Cal Cunningham couldn’t buy a story this good. Last week, CNN reported that a political action committee that had formed in January and promptly plopped down $1.9 million on behalf of his main opponent in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, Erica Smith, was actually a GOP-aligned outfit up to no good. The PAC’s ads paint Smith as the race’s true progressive on issues like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, and while it’s true that she’s further to the left than Cunningham, the obvious meddling allows him to proclaim, not without justification, that Thom Tillis was terrified of facing him in the fall. Smith is a long shot; she’s polling at 10 percent to Cunningham’s 29 percent and had less than $100,000 in cash at the end of 2019 to Cunningham’s more than $1.7 million. Perhaps the GOP was just trying to cause havoc or force Cunningham to the left ahead of the general election, but the PAC’s ad buy sure made him look like a strong challenger.


Two years after developer Bill Bishop was found dead in his Durham home, strangled by a dog leash, the dog still attached, the Durham County District Attorney’s Office dropped charges against his son, Alexander, now 18. Alexander had previously posited that the dog might have accidentally killed his father, which seems unlikely. More plausible is the defense’s claim that Bill Bishop had coronary blockages that probably contributed to his demise. Now we’re faced with one of two possibilities: Alexander Bishop had his life turned upside down for two years over a mistake, or he might get away with murder. If either of those happens, blame probably lies, at least in part, with investigator Tony Huelsman. Last year, Superior Court Judge Orlando F. Hudson tossed a bunch of evidence against Alexander Bishop, ruling that Huelsman had lied, exaggerated, and “invented facts” in his applications for search warrants. 


We’ll refrain from commenting on the wisdom of the Raleigh City Council’s decision last week to eliminate its 19 citizen advisory councils with the promise of replacing them with something better. But the way they went about it couldn’t have been worse—or more insulting to the people who elected them. The council sprung this decision on the city with no notice and no opportunity for public input. Council member Saige Martin drafted the motions in secret, whipped votes in secret, and kept council member David Cox—the one most likely to raise a stink—completely in the dark. The explanation, according to Martin, was that two previous councils had tried to reform the CAC system and had failed amid a backlash. This time, they wanted to get it done without a fight—and, though they won’t say this out loud, without having to deal with a bunch of angry people they consider cranks. So instead, they decided to ask forgiveness, not permission, forgetting who pays their salaries and that dealing with angry cranks is part of the job description. No matter how good the policy, ramming it through behind closed doors means it will always carry a stink that won’t wash off. 

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at 

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