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A political mailer circulating in North Carolina says a Democratic legislator voted against issues important to his own party and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
The ad by N.C. Futures Action Fund, a liberal political action committee, accuses state Sen. Kirk deViere of siding with Republicans on key issues. It says he:
"Voted no on Medicaid expansion for children and seniors.
"Voted no on better pay for our teachers.
"Voted no on Gov. Roy Cooper’s Democratic budget plan."
Cooper’s allies have said deViere has been too friendly with Republicans who control the state legislature, thereby giving away leverage Democrats may have held in budget negotiations.
Cooper took the unusual step of endorsing deViere’s opponent, former Fayetteville City Council member Val Applewhite, in District 19’s Democratic primary. Now the N.C. Futures Action Fund, a dark money group funded by liberal donor Dean Debnam, is paying for attack ads against deViere.
While deViere’s critics have said he engages with Republicans in "backroom" dealing — a claim deViere disputes — the mailer goes a step further by making false claims about the senator’s votes.
Asked about the "voted no" claims in the ad, N.C. Futures Action Fund spokesman Michael Weisel said the citations reflect deViere’s actions and aren’t meant to be taken literally. Weisel in an email said that deViere, behind closed doors, was presented with multiple opportunities during budget negotiations to stand with Cooper and his caucus, but "caved." Weisel suggested that by voting for the Republican budget, deViere therefore rejected Cooper’s spending plan.
When asked to substantiate the claim related to the negotiations, he didn’t immediately provide a response. He previously provided links to WRAL articles about state senate votes on budget bills, but no proof that deViere voted against the issues mentioned in the mailer.
"The statement ‘voting no’ does not require a legislative bill vote, nor does the statement of a bill vote appear in any educational advocacy presented for these points," Weisel said in the email.
"Backroom whispers, winks and nods determine whether legislative agendas and policies win or lose, not somebody’s name on a legislative bill vote tally," Weisel added.
DeViere says that attack is built on lies.
"Legislators are accountable for our votes because a vote shows constituents where we stand ‘on record,’" deViere said in an email. "The claims and statements in this ad and in other ads created by this organization that have run in support of my opponent are flat out false and incorrect. My voting record shows that I delivered results for teachers and public education as a whole, as well as furthered the expansion of Medicaid."
Let’s break down the claims in the ad.
Medicaid expansion. The mailer says deViere "voted no" on Medicaid expansion and cites "voting statistics 2021-22." This is inaccurate. A clean bill expanding Medicaid as proposed by Cooper didn’t make it to the floor during the most recent legislative session.
Cooper and Democrats for years have been pushing to expand Medicaid to provide health insurance coverage to more North Carolinians. The problem for Democrats is that the GOP holds a majority in both chambers of the General Assembly, and many Republican members oppose expansion.
House Speaker Tim Moore effectively ruled out Medicaid expansion again last year, saying it couldn’t be included in budget negotiations because it didn’t have enough support in the House.
The final state budget — a deal struck between Republican leaders and Cooper — did extend by one year postpartum health care coverage for mothers on Medicaid using funding provided by the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan. DeViere was one of several state Senate Democrats who voted for the final version of the budget.
Teacher pay. The mailer says deViere opposed "better pay for our teachers," and cites a June 25, 2021, vote on an early version of the budget, as well as "Governor’s Budget Recommendations, 2021-23."
Voters might get the impression from the ad that deViere opposed raises for teachers or that he voted against the governor’s budget plan. Neither is true.
Senate Bill 105 is the budget bill introduced by Republican leaders last year that was amended several times before party leaders reached the budget agreement. The final version of the bill, which became law, gave teachers an average 5% raise over two years, plus a bonus of at least $2,300 in federal pandemic relief money. It also granted an extra $500 to teachers who earn less than $75,000 a year, WRAL reported.
The bill as written on June 25 also included teacher raises, albeit smaller ones. WRAL reported that the June proposal included teacher raises of about 3% over two years.
The early version received less bipartisan support than the final budget compromise. DeViere was one of four Senate Democrats who supported it. Congressional candidates Ben Clark and Don Davis also voted in favor of it, but neither was called out by Cooper for their votes.
The governor’s budget. The ad says deViere "voted no on Gov. Roy Cooper’s Democratic budget plan," citing the budget bill and the governor’s initial budget proposal. That’s also inaccurate.
Cooper’s budget proposal was filed as a bill in the state Senate. However, as is the case with most governors’ budget plans, it was never given a vote on the floor or even heard in a committee. In other words, deViere was never asked to choose between the governor’s budget and the GOP budget. The Democrats’ minority status gives the party limited leverage in budget negotiations.
The N.C. Futures Action Action Fund ad says deViere "voted no" on Medicaid expansion, teacher raises, and the governor’s budget. But the state senate was never asked to vote on Medicaid expansion or the governor’s budget during the 2021-22 session, as suggested by the mailer.
The mailer cites deViere’s vote on SB 105 as opposing "better pay" for teachers. That bill included raises for teachers, something Cooper praised when he signed it.
We rate this claim False.
A campaign ad mailed by N.C. Futures Action Fund.
Email exchange with Michael Weisel, an attorney who acts as spokesman for the N.C. Futures Action Fund.
Email exchange with North Carolina State Sen. Kirk deViere.
North Carolina Senate Bill 105, also known as the 2021 Appropriations Act or budget bill.
Stories by WRAL, "Party loyalty, big money and race figure heavily in Cumberland County Senate race," posted May 3, 2022; "Cooper signs overdue state budget hours after lawmakers approve it," posted Nov. 17, 2021; "Senate moves forward on new state budget, $14 billion in tax cuts," posted June 24, 2021; "More Medicaid help for new moms coming in 2022," posted Dec. 13, 2021.
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