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Delay in new N.C. congressional maps could lead to extra 2020 election, GOP lawmakers warn

WASHINGTON — Some members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation want the state’s legislature to redraw its congressional map — and do it fast.

North Carolina is scheduled to hold its 2020 primaries March 3, and a delay in redrawing districts as ordered by a three-judge panel of state judges on Monday night could postpone the congressional primaries. State Republican lawmakers could appeal the order, potentially pushing a final decision off for months.

“I don’t understand how their rationale could be any different from the legislative districts, and they redrew those,” Rep. George Holding, a Raleigh Republican, said of the state legislature, which recently — and quickly — redrew House and Senate maps after a court order.

“The worst scenario is having standalone primaries. If the General Assembly doesn’t redraw them and it does get drawn out, we’ll have standalone primaries.”

North Carolina had a standalone primary for congressional races in 2016, when a different set of congressional districts was tossed as a racial gerrymander. Turnout for the general primary election in 2016, which included presidential and senatorial primaries, was 35.7%. Turnout for the standalone congressional primary was 7.7%.

In addition to low turnout, lawmakers cited cost to counties and voter confusion among reasons not to hold a standalone primary.

“It serves no one’s interest to have a standalone congressional primary,” said Rep. Richard Hudson, a Concord Republican.

Said Rep. Greg Murphy, a Greenville Republican: “We don’t need to, in my opinion, have the taxpayers incur any additional costs.”

‘Nearly a decade of illegal districts’

North Carolina’s congressional maps have been in flux throughout the decade. In 2010, Democrats held seven of the state’s 13 U.S. House seats. In 2012, after the Republican-controlled legislature redrew the maps with new census numbers, Republicans held nine seats and pushed it to 10 in 2014. Those maps were thrown out and new maps were redrawn for the 2016 elections. Those were also used in 2018 and the 2019 special elections.

Republicans currently hold 10 of the 13 seats.

The current maps were struck down previously as an unconstitutional “partisan gerrymander,” but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal courts cannot deal with them. That led the maps back to state court.

The three Democratic members of the House delegation applauded the ruling.

“The court’s decision reaffirms our long-held belief that the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly engaged in extreme racial and partisan gerrymandering, such that congressional districts were designed to favor the Republican majority and disenfranchise voters. We applaud the court’s decision. After nearly a decade of illegal districts, voters deserve fair maps so their voices can be heard,” said Reps. Alma Adams, David Price and G.K. Butterfield in a joint statement.

Who will run?

Adams, who represents Charlotte, said Tuesday she was running for re-election to represent Charlotte. Price, from Chapel Hill, announced his 2020 re-election bid Tuesday.

“With forces threatening to both undermine our democracy and unravel the progress we’ve made, we need steady hands in Washington — more so now than at any point in our lifetimes,” Price said in a statement.

Price said he is committed to running in 2020. He said it’s up to the legislature to draw the districts and the courts to decide if they are fair.

Holding, though, did not commit to running again in a new-look district. He already switched districts after the 2016 redraw.

“We’ll just wait and see what they look like,” he said.

Similarly, Rep. Ted Budd, a Davie County Republican whose district includes parts of Guilford County, said he’d take a wait-and-see approach.

“I feel like I can represent different areas. We’ll just have to see how the process plays out.”

A spokesman for Rep. Mark Walker, a Greensboro Republican, accused the Democrats of “judge-shopping because they can’t win elections on their broken policies.”

“Every time we go through this it costs the state more money and more faith in our election process,” Walker spokesman Jack Minor said. He said Walker “looks forward to continuing” serving the people of North Carolina.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Banner Elk Republican, said she was “disappointed that a court has once again thrown North Carolina’s congressional districts into disarray.”

“This decision has contributed to voter confusion about their representation and is ultimately a rejection of centuries of precedent that fails the test of judicial restraint,” said Foxx, who plans to run again in 2020.

7 elections, 5 maps?

The districts drawn for 2020 will have to be redrawn again for the 2022 election, in accordance with the census. North Carolina is expected to gain an additional seat in the U.S. House.

If there are new districts for 2020 and for 2022, then North Carolina voters will have been governed by five different sets of maps for seven elections.

UNCG student Ty Gibson found Internet fame in comedy and a viral dance video

GREENSBORO — The Kick Swivel dance came into being, like so many things in today’s digital age, because Ty Gibson had his phone and a few minutes to kill.

It was June 28, shortly before noon, and Gibson and his mom were about to head out of town for a family reunion. Gibson’s mother was still packing when Gibson, a sophomore at UNCG, got an idea for a dance.

Gibson clapped three times, hopped on his right foot, front-kicked with his left, swiveled his knees and hips and yelled out “KICK SWIVEL AYYYYYYY.”

It felt good, so he did it again, this time with his iPhone resting on a bookcase in the living room. He posted the 13-second video on the social media site TikTok and headed off to the weekend reunion.

In the four months since then, nearly 20 million people have watched Tik Tok videos featuring Gibson and others doing the dance he dubbed the Kick Swivel. That video led to Gibson recording his first single, which has become the theme song for his new dance. All of this buzz has pushed his count of TikTok followers to 1.8 million. And now that he’s Internet famous, Gibson sometimes gets recognized on campus and around town: You that guy on TikTok?

“God is good, God is good,” the high-energy 19-year-old said in a recent interview. “That’s all I can say.”

Growing up in the town of Rockingham, about 90 miles south of Greensboro, Gibson clowned around for his family in kids costume wigs and mismatched shoes and clothes. “I’m a natural goofball,” Gibson said. But around other people, he said, he was a shy and quiet kid.

The public shyness started to melt after he and his mom moved to Greensboro and he started sixth grade at Northeast Middle. Gibson’s mother, Tammy Clark, said after Ty got a leading role in a church play, his confidence blossomed. Now, she said, “he’s on 100 all the time.”

When he was attending Northeast High School, Gibson posted lip-synch and dance videos on music.ly, the social media video app that merged with TikTok a year ago. No one noticed. (“My dancing was terrible,” he said, laughing.)

A good friend suggested comedy, so Gibson started recording comedy videos of 15 to 60 seconds, the longest that music.ly allowed.

Someone at music.ly noticed and put one of Gibson’s videos in a “Featured” slot, which people see right away when they open the app. That helped Gibson attract more followers.

So he made more videos, got more “Featured” attention and gained more followers. And so on.

A lot of Gibson’s early work was what’s known as relatable videos — short spoofs on everyday teenage life. He also did reaction videos — videos of him reacting to someone else’s video.

Gibson created comic characters, too. One of his first and most popular characters was Grandma, which Gibson played by wearing a wig and an old bathrobe and putting a pillow over his rear end. That became Grandma Twerksalot, the star of Gibson’s YouTube family sitcom, “Ratchet Lullabies.” Gibson writes, directs, films and edits the online series, and he plays all the other characters, including Mama Mabel, Dirty Grandpa, Lil Zeke and Ty Jr.

TikTok users also like his “When Kids Roast Each Other” series, in which Gibson plays two people who go back and forth insulting each other. A sample:

”Your head is built like a Walmart with no toy section. Oooh, get at me.”

“Oh, be quiet, you unwashed shower curtain.”

”I know one thing: You better shut up, you unused baloney slice.”

“Oh, that’s what we do when we burn toast with hair on it.”

Gibson’s videos are low-budget affairs. He shoots them all with his iPhone, either in his UNCG dorm room after class or at his mom’s apartment in Browns Summit, where he lived when he was in high school.

He tries to post at least one short video every day and sometimes as many as three. He figures he’s made somewhere around 4,000 videos.

His videos are usually solo efforts. He does all the filming, all the editing, all the directing, and he’s usually the only person in them. His short videos are usually improvisations. For his longer ones, he writes out a script.

Most of the props come from his mom. The wigs and women’s clothes are Clark’s. A bowl in one recent video seen by more than a million people came out of Clark’s kitchen. The big bow that Gibson ties around his head in many of his videos? It was once a pillowcase in the guest bedroom.

“I’m like, Oh my god, my stuff,” said Clark, who works as a customer service rep for a telecommunications company. “After awhile, I’m not going to have anything in the house.”

Gibson said making and posting all of these videos is a joy, not a job.

“Since I’ve been doing it so long, it’s a natural thing,” Gibson said. “It’s not, Oh, lord, I’ve gotta post a video today.”

And then there’s that Kick Swivel video.

Gibson’s humor and relentless video output had helped him amass about a million TikTok followers by the time the idea for the Kick Swivel popped into his head.

“It just naturally happened — it really did,” Gibson said. “I was sitting down and I just hopped up and started clapping and doing the whole dance, not even thinking. Then I finally realized, OK, this could be something.”

And it was. By the time Gibson got to the family reunion an hour away, more than 20,000 people had liked his 13-second video, and 3,000 people had put his voice (KICK SWIVEL AYYYYYYY) in their own TikTok videos of them doing his dance.

More important, he said, were the opportunities that opened up because of that 13-second video.

In August, Gibson connected with Zoie Fenty, a popular Instagram comedian known simply as Zoie, and a California music producer. Together they all recorded a short single that serves as the Kick Swivel soundtrack. (Gibson’s verse is the first one; “my part’s clean,” he said.)

“Thirteen seconds turned into a whole song,” Gibson said. “That still blows my mind.”

There’s more. Gibson has performed the Kick Swivel at a Northeast High School pep rally and at UNCG’s recent homecoming. About a month ago he met dancing TV weatherman Nick Kosir at the Fox affiliate in Charlotte. Gibson taught Kosir the dance, and the two performed it together in the TV studio.

Gibson, a theater major at UNCG, is working toward a career in front of the camera on TV or in film.

For now, he continues to make comedy videos, and he says he’s “humble and grateful” to have become, online and in real life, that guy on TikTok.

“It feels so good. It just shows that people watch your content and appreciate your content,” Gibson said. “It’s the best feeling getting to see people go crazy over you when you’re doing something that you love.”

Thunderstorms could dampen trick-or-treat fun

GREENSBORO — Today’s weather forecast looks frightening for trick-or-treating.

“A cold front pushing through will trigger a line of strong storms,” said James Morrow, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

The thunderstorms will hit during prime trick-or-treat hours — rolling through about 5 p.m. and lasting about three hours, Morrow said.

Witches will need to hold tight to their broomsticks. Some of the storms could produce damaging winds — maybe even a tornado.

“It can’t be ruled out to see at least one or two quick spin-ups that may occur with this line of storms,” Morrow said.

That’s scary timing for little goblins and ghouls.

Concerned parents and online neighborhood-discussion boards are abuzz with the question: Can Halloween be moved?

That depends.

“We don’t regulate the day, the times, anything like that,” said Jake Keys, communication manager for the City of Greensboro.

Determining the best time to hand out treats is up to individual communities, Keys said.

“If a neighborhood wants to move it to Friday or Saturday, that’s completely up to them,” Keys said. “And if you’re a kid, I sure would be hoping that would happen.”

One Greensboro neighborhood known for its trick-or-treating is doing just that.

Halloween festivities in the Lindley Park area between Longview, Lindell, Sherwood and Walker have been postponed until Friday.

That area will be closed to vehicle traffic from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday to allow children and their parents to trick-or-treat, according to the neighborhood association’s Facebook page.

Don’t want to drench your candy and costume?

This evening’s indoor alternatives include Halloween Hoopla from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Brown Recreation Center in Greensboro, Trunk or Treat from 4 to 7 p.m. at Burger Warfare in Greensboro, Fall Festival from 6 to 8 p.m. at Life Community Church in Jamestown and Sweets n’ Treats from 4 to 7 p.m. at Oak Ridge Farmers Market.

In Asheboro, Trick or Treat in the Park is postponed until 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at McCrary Park.

Those who do venture out this evening should dress warmly, watch out for storm debris and do their trick-or-treating before sunset, which is 6:24 tonight, experts say.

Anyone out after dark should bring a flashlight so they can see and be seen.

An interesting article in today's newspaper

End of era?: Last Greensboro Ham’s closes, but restaurant owner says he is looking for new Triad site. Page A2

Guilford County Schools scores higher than large U.S. cities average on national exam

GREENSBORO — Guilford County Schools scored higher than large U.S. cities on average, but lower than public schools nationwide on average, according to results released Wednesday from a national test administered every two years. However, not all differences were statistically significant.

Guilford County students did better on average than public school students in large cities nationwide on fourth- and eighth-grade reading, and on eighth-grade math, according to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The district’s score also was higher in fourth-grade math, but the difference was not statistically significant. Guilford County Schools is considered a large urban school district.

Compared to the nation’s public schools as a whole, Guilford County Schools scored lower on eighth-grade reading and fourth-grade math. Its scores also were lower, but not significantly so, in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math.

“The NAEP results indicate that our strategic investments in curriculum, instructional materials and supplies, and professional development for educators, particularly in English and language arts, are gaining traction in our schools, but we still have significant work to do,” Superintendent Sharon Contreras said in a news release from the district.

The NAEP, sometimes called “The Nation’s Report Card,” helps education officials make nationwide comparisons.

The test is different in several ways from state tests, such as North Carolina’s end-of-grade exams.

It’s given to a representative sample of students where state tests are given to all students.

It’s shorter too. Students spend about 30 minutes on math and 30 minutes on reading as well as taking a brief survey. About 2,200 students took the test in Guilford County in early 2019.

Guilford County Schools improved in eighth-grade math and declined in fourth-grade math since the last administration of the test in early 2017. The change in reading scores from 2017 to 2019 for Guilford County Schools was not statistically significant.

Interim Chief Academic Officer Whitney Oakley said Wednesday she believes Guilford County Schools is able show relatively high average scores on eighth-grade math partly because of the district’s efforts to encourage and prepare as many students as possible to take advanced mathematics in the eighth-grade. She said the district’s continued efforts also likely contributed to the increase in the score since 2017.