of a lilt to his voice, and he pauses in between things to give time to everyone to hear and understand what he said, and that morning if you listen to the recording you can hear that it happens very fast. He says, “any discussion, any debate, all in favor say ‘aye’ all opposed say ‘no.’”
It happens before anyone can even vote, and at that point in time that’s when Representative Deb Butler started yelling because she realized that they were pulling a fast one on us.
Where were the democrats during the vote?
Thomas: So how accurate is it to say that they used a 9/11 memorial to do this? Or was it just – was that specifically part of? Go ahead.
Rep. Clark: No. In general the Democrat legislators were all over the place, some were dropping off kids at school, some were at work. There was one at a 9/11 memorial.
That story, we’re not sure how that got out there and to the Nationwide media, we think that when our Governor gave his speech that somehow that got conflated in the media that we were all with him at the 9/11 memorial, which we weren’t, there was only one representative there.
Andrew: Got it. I appreciate that clarification. I wanna make sure I understand. You had said that you received an email, that email came from your leadership on Tuesday evening? Okay. And that was essentially your leadership relaying, “hey, I talked to the Speaker and I’ve been assured that there are no votes at 8:30 am tomorrow, so you don’t have to be here.”
Rep. Clark: That’s correct, yeah. Because we were having a weird schedule last week, because of the Supreme Court decision we were also having redistricting meetings that were going on all day.
He laid out the entire day for us and what we did have happen, and it was 8:30 no vote session and then at 1:30 was the 9/11 commemoration in the Chamber plus votes, so that’s what we were all anticipating.
It just so happened that 12 people were there, some were there just because they got up early and they came in to the general assembly, but most of them had a finance committee at 9:00 am, and normally if a session was called at 8:30 and there’s a committee meeting at 9:00 the standard procedure has been that 8:30 is a no-vote session, they’re just gaveling in, saying the prayer, doing the pledge, getting some procedural things out of the way so that our later session, which might be longer, which you’d anticipate it would be on a 9/11 commemoration day, we have more time for that to focus on our business and not on our ceremonial procedural things.
Thomas: So it being 9/11 was kind of just coincidental on this, right? It didn’t really factor in? ‘Cuz this is something they pretty much could have done on any day that they kind of pulled the fast one?
Rep. Clark: Mm-hmm.
Thomas: Could you give us a sense for – I think two of us here aren’t legislators [Laughs] or Representatives. I’m pretty sure, not gonna say which two. [Laughing]
How regularly do no-votes happen?
Could you give us a sense of how regular is this? When you talk about these scheduling things, I don’t – I imagine a lot of people listening don’t know – how normal is it for this to happen where you would get an email saying, “yeah, no vote, so if you’re taking your kid to school, you’re doing whatever, don’t worry about it.” Is that just an everyday occurrence? Is it a special occurrence?
Rep. Clark: That’s pretty regular, that’s kind of the course of doing business.
Statutorily the Legislature and the House have to have a session every three days, so, for example this coming week we are on recess, so the Clerk will gavel in every three days while we’re gone and just do procedural things. This also happens sometimes even when we’re expected to be in Raleigh, we’re usually there Monday through Thursday, so usually Monday evening sessions are what they call “skeleton” or “no vote” sessions, where they read in bills that have come from the Senate, maybe any messages from the governor, any committee notices or anything like that would be handled, and it’s not something where legislators necessarily need to be present for because it’s procedural and has to be done as per our Constitution.
What will happen to the budget bill next?
Andrew: So my question here is that my understanding is that after that vote, that then sent the budget to the State Senate, where, again, there’s a Republican majority but not a supermajority. That they will need one Democratic defector.
A, is that accurate? And B, what’s the status of where this budget is with respect to the Senate?
Rep. Clark: That is exactly what happens. In the Senate they have a little bit different rules.
So in the Senate, Senator Phil Berger who presides over the Senate is required to give 24-hours’ notice that the vote is actually gonna take place on a date certain, so unlike in the House where the budget remained on our calendar all summer, I think it was about 60 days where Democrats showed up every single day waiting for this vote to be called and it was never called, we had people who had breast cancer surgery, people who had other surgeries, come in. People cancelled vacations, they missed conferences they were supposed to go on for their real jobs and work.
Rep. Clark: Not that this isn’t a real job, but we really had to sacrifice over the summer, so that explains some of our anger at the end. But now it’s in the Senate and they will still have to come every day but they will have 24-hour notice of when the vote is actually gonna take place. They are also off next week, so we should not anticipate that happening until, at the soonest, the following week.
What steps had Democrats in North Carolina been taking to avoid a forced vote on the budget bill?
Andrew: So as part of that answer you actually answered a question that Thomas asked me [Chuckles] that I couldn’t answer when we first covered it. Which is basically, if I’m understanding you correctly, because the Republican leadership refused to specifically pick a date and time for the vote on the budget you had to be at Defcon 1 all summer, right?
Rep. Clark: Yeah, we had to show up.
Usually there are 55 Democrats and we had anywhere – we would never let it drop below 53 Democrats showing up, and there were even times where people have had to be out.
I was expected to be out one day and we couldn’t make it work with the numbers and I ended up just re-arranging my schedule on the fly at the last minute to stay because there wasn’t enough coverage. That was due to – we had members who had – one members’ daughter was in a car accident, it was pretty severe, she was out of town. There were things like that, you know we had family emergencies come up, and I wasn’t having a family emergency so I adjusted my schedule to help out.
We did that all summer.
Thomas: So this was a very premeditated thing. You guys had an inclination that at some point they were gonna try to pull off this maneuver?
Rep. Clark: Yeah, yeah.
Thomas: You’ve basically been hostage to [Laughing] to this for how long?
Rep. Clark: I believe the Governor vetoed the budget on June 28th.
Rep. Clark: So, yeah, all summer long we were hostage to this.
Let me just say that the Republicans were not hostage, obviously they were being told the schedule and what was happening.
We generally are not told of a schedule in advance, we go day to day waiting until the end of session when the Speaker will tell us what the next day’s schedule is gonna be, but the Republican caucus always knows.
They went on vacation, one guy got married, went on a honeymoon, they went to those State Legislator conferences that we couldn’t go to, some of them were in Canada for agricultural conference. They did all the things they were expecting to do over the summer, family vacations, celebrated birthdays, all those things that we did not do.
Andrew: So when we hear crocodile tears about the death of civility in the Legislature, in your experience that’s a one sided issue, right? There was no one that you could reach out to on the other side of the aisle and say “hey, my kid’s sick, I’m not gonna be there at 8:30 today can you switch from a yes to a not present, not voting and preserve the balance?”
Rep. Clark: Right, right.
Effect on good-faith belief in republicans
I used to say, prior to this happening, that I believed there were Republicans on the other side of the aisle that were good people and that you could maybe have some faith in, but I know for certain when they looked over and saw that there were 12 Democrats there and that they had been told there would be votes that morning, they knew something was wrong because we had been there all summer, and so they made a choice in that moment to side with their party instead of having the decency to say “something’s wrong, I don’t understand why they’re not here and we should not do this.”
But then we also gave them a second chance to take it back and that was, our Leader made a motion to recall the budget and also they passed a Medicaid Transformation Bill as well at the same time that the Governor had vetoed. We made a motion to recall those from the Senate and every single Republican voted against that motion, so it tells you and me that they had no good intentions towards us.
Rep. Clark: That sent a really strong message, and we keep saying that phrase that Maya Angelou said was, “people will show you who they are, believe them.” We really do believe who they are, ‘cuz they showed us.
Well what do you think the prospects are in the Senate? Is there somebody – obviously if the math is one Democratic defection, I guess the way I would layer those questions are, number 1, does that mean that – is the math the same if one Senator is out sick or otherwise can’t be in the session?
Number 2, is there a Democratic Senator that you think is potentially wavering? Or the flip side, do you feel like the Democrats are going to be able to hold the line, not at least in part because of the shady way in which this went down, and I guess the corollary to that, do you have any hopes of picking off a Republican Senator who says “look, I’m all for this budget but not under these conditions”? I realize that’s a multi-part question! [Laughs]
Rep. Clark: I got you! There are – prior to this happening with this ambush in the House there was one Senator who I think had intended to vote to override Governor Cooper’s veto, but after this ambush of Democracy (to be a little bit hyperbolic about it), he has since decided to sustain Governor Cooper’s veto and this Democratic Senators came out last week as a unified group and said they will hold the line, they will show up every time, and they will vote to sustain Governor Cooper’s veto when the time comes. And there are no Republicans that would change sides, that is not done.
Andrew: [Laughs] Wow.
Why was the budget bill worth “holding the line” for?
So why don’t I take a step back. Can you tell us a little bit, what are some of the items that are in this budget that in your view are worth holding the line on this fight?
Rep. Clark: For sure! Republicans, since they took power in 2010, have been drastically underfunding public education, and they had put forward a pretty measly teacher raise. Governor Cooper and the Democrats had had a significantly higher raise for them.
Same with State employees, our State employees have been really thrown under the bus, they do the bulk of the work to keep our State going and they just haven’t been given the respect with their raises, including the retirees.
Then we are also advocating for doing a school bond for the State to help build new schools and revise and rebuild some that need extra help, because there are rural counties that are really struggling economically and they need funding to help them get their public schools back where they need to be, because they just don’t have the taxpayer base like the big cities do. So those are some of the things that we’re advocating for.
When Governor Cooper gave his proposed budget back to Republicans after he vetoed theirs he basically included every single pork project and every other special project they had in there, except for those items that I just mentioned, he changed those. You know, he made the teachers raise higher, State employee raise higher, and he advocated for a school bond over this other program which they call a “skiff” which is basically skimming money off the top of the bank account of the State to put aside for school construction, which isn’t a great way to do things if you’re thinking about your budget for the State.
They refused to compromise on that and refused to negotiate and have really just taken a pretty indefensible position towards him and us on the budget.
Andrew: Yeah, that makes sense.
Thomas: What’s it like in the breakroom these days? [Laughs]
Thomas: Tensions high?
Rep. Clark: Yeah, tensions are high.
What happened after other controversial votes that we’ve had – because this is not the first time that something controversial has happened or will happen in the general assembly. Most of the time we’re fighting out on the House floor and defending our positions, we adjourn, we go back to our offices, we end up at a reception or something that evening together and we’re all fine and we carry on with business as usual and we keep up our comradery as anyone would when you’re in that kind of environment.
But not this time. This time, we have really seen that the line has been drawn in the sand and we can’t yield, as Deb Butler said, we’re just not gonna yield. We can’t. We’ve crossed the line in the General Assembly where respect and decency were thrown out the window in order to have a win and that’s just not how things should be done, so we basically don’t speak to the other side of the aisle other than as necessary in committee and other various situations. But in the past, you know, we would have gone and had a glass of wine together, maybe even had dinner together. Those days are over.
Andrew: Wow … wow.
Thomas: Now it’s all re-heating fish for lunch in the breakroom microwave.
Rep. Clark: That’s right!
Thomas: [Laughs] So this just seems so frustrating to a layperson here thinking about – already Democracy is threatened by gerrymandering and other things, but you would think that the will of the people somewhat was made known in who they voted for in these districts and the number breakdown, but Republicans, I guess, want it to be that it’s not just about what the people want in terms of who they put into office but it’s also if they can game the system so that enough Democrats happen to have either family emergencies or sick kids or whatever it is at the same time so that there aren’t enough Democrats there to fill out the vote, then they can just usurp the will of the people and do whatever they want? It’s just so un-Democratic.
Rep. Clark: Yeah, and even before this vote had come up, in general most of us were always there every day and what would happen would be that there would be some sort of local bill that wasn’t really controversial and didn’t have a lot of weight to it and we would vote on it and that would allow the Speaker to see who was in attendance and who was not and see if he had the numbers.
We would even see sometimes some of the other members in the Republican leadership would walk the aisles and count to see how many of us were there before Session started so they could, if they thought they had the numbers on that day, they could put the bill up for a vote at that moment. Of course they never had them until they scammed us.
Andrew: [Incredulous laugh] I … wow. I mean, this is – I just can’t imagine going into the office every day [Laughing]
Andrew: And being in that environment.
What is the cause of the breakdown in civility?
I know you were elected for the first time in 2018, have you spoken to folks that have been in the legislature a longer time? Is this breakdown in civility, is this politics in the age of Trump? Has it been like this for a while? That seems so demoralizing to kind of suffer under that “they’re counting us every day to see if they can sneak something in.”
Rep. Clark: Right. You know, I was part of the 2018 blue wave (for lack of a better word), we broke the supermajority in the State, so what’s been happening in the General Assembly in this 2019 session has been a new thing because the Republicans have had the supermajority since 2012, I believe, is when they got the actual supermajority. So they in the past have been able to do whatever they wanted because there just weren’t the numbers to defend against whatever they were trying to do.
Rep. Clark: And on that you can think back to, like, HB-02 which caused a huge controversy, they stripped Governor Cooper of his powers when he got elected in 2016 before he was sworn in. They would do things like that in the dead of night and they knew there were – they would call people in and there was no defense that Democrats had against them because they had the supermajority, and that’s why 2018 was such an important year for us.
We pushed really hard, worked our butts off to get elected, so that we could have some kind of defense. That has created a new stage for politics in North Carolina because of that, and I can tell ya that on the first day, which was January 30th, I could tell that the majority of the Republicans in the building were not excited that we were there. They wanted their colleague that we had won over back and they did not want us there and it took me a few months to get some of them to even speak to me or acknowledge my presence in the building. That was not unique to me, that was applied to all the freshmen. So that has set a new stage in the general assembly that they have never experienced, and that our more senior members have never experienced either.
[Commercial – harrys.com/arguments for a trial shaving set]
Andrew: What can you tell us about your district? And I wanna kind of delve a little bit into gerrymandering, but my understanding from the Supreme Court’s decision is that there aren’t a lot of tossup districts.
Rep. Clark’s district makeup
Are you in what’s typically been – I know you defeated a Republican incumbent in 2018, what’s your district look like?
Rep. Clark: Yeah, so in 2018 the district was leaning Republican, I think it probably still does, technically.
My district comprises all of the town of Davidson, all the town of Cornelius, and part of Huntersville, which is basically north of Charlotte. It’s about 1/3, 1/3 as far as voter registrations go, so we have unaffiliated as a voter registration in North Carolina, that’s the majority, slightly above Republicans, and then the Democratic registration is slightly below that.
So unaffiliated voters are really who makes the decisions in my district and generally around the State as well.
I’m still considered a toss-up district after the gerrymandering decision we were in the building last week redrawing maps, we started heavily with meetings that lasted, you know, 6-7 hours, so it will be interesting to see what happens with the courts after this. Some districts have become more Republican leaning, some have gone more Democratic leaning, we don’t really know because we were not allowed to use partisan or racial data as we were creating the maps so it’s going to take some deep analysis to figure those out.
Thomas: Ah, no, I’m just still mad at Republicans, so.
Andrew: [Laughs] Yeah, me too!
Thomas: I’m just plotting various office pranks that you can pull on ‘em, you know?
Rep. Clark: [Laughs] Yes!
Thomas: Channeling Jim from The Office.
Rep. Clark: [Laughs]
Thomas: Replace one of their desks with cardboard boxes, stuff like that.
Rebuilding the relationships across the aisle
Rep. Clark: Yes! And I do have to say, I am in general a pretty welcoming and friendly person and I kind of lead with my heart, so I don’t have a tendency to be aggressive or hateful with other people, that’s not how I work and I have actually spent the 9 months in the legislature as a person in the minority party, as a freshman, and, frankly, as a woman, spending my time building relationships ‘cuz that was pretty much the only power that I had.
Rep. Clark: Having those relationships just get thrown in my face was, you know, that was pretty hurtful. And there was one poor Republican who came to me afterward and he thought things would be all chummy chum as normal and he really got all the wrath of my anger for the-
Rep. Clark: -entire Republican party at him singularly, and I did feel kind of guilty later and I said “I kind of ow you an apology because you didn’t really deserve all the wrath for all of the whole party on you.”
Thomas: Just 1/55th of it or whatever.
Andrew: [Laughs] We’re here to absolve you for that!
Rep. Clark: Yeah, but I’m not gonna give you – you don’t get a pass, however you probably shouldn’t have had to bear the weight of all of my anger, just a little bit of it.
I have had one Republican who right afterwards called me, he was very – he wasn’t apologetic but I could tell by the tone of his voice he knew that what had happened was wrong and that damage had been done and he was really trying to extend the olive branch, and I said I’m really not ready for this, but maybe give me some time and we can talk again. So for him I really do have a great deal of respect ‘cuz he recognized that damage had been done and he knew that work was gonna have to be done to fix it, and he’s the only one that has come to me to try to repair the damage that was done.
Andrew: How do those conversations go? I just sort of imagine you sitting there saying “but sir, at long last have you no sense of decency?” How does that go? [Laughs]
Rep. Clark: Yeah, you said it in a much nicer way than I have been-
Andrew: [Hearty laugh]
Rep. Clark: I am from the South and I’m a lady, but I also – you know, I can let words fly out as necessary, and have. Basically whenever they say something like “just so that you’re aware and you can plan ahead there will be this happening tomorrow,” and I’ll say “well, maybe, maybe not. We don’t know, we can’t trust you” and say things like that back ‘cuz, you know, that is really where we are. They might say something, but we really don’t know if it’s the truth or not.
Andrew: Wow. If I could just go back, I’m trying to find something a little more optimistic here. Obviously the North Carolina Supreme Court and the fact that the districts are about to be redrawn gives a lot of encouragement.
Story of Rep. Clark’s Decision to Run
Can you talk a little bit about how you decided to run for the State House in the first place? Talk a little bit about your campaign and the high-minded ideals that you decided to come in and get stymied and stomped on every single day.
Volunteer work in Moms Demand Action
Rep. Clark: Sure. So in 2012 there was a shooting in Sandy Hook, and following that shooting I became very active with an organization called Moms Demand Action.
Rep. Clark: They’re an organization working to end gun violence in this country and it started out as a bunch of moms. It has now transformed to in the millions, I think the last number I saw was like 5 million supporters nationwide. So I started volunteering with them and I spent a lot of time at the legislature and really got to know some of the members of the General Assembly well, the ones on the “good guys,” I will say, on my side of the aisle, and then I got to know some of the ones on the other side of the aisle too and I kinda realized, well, if we wanna change gun laws in the State we have to change who’s here.
I had spent a lot of time up there going to meetings and things and they, being who they are, would cancel meetings, move them, not tell us when they were gonna be, we would have to find out through staff members who were there – where are the committee meetings actually happening? Sometimes they would even just close their doors to the volunteers that were coming, wouldn’t let them in. That really inspired me to run for office.
Volunteer work for the Hillary Clinton campaign
Then in 2016 I worked really, really hard for Hillary Clinton and the local candidates who were running for office and was, as you can imagine, quite disappointed and when that happened I was like, “I have to run for office, I just can’t let this happen again.” ‘Cuz even at that time there were members of the General Assembly, Republican members, who were unchallenged and did not have opponents, or they had opponents that just did not care and did not have their heart in it, and that was just appalling to me because I thought if you’re gonna challenge a Republican you’ve gotta give it your all. So I spent all of 2017 going to candidate classes, reading books, learning how to be a good candidate, then announced I was gonna run in January of 2018 for the House and here we are.
Thomas: Wow, that is such a cool story!
Andrew: That is awesome! Yeah, tell me about candidate classes, that’s not something I’ve heard of before.
Rep. Clark: They support progressive, pro-choice women.
Then we also have one called Lead N.C. which is a nonpartisan organization that is trying to create a pipeline of candidates, and they train candidates on all aspects of what it is to campaign from public speaking to fundraising to planning your budget, everything you need to do. Posting events and all those different things, and it helps give you a strong foundation.
Then Lillian’s List, they actually endorse and then they also give support, both financially and operationally to help women run their candidates in the State. So those are the two places that I went to class, but you can also do them online with the Democratic party and you can just do them online through a portal and those are pretty helpful as well.
Dynamics of diversity in leadership
Thomas: You know, I couldn’t help but notice when you were talking about Republicans it pretty much always was a “he” pronoun, and I was just wondering-
Thomas: If the gender dynamics that take place nationally, where there are more women than I think ever in the House but it seems to be on one side of the aisle.
Rep. Clark: Yes.
Thomas: Does that seem to be true in North Carolina as well?
Rep. Clark: That is absolutely true. There are a handful on the other side, I think there’s about six women, no people of color at all. Our side of the aisle is obviously much more diverse. We have – I don’t actually know, I think there’s probably 25 women and then multiple people of color, both genders. So, yeah, it’s a stark difference between the sides of the aisle if you ever see a picture of us all lined up.
Rep. Clark: It’s pretty amazing, but yeah, in general the leadership on the other side are all gentlemen and there is one lady who is in leadership, but we have a variety on our side, of course.
Andrew: It sounds – well, lemme ask the question this way, it seems like when you run for election, when you run for re-election in 2020, that a large part of if not all of that story is going to be “hey, we were stymied at every turn and we’re here to fight the holding action, I know we weren’t able to get things like meaningful gun reform advanced off of the agenda but you have to keep sending me back if we have any hope of making that happen.”
RE-election campaign strategy
Talk to me a little bit about what that story is like with your constituents, because we get that on the show all the time when people are like, I think we first got our question of “how do we go about impeaching Donald Trump” on January 30th of 2017 [Laughs] right? Like, you know – and I get that! I get that people want to take action and I can see that kind of potential frustration of, “hey, I voted for you two years ago because I share your ideals on expanding women’s reproductive rights and looking for meaningful gun reform, how come you haven’t gotten that for me yet?” How do you respond back to somebody like that?
Rep. Clark: Right. Well, you know, seasoned North Carolinians know that the Republicans have had the supermajority and now have the majority, and they know that generally there are two Republicans that make the decisions on what Bills are heard in the State, Speaker Tim Moore and Senator Phil Berger, and they really drive the agenda for the State, just the two of them.
So most people know that it was important to send me in there so that I could advocate for causes and hold up Bills when it was necessary, which we have definitely done, and they also know that we need to re-elect people like me and in Mecklenburg County there are three others who are in flippable districts who won and send us back and also six more Democrats, when we have those six more Democrats in the House we’ll really be able to make some meaningful changes.
Commitment to future good-faith attempts to reach across aisle
I have, despite what most people would say is reason, have committed to not have a chip on my shoulder towards the Republicans about their behavior, and have committed to maintain that we should take the higher ground and treat them with the respect that they deserve, because they worked hard (some of them) and got elected dully as we did, and they should have the respect.
Now, whether – they’re not gonna get Committee Chaired seats and maybe not gonna get all of their Bills passed either, but some of them have really good, solid ideas that are really important to North Carolinians and we should find a way to make sure that both parties have success in those areas.
Thomas: [Sighs] Alright, I’m moving to [Laughs] I’m moving to North Carolina! I’m gonna run on the low-road ticket. You got the high road covered!
Thomas: Can somebody run on a low-road? No, sorry, they don’t get to go on vacation anymore. None of that, they’ll be constantly on edge.
Rep. Clark: [Laughs] Yeah, I am not down with that.
Thomas: Alright, fair enough, maybe that’s the right way! [Laughs]
Rep. Clark: It may be, I may be a glutton for punishment, but I just really strongly believe that – as a freshman I can step back and observe from leadership on both sides of the aisle where these long-term disputes and just terrible treatment of each other – because the Democrats are not off the hook, they did it for hundreds of years here, they did the same exact things to Republicans, it’s inexcusable then too. So that has to stop somewhere.
Many, I’m sure all of my freshman colleagues and I have all said we’re not gonna let this be the way the State goes forward on our side of the aisle. Now, the other side of the aisle, they may have to be a little more, you know, swayed to that idea but I think they’ll get there when we treat them with respect, which would be unique in the legislature.
Andrew: [Laughs] And that anticipated my next question, which is if I’m roleplaying a hypothetical, your district is 33, 33, 33, and that’s a large – even though it’s maybe a little right-leaning, that’s a large block of folks that I could just imagine saying “look, I don’t identify, I’m unaffiliated, I don’t identify either way I just want you guys to stop fighting and get stuff done,” and I think you kind of answered that part of the story, which is yes.
Look, there’s a line in the sand, what they did was wrong, I’m not letting them off the hook for it, so I’m not gonna forget but I am willing to move forward and try and make some progress. I like that, it’s a good optimistic message and I’m the optimist on the show, so-
Rep. Clark: [Laughs] And I’m usually the pessimist, and-
Reason for the high-road – stalemates hurt the public
Rep. Clark: I’ve kind of surprised my colleagues when I’ve been like, “you know, we have to be better about these things.” But, you know, what happens when you have these stalemates, which is what’s happening now, is we have not expanded Medicaid in this State-
Rep. Clark: -and we have over 500,000 North Carolinians without health care. They’re estimating around 1,200 North Carolinians die every year due to lack of healthcare, and that’s just not acceptable.
So this kind of stalemate and tit for tat and revenge type politics just isn’t working for our State when we have people who can’t even afford to go to the doctor and get the treatment they need, that’s not okay with me. We also have situations, like we have public schools here, the buildings are crumbling, they have stained tiles in the ceiling, they have lead in the drinking water, all these different issues that need to be addressed, they’re critical. We don’t need to be fighting with each other over these personal vendettas, we need to be working on these issues and that’s where I’m gonna continue to come from, and hopefully it’ll work and we can get some things done.
Thomas: Yeah. It takes two to tango, though! [Laughs]
Rep. Clark: It does!
Thomas: I think that’s a great message to go out on, what do you think?
Andrew: I agree, I think that you’ve given our listeners A, some really great behind the scenes information and B, some optimism and some ways to get involved.
[Laughing] We get emails – we started this show in July of 2016 planning to cover legal stories in the news, so the Country took a slightly different turn on us, too, but yeah we’re very Hillary Clinton and we get folks who ask all the time, “hey, you’re covering this bummer of a story, what can we do?” and I love your story. I love the fact that you got involved and then that there are resources out there to help first time candidates. So hopefully you’ll inspire some of our listeners to follow in your footsteps.
Advice from Representative Clark
Rep. Clark: Yeah, I hope so. I always tell people, it doesn’t matter who you are, you can be a farmer, a stay at home mom, a dentist, whoever, and you can run for office because everyone has life experiences that are relevant to the General Assembly and when you get there you realize that acutely, because you all have these different experiences and educations and knowledge on subjects that really add to the value of the General Assembly in some way or the other and it doesn’t matter what you are. You don’t have to be (no offense) a lawyer to run for office.
Rep. Clark: I’m a paralegal so I can say that.
Rep. Clark: You don’t have to be a PhD in some subject to run for office, you can just be yourself, and it works out. Just be genuine.
Future of Gerrymandering Case – Redrawing the Maps
We didn’t talk a lot about gerrymandering, but the gerrymandering case, the maps have now gone to the courts, they will be responding, there will be a public comment, time for the Plaintiffs and Defendants to speak on the maps that are before them. We will find out, probably by the end of October, whether these maps are gonna pass muster. I personally don’t think they’re gonna pass the test of the courts based on the way they were done, primarily one of the main Defendants, Representative David Lewis, chaired the committee that ran the redistricting in the House, he should not have been doing that as a Defendant in this court case, and some other issues that are unique to North Carolina.
So it’ll be interesting to see what happens because it could possibly change the face of North Carolina in 2021.
Andrew: Yeah. And one of the instructions that I thought was very, very clear from the Court – the Supreme Court reserved the right to postpone Primary dates in 2020, which seems to me to be a pretty powerful stick, but made it very clear that you have to do this without using Hofeller data and without regard for partisan identification. Are you seeing that as part of the process? [Laughs] Maybe this is a loaded question, but are the Republicans playing fair on that and following the rules, or are they trying to introduce it through the back door, the side door, or the front door calling it something else?
Rep. Clark: [Laughs] You know, I think superficially they follow the rules, the base maps that both the House and the Senate used were these maps that we’re calling the Chen maps, and he was an expert witness for the Plaintiffs and he generated – I think he generated 4,000 maps total, 2,000 for the House and 2,000 for the Senate, and those maps were to demonstrate that no matter how you ran the numbers on population that you could never achieve the same districts that the Republicans had drawn because, to demonstrate, they had drawn them under partisan and racial gerrymandering.
Intention of the Court’s Order
Rep. Clark: And this was purely done by population. So we used those maps as our base maps, and they really were not intended to be maps that would draw districts, and I think the Court is probably gonna frown upon that because part of the Order was they wanted to – this is not their term, but start from scratch and we did not do that, we started with these maps from Chen and that was definitely not a “scratch” starting point, and that was the decision of the Republicans to do it that way.
They claimed there wasn’t time to have maps drawn from scratch and, you know, I feel like in 2019-
Rep. Clark: -when everyone has a computer, that’s probably not 100% the case.
REPUBLICAN SHENANIGANS DURING MAP-DRAWING
But, you know, there was that and then there were some times where there was a Republican with their finger on the screen as the staff was trying to move precincts around and kind of directing which precincts should be moved, and I just don’t think that’s gonna hold muster in the Courts, and it shouldn’t.
Then there was one Republican who was very upset that his district was gonna become competitive and he posted on his own personal Facebook page that he wanted everyone to write in to the public comment and come and testify in defense of his district as it is.
That’s clearly not within the rules that the Court laid down, that’s partisanship playing a game there. So those things were out in the open and everyone saw them, but is it the right thing? Not necessarily, and it’ll be interesting to see how far the Court wants to go.
I’ve heard that the Court doesn’t want to redraw the maps or be involved, the Court’s trying to stay out of it and I think they expected everyone to do the right thing here. But they’ve already appointed a special master, it’s the same special master who redrew the maps after the Court rejected them in August of 2017 because they were silly, and so it will be interesting to see if he ends up drawing the maps again and what instructions he’s given.
Through the Chen maps we ended up with a lot of people who were double- and triple-bunked and the Court said do your best to relieve those if you can with as little changes to the map as possible, and that just wasn’t possible. Especially in Mecklenburg County where they ended up with three legislators drawn into the same district on the Chen map because they live close to each other, so those things are necessary but how the Court will feel about them is what’s in question.
My district actually did not change that much, I had one split precinct that was put back together, and I’m up north compared to my Charlotte colleagues, so I was the only person up here and I didn’t have any chance to be double bunked, so I kind of stayed back and said “I’ll support you guys whatever you wanna do,” so they did the best they could with the maps.
[Commercial – vistaprint.com/oa]
Rep. Clark’s role in redistricting
Andrew: So three quick follow-up questions on that. So, number one, you’re on the committee that is redrawing the district maps, right?
Rep. Clark: I’m not actually on that committee, I just attend it every day-
Rep. Clark: -just to learn and observe and be present in the room as a Democrat in the minority party.
Andrew: That’s … my already high level of respect for you just went up, that’s – I’m glad you’re there! You expect the redrawn maps to come out in October, I think you said?
Rep. Clark: Yeah, the Court’s ruling on them should be towards the end of October I believe is what the plan is.
What happens next once the maps are drawn?
Rep. Clark: So they’ve been ratified by the legislature and then they had to go to the Secretary of State to be, essentially, audited to make sure that every precinct was drawn into a district and every voter was accounted for.
Our poor and also wonderful staff at the General Assembly, they’re nonpartisan staff, they were working 17 and 18-hour days to help us get these maps done, so all the credit really goes to them that those happened in the time frame it did because they worked so hard and gave up everything to make sure this was done in time for the Court Order. But, also, when you’re working 18-hours there could’ve been a little blip somewhere and a precinct could have been skipped over and so the Secretary of State would have validated that, and I believe that she did or her office did.
Rep. Clark: So now it’s in the Court’s hands.
Will Rep. Clark return after the court’s next decision?
Andrew: Well that leads to my last question, which is when the Court decides either to approve the maps or to order some other relief can we get you to come back out on the show and give us the behind the scenes as to what that means?
Rep. Clark: Absolutely, I would love to! You know, it’s gonna be interesting to see what happens and we all file to run – or we’re supposed to file in December, so I will have a whole lot of candidates to talk about who will come out of, hopefully – well, we will have strong ones come out as they know what their districts are, but we have already had some Republicans resign when they saw the writing on the wall with their districts, so that may happen more as time goes one.
It’ll be interesting to see who is just not willing to run a race where they’re the underdog, or who’s not willing to run a competitive race. ‘Cuz they kinda got used to winning all the time, so-
Rep. Clark: It’s, you know, it’s fair! [Laughs]
Thomas: Good, get some turnover. Get some new blood going.
Rep. Clark: That’s right.
Andrew: Well, Representative Clark, thank you very much for coming on this show, can’t wait to have you back on again and we really appreciate it.
Rep. Clark: Yes, of course, thank you for having me on. Happy to share my thoughts on this crazy State that is North Carolina. [Laughs]
Thomas: [Laughs] Okay, well you know what time it is Andrew Torrez! It’s time to thank our, so this is Top Patron Tuesday! So we need to hop on over to patreon.com/law and thank our top patrons, our hall of famers, our all time greats who are enjoying that Law’d Awful Movies, [Laughing] that was so much fun! Matthew McConaughey, and all the other countless patron goodies including discount tickets to our live show that they should definitely be coming to. So, Andrew, why don’t you start us off? Let’s thank our top patrons.
[Patron Shout Outs]
Thomas: Ah, thank you so much, so much fun! Our top patrons, we love you Top Patron Tuesday. And now it’s time for T3BE.
T3BE – Answer
Thomas: Alright, it’s time for T3BE, it’s answer time. Ooh, Representative Clark I hope we did well. [Laughing] We are in this together! [Laughs] We have an unshakable bond, it’s unbreakable, we chose the same answer so we’re in this together, we’re gonna sink or we’ll soar. Let’s see! Andrew, how’d we do?
Andrew: [Impersonation] The law defines a contract as an agreement that is un-breakable! [Laughs]
Andrew: That was a great Lionel Hutz, there!
Alright, this was a question about conspiracy. So four men tried for conspiracy to commit a series of bank robberies. There are nine of these in the series. One of them was able to identify via circumstantial evidence that he was in jail for six of those robberies, so he’s got an alibi on those, and his lawyer has now moved for a judgment of acquittal. Is that likely to prevail?
And immediately [Chuckles] I want to confess this to you, the way in which this broke down were between the “no” answers, either no because a conspirator is not required to agree to all of the objectives of the conspiracy, or no because a conspirator need not be present at the commission of each of the crimes that are agreed and committed to by the conspiracy.
And then the “yes” answers involved the alibi rule, and both of you rejected the yes answers, I wanna confess to you I had to look up what the hell the alibi rule is.
The Alibi Rule
Andrew: And part of that is, again, we’ve talked about – I’m a civil lawyer, not a criminal lawyer. It’s Rule 12.1 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. I had zero recollection of this because I don’t try these kinds of cases. So good job [Chuckles] eliminating the alibi rule answers-
Thomas: Oh really? Oh, good!
Andrew: That’s a total distractor, yeah!
Andrew: Rule 12.1 says “an attorney for the government may request in writing that the Defendant notify an attorney for the government of any intended alibi defense, the request must state the time, date, and place of the alleged offense.”
So, in other words, I guess apparently if you’re a prosecutor you can and I don’t know why you wouldn’t in every single case, send over to defense counsel this Rule 12.1 letter that says “hey, you gotta tell me, are you puttin’ on an alibi defense?” In any event, none of that is relevant to the facts of this case because-
Thomas: Yeah, that seems like it would go the other way. Like if you didn’t do that then it would be a reason you couldn’t be acquitted but if you did do it, it doesn’t mean you necessarily would be acquitted, right?
Andrew: Yeah, well and in particular the bar exam would specify, if this were gonna test the alibi defense rule the bar exam would specify that the government sent over the requested letter.
Andrew: Because you don’t have any affirmative obligation, as I read this, as defense counsel, to notify them of an alibi defense if they haven’t asked.
Thomas: Huh. Interesting. Weird.
Andrew: So doubly irrelevant here. Then the question is in conspiracy, is he a part of the conspiracy because it doesn’t matter if they agree to all of the objectives or he’s part of the conspiracy because he need not be present at the commission of each of the crimes?
You both picked the latter which is B, and I am pleased to tell you that is a correct answer!
Thomas: Alright! Woo!
Rep. Clark: Alright!
Thomas: Go us!
Andrew: So the whole point of conspiracy law is not everybody in the conspiracy does all the stuff. The fact that he might have only been present at three of the robberies and not nine, the judge is gonna be like “well, right, that’s why this is a conspiracy case.”
Andrew: You don’t have to be at all nine of ‘em, you have to agree, A is incorrect, you have to agree to the essential objectives of the conspiracy-
Thomas: I was really scared you were gonna tell me it was some tricky, weird, A answer question,
Thomas: I was pre-mad about that already, but I’m glad.
Rep. Clark: Same here! I was about to be annoyed! [Laughs]
Andrew: Well, I know I do not want Representative Clark annoyed at me because we’ve heard about her colleagues on that!
Andrew: No, I get to stay on your good side, congratulations to both of you! Representative Clark, you now move to the head of the queue with a 100% average on T3BE.
Thomas: Aw. [Laughs]
Thanks again, Rep. Clark
Andrew: Next time you’re on we’ll ask you another one and see if we can’t chip away at that percentage. I can’t have you doin’ better at this than I am, so [Laughs] But, no, thank you so much for playing, thanks for bein’ a great sport, and thanks – sincerely, thank you so much for telling your story here on the show. I thought it was incredibly interesting and inspiring and I really appreciate it.
Rep. Clark: Happy to! Happy to share any other time when whatever comes up next, ‘cuz I tell ya the legislature surprises me every day.
Thomas: I wanna echo that, that was so much fun and I’m gonna contact your Republican colleagues to see if there’s some procedural way that I could win at this question but then you didn’t ‘cuz I dunno, maybe there weren’t enough people over in your office at the time when you gave your T3BE answer, so maybe it doesn’t count? I’m working on it, we’ll see.
Rep. Clark: Yeah, yeah. I’m sure they have a way to work around it, I have no doubt! [Laughs]
Thomas: [Laughs] Alright, that was a lot of fun, thank you so much!
Rep. Clark: Thank you!
Andrew: Thank you!
Listener T3BE Winner
Thomas: Alright well we aced the bar exam, of course, but it’s time for Andrew to hop in the Limited Use Time Machine and find out who this week’s big winner is!
Future Andrew (Definitely Not Brian): I am definitely Andrew from the future and this week’s winner of T3BE is @AlpeMcPalpe who said “A is true, but not applicable – not being able to attend doesn’t constitute disagreement. C is false – one neat trick-esque. D is true but not applicable – evidence is not exculpatory on the charge of conspiracy. Thus – answer is B, per Trump Tower Moscow.” Congratulations @AlpeMcPalpe, you can follow them on Twitter @A-L-P-E-MC-P-A-L-P-E. Your header on your twitter page says “One Time TTTBE Champion,” you can change that to “Two Time T3BE Champion,” congratulations.
Thomas: Alright well that’s our show, that was a lot of fun. Andrew, I learned a ton and I also learned that people can go run for stuff. That’s what – 2018 was a wave of the people really realizing that you don’t have to be an elite to go run for office and it’s super cool. And by that, I just mean someone already in power, someone already with privilege. It was so cool, Representative Clark’s story of just “hey, I was a concerned person and wanted to go run,” and she won, that’s amazing!
Andrew: I love that, and I’m really glad we had her on and I’m glad that she was able to share her story. I hope it does inspire some of our listeners.
Thomas: Absolutely. Alright, folks, we will see you on Friday. [Whispers] Go buy tickets to the live show! Now! Okay, see you then.