Are Tim Morgan and his campaign manager subverting the voting system? Do Ken Nelson's online comments support white supremacy and violence? Is Elyse Dashew aligned with outside groups? And where in the world is DeShauna McLamb?
Now that the issue pieces and profiles are out of the way, it's time to delve into some of the other questions floating around the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board race.
As commenters have noted and TV stations reported, Morgan's campaign manager, Larry Shaheen, got caught tossing out campaign literature for Keith Hurley and Ken Nelson at an early voting station in mid-October. Shaheen says he believed fellow Republicans Nelson and Hurley had put their material on Morgan's table, which in his view made it fair game for the trash can. In fact, it was a Republican Party table, which the others had a right to share. Vice Chair Pat Murray saw the incident, salvaged the material and took Shaheen to task.
Shaheen says he goofed and has apologized to the party and the candidates. Morgan says he talked to Shaheen about the incident and has elected to keep him on board as manager. I finally caught up to Mecklenburg Party GOP Chair Gideon Moore today to get his take. He says Shaheen was banned from staffing the GOP tables but is free to continue campaigning for the two candidates he represents (Morgan and Charlotte City Council candidate Curtis Watkins).
Shaheen "made a poor choice in the heat of the campaign. It happens," Moore said. "I really don't consider it a big deal." Moore added that he was a bit disappointed that Hurley, who became a Republican too late to be in the running for an endorsement, opted to go public with the conflict after Moore thought it had been resolved.
Some have also chided Morgan for seeking an at-large seat when he already holds a district seat. There's nothing illegal or unusual about that; George Dunlap tried it in 2003. If he's elected, the board will launch the application process after Morgan is sworn in for the at-large seat Dec. 13. The eight members of the new board would vote on a new District 6 representative to serve until the 2013 election.
Commenters have also raised questions about the things Nelson posts in online forums as knelsud92.
I read through quite a few, and if you don't like Nelson's style and views, you won't like them much.
On illegal immigrants, one of his favorite topics:
No mas illegales, por favor
Get out the country, bar the door!
Start 'em marching to the border
Then we can restore order.
On academic achievement gaps:
It's the school's fault that "fathers" abandon their children before birth and end up in prison or dead. It's the school's fault that a culture values violence over peace. No amount of money can fix a culture. Hence, we do not have an achievement gap, we have a culture gap.
On the departure of conservative blogger Jeff Taylor: "You've always been a voice of reason in this city full of moochers and looters."
And on a story about 11 Garinger students, including the valedictorian, getting diplomas, only to learn belatedly they hadn't met the graduation requirements: "He thought he passed English, but when it was realized that Ebonics doesn't qualify as a substitute, he lost the credits."
Nelson says he's a guy who sees many issues in black-and-white terms, and who sometimes aims his online comments to get a laugh from supporters and a rise from opponents. He notes that he grew up outside New York City, which makes him "by nature sarcastic and bombastic -- that's just the way we are."
But Nelson vehemently denies that his comments show him to be racist or violent. He argued for the right of a white supremacy group to rent a room and meet in Charlotte, he said, but he does not support white supremacy. He said he would support "a second American Revolution" if the country "becomes like the Soviet Union," but says other commenters are wrong in saying he has urged shooting people over election results. And he says that if his comments have appeared on the White Nationalist web site Stormfront, it's because someone cut and pasted them from his comments on a Ron Paul site.
"I am certainly not a racist," Nelson says.
Some have also asked about links between Dashew's MeckFUTURE and philanthropies and advocacy groups. Dashew and fellow CMS parent Doug Swaim formed the alliance of families from about 40 schools in January to lobby for money to avert drastic budget cuts. The group, which is currently inactive, has no national alliances and no funding other than a collection members took up to pay for fliers, she says.
Dashew says she believes people are confusing MeckFUTURE with Mecklenburg ACTS, which is affiliated with Parents Across America, and/or MeckEd, which conducted a CMS budget information campaign using money that then-Superintendent Peter Gorman provided from a Spangler Foundation grant. All three "Mecks" were part of a "55 for 5" coalition that lobbied county commissioners and state legislators to provide about $55 million to avoid cutting five high-priority items from this year's budget.
Finally, the case of the missing candidate remains a mystery. Last winter and spring, when the debate over school closings and fairness to minority neighborhoods was raging, I got several emails from Prophetess DeShauna McLamb of Beyond Ministries promoting efforts to get people engaged with public education. She announced her board candidacy in March, filed in July ... and disappeared from the campaign.
Having failed to reach her by phone, email and a visit to the address she listed when she filed, I tried another address we found on a public-records search. A man who answered the door this morning said McLamb lives there but wasn't in. He gave me a new phone number that gets a voice mail for McLamb. I've left a couple of messages, but so far, no response.
McLamb has never withdrawn from the race, so she'll be on Tuesday's ballot.