A city’s lines of defense

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The long and twisted saga of SB 36 began almost year ago with an assertion in a local propaganda sheet that change would be coming to Greensboro.

It was almost like they were in on it….

Allies were recruited and deployed — a lone sitting councilmember, a controversial African-American political and business figure, a small cluster of loyalists who don’t actually live in the city and the remnants Bill Knight’s disastrous city council regime.

One of them, Trudy Wade — now in the state Senate in a district drawn expressly for her — filed the bill on Feb. 4, and through her allies in the media and the General Assembly, a few useful idiots and a strong, indefatigable will has kept the thing alive through several iterations, none of which include a referendum from voters in the city of Greensboro.

This is important because the bill radically alters the makeup of city council, the mathematics of the election and the representation of its citizens.

It’s tempting here to start slinging mud at a particular political party — with the exception of Skip Alston, this caper has been exclusively the province of the GOP. But it was dyed-in-the-wool Republican Rep. John Blust, whose tenure in Raleigh goes back almost 20 years, who, along with another Republican, Rep. Jon Hardister, stood tall for the city this week by mustering enough votes to scuttle the bill, currently tied to a similar but more popular piece of legislation affecting only the city of Trinity.

Now Blust finds himself in a House committee charged with rewriting the bill, with opinion on its passage stacked 4-to-1 against him.

Blust is the kind of guy you want in there, regardless of your party affiliation: a former Army captain and all-around hardass with the demeanor of an impatient gym teacher. But against these odds, just forcing a referendum could be seen as a victory.

Blust needs a win: He’s up for re-election in 2016, and his district covers big chunks of the western side of Greensboro. He lives in the city, too. By bucking the will of his party, he risks getting primaried from the right. He may be more courageous than calculating.

Wade, also up for re-election in 2016, has fewer outs. She’s all but guaranteed to face strong opposition from the left in a general election, and dissatisfaction among a considerable cohort of local Republicans indicates a probable primary challenger as well. It might even be worse for her if her bill passes, but either way it will certainly be a campaign issue for anyone looking to take her seat.

And regardless, it will be an expensive election to win.

She raised about $100,000 to win in 2012, in a district that was hers for the taking. It took $195,000 in 2014. Most of it came out of Greensboro. After this, would they be willing to pay for her to run again?