Jorge Valencia

Capitol Reporter

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.

Ways to Connect

Photo: Gov. Pat McCrory
Jorge Valencia

Voters in North Carolina’s primary election this month will decide on a state plan to borrow $2 billion in bonds for investment in building and renovation projects. Gov. Pat McCrory in early 2015 asked legislators to put the plan on the ballot. The General Assembly approved a version of his proposal later in the year.

Bill Clinton
Jorge Valencia

Former President Bill Clinton gave speeches in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte on Monday, urging voters to support his wife Hillary and opening a week of heavy presidential campaigning in North Carolina.

Photo: Memorial for Akiel Denkins
Jorge Valencia/WUNC

A preliminary police report says a white Raleigh police officer fatally shot a black man during a struggle on Monday after the man pulled a gun from his waistband and reached toward the officer’s weapon. 

Senior officer D.C. Twiddy, a seven-year veteran of the force, was chasing 24-year-old Akiel Denkins when the two struggled behind a house in Southeast Raleigh, according to a preliminary report by Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown. She sent the report to the city manager on Thursday.

Photo: Memorial for Akiel Denkins
Jorge Valencia

Hundreds of people attended a vigil Monday night for a man who was shot and killed by a police officer in Southeast Raleigh.

Photo: The Four NC Democrats Running For US Senate
WRAL-TV

The four Democrats seeking to Represent North Carolina in the U.S. Senate differed on immigration policy, agreed on most other issues and generally avoided criticizing each other in a televised debate on Thursday night.

North Carolina General Assembly

North Carolina lawmakers met a Friday deadline to complete a court-ordered rewrite of the state's congressional voting maps. They also postponed the congressional primary until June 7. 

The new plans will move forward after the U.S. Supreme Court late Friday declined Republican lawmakers' request to stay the lower court order. Here are some of the key takeaways from the redesign:

Why did the General Assembly re-draw the maps?

Photo: Proposed legislative maps of 2016
North Carolina General Assembly

February 19 update:  Lawmakers gave final approval to the new maps on Friday.

North Carolina lawmakers are just steps away from rearranging the state’s congressional districts and eliminating runoff elections. The actions are at the behest of a federal court’s finding of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering in two of the state's congressional districts.

Photo: Sen. Bob Rucho, a Republican from Mecklenburg County
Jorge Valencia

Republican legislative leaders proposed a new outline for North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts on Wednesday, moving two incumbents out of districts they represent and likely pushing the primary elections for congress past the scheduled March 15 date.

Lawmakers, responding to a federal court ruling that said they had racially gerrymandered some congressional districts in 2011 and ordering them to draw new ones, presented maps that would rearrange almost all of the state’s voting lines. The proposal would keep the delegation’s 10-3 Republican majority.

An image of the 1st congressional district in NC
Wikipedia / Public Domain

North Carolina Republican legislators said on Tuesday that they want to keep racial considerations out of consideration when drawing new congressional district lines for the state, even as they hope the U.S. Supreme Court will issue an order telling them they can continue using current voting maps.

A Republican-led special redistricting committee voted to draw maps using political party information from elections since 2008 -- but not voters’ race. They will use the criteria to ensure Republicans keep their 10 to 3 majority in the state’s congressional delegation.

Photo: Federal judges have struck down North Carolina's 1st and 12th Congressional districts.
Wikipedia

North Carolina lawmakers heard from dozens of citizens on Monday, as they await a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether they will be required to immediately re-draw some of the state’s congressional district lines.

About 80 people signed up to speak to lawmakers during a five-hour meeting heard at the General Assembly building and five satellite locations from the mountains to the coast. Some did not answer when their names were called and inclement weather forced the cancelation of a site in Guilford County.

Craig Stephen Hicks at an April 6th court hearing.
Reema Khrais

The murder of three Muslim American students in Chapel Hill in February 2015 became world news as the victims’ families and many onlookers identified the shootings as an act of hatred against their religion.

Photo: Yusor, left, and Razan Abu-Salha at the beach
Razan Abu-Salha/ Instagram

Yusor and Razan Abu-Salha were like many young sisters. Yusor, 21, liked going to the beach. Razan, 19, liked recording five-second videos of her and friends and posting them on the Internet. And they were so close that in the first month after Yusor got married and moved from their family home, Razan drove 50 miles at least a half dozen times to visit.

Photo: Farris Barakat
Reema Khrais

When Deah Barakat was an undergraduate at NC State University, his father bought him a white house about five miles from campus. But Deah, who lived with his parents, didn’t move in: He rented out the house and collected rent.

Photo: Rosanell Eaton and Mary E. Perry
Jorge Valencia

Elderly minority people who are unfamiliar with North Carolina’s new photo identification requirement for voting are likely to not participate in national or local elections because they may find it difficult to obtain proper documentation to show at the ballot, according to testimony in federal court on Monday.

A picture of a voting sign.
Tom Arthur / Wikipedia

A federal judge in Winston-Salem began hearing arguments Monday in a case challenging North Carolina’s new voting law. It is the second time U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder has presided over a trial involving the controversial legislation. This week’s arguments deal with whether it is constitutional to ask people to show photo identification in order to vote, along with how state officials are educating voters about the new law.

Operation Desert Shield Saudi Arabia, Aug. 9, 1990
U.S. Army

North Carolina’s agency in charge of monuments is going to make a traveling exhibit about the state’s Persian Gulf War veterans and the 17 state residents who were killed in the war.

Gov. Pat McCrory gave the news on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the massive U.S.-led air campaign against Iraq that began Operation Desert Storm. The exhibit, which state officials said they expect to complete by the end of the summer, was in the making since almost the beginning of the war itself.

Two ads on NC's Controversial Voting Law
North Carolina Board of Elections, Democracy North Carolina

The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP complained this week that state officials are misleading voters with their educational campaign about the state’s controversial election law. The measure will require voting officials to ask voters for photo identification.

The NAACP argues the ads should inform voters that they can cast ballots "with or without a photo ID. The board of election’s posters and flyers say, “Most voters will need to show acceptable photo ID.”

Photo: Jim Rose, regional president of Yadkin Bank in Raleigh, speaks before a crowd at the launch of the Connect NC campaign
Jorge Valencia

Governor Pat McCrory made his first public speech for a bond referendum on Tuesday, urging North Carolina voters to approve $2 billion in borrowing for public service investments such as building new science education and research facilities on college campuses, new facilities for the National Guard, and sewage renovations in small towns.

Photo: North Carolina license plates
Flickr User Eugena Ossi

Almost two dozen laws will go into effect on Jan. 1, impacting issues including health, transportation and firearm ownership in North Carolina.

Chapel Hill mayor Pam Hemminger
Town of Chapel Hill

After the fatal shooting of a Chapel Hill toddler, Mayor Pam Hemminger says she wants local governments to be able to pass their own gun ordinances. 

Hemminger says state legislators should reverse a law that took away local authority to pass gun regulations, such as bans on concealed firearms in public parks.

"It takes away our feeling of safety," Hemminger says.

Photo: North Carolina Supreme Court
Giant Sloth / Flickr

The North Carolina Supreme Court has upheld the state’s congressional and legislative maps for a second time, ruling that Republican state lawmakers did not illegally consider race when they drew voting districts.

The high state court, divided along party lines in a 4-to-3 decision, found that Republican lawmakers used race as one of several factors in drawing the maps after they took control of the General Assembly in 2011.

A traffic stop in Fairfax County, Virginia
Fairfax Police Department

In 2009, a sheriff’s deputy in mostly rural Orange County pulled over slightly more than 100 drivers. In most cases, the deputy determined equipment in the driver’s vehicle was malfunctioning and in a few that the vehicle was traveling unsafely along the road. The deputy stopped drivers for reasons that starkly contrasted those of most Orange County deputies, who pulled over a majority for unsafe driving and a relative few for malfunctioning equipment.

Photo: A voting ballot
Flickr Creative Commons/ Ken Zirkel

A federal judge in Raleigh is hearing arguments this week on a case that challenges the legality of new electoral maps for the Wake County boards of commissioners and education. While several lawsuits have challenged the constitutionality of districts drawn by the Republican-majority General Assembly since 2011, this one focuses on the maps in only one county.

Photo: Pastors, rabbis, imams and dozens of people gathered Friday at the Raleigh Islamic Center for a prayer and a minute of silence for victims of recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., and Paris
Jorge Valencia

Earlier this week, a group of pastors and rabbis asked the imam at the Raleigh Islamic Center whether they would welcome a prayer outside of their building to show local support from other religious groups toward Muslims.

Chad Biggs (left), 35, and Chris Creech, 46, were the first gay couple to be wed in Wake County.
Jorge Valencia / WUNC

Three North Carolina couples have filed a suit challenging a state law that allows court officials to opt out of same-sex weddings for religious reasons, arguing the legislation illegally uses taxpayer money to favor a religious point of view and is intended to discriminate against a group.

Carmen Rodriguez, third from left, was one of six protesters who blocked traffic in front of governor's executive mansion
Jorge Valencia

When Carmen Rodriguez was 16, she was a high-achieving high school student in Mexico’s Oaxaca state. Her father, who owned a small construction company, provided for her and her siblings. She didn’t need to leave.

On Monday afternoon, Gov. Pat McCrory joined a few other Republican governors who wanted to close the door on refugees from Syria. The following morning, he appeared on Fox News and CNN. The chorus of governors was growing so loud that White House officials arranged a phone conference for Tuesday night.

Pat McCrory
Dave DeWitt

White House officials are scheduled to hold a conference call with governors on Tuesday night about Syrian refugees, as more than half of the country’s governors have said they will not welcome resettlement of Syrians in their states.

The call is in response to state leaders’ complaints that they do not have enough information on the vetting process of people being admitted into the country as refugees from the war in Syria, Gov. Pat McCrory told CNN today.

Mayor Pro-Tem Ann Howell was unseated in an election that was decided by one vote.
Town of Princeville

For years, Linda Joyner had been unsatisfied with the lack of recreational opportunities for children and teenagers in her small town in Eastern North Carolina. And she was unhappy about other things in the town of Princeville, population 2,000: the state government had taken over parts of the town administration, and the town did not have its own police department.
 

This year, she said, she got tired of hearing herself complain, registered as a candidate to the town’s Board of Commissioners, and knocked on more than 300 doors to ask people for her vote.

Mollie Young

The Republican majority in the North Carolina House of Representatives was often divided this year. In July, members met for hours behind closed doors and narrowly approved re-organizing the seats on the Greensboro City Council. In September, the 74 members of the Republican caucus were divided and eventually defeated a plan that would have overturned city and county nondiscrimination ordinances across the state.

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