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These fact checks of North Carolina politics are a collaboration between PolitiFact and WRAL. You can hear them Wednesdays on WFAE's Morning Edition.

Fact Check: What Happens When Republican Group's Claim On Sen. Jeff Jackson's Filibuster Stance Goes Through The Flip-O-Meter?

Jeff Jackson
@JeffJacksonNC
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Jeff Jackson speaks to a crowd at a campaign stop in New Hanover County in March.

It's time now for a fact check of North Carolina politics. This week, we're looking at next year's race for U.S. Senate. The National Republican Senatorial Committee said in a press release this month that Democratic candidate and current state Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte has flip-flopped on his view of abolishing the filibuster. Joining us to assess that is WRAL's Paul Specht.

Marshall Terry: First Paul, the filibuster is a hot topic of discussion on Capitol Hill right now. Why is that?

Paul Specht: Well, that's because Democrats control Congress and they have the White House, but their majority is narrow. So someone could use the filibuster to sort of gum up their plans for passing their agenda -- all these things they campaigned on. First it was the stimulus. Now they're trying to pass new rules for voting.

And so if someone uses the filibuster, which is sort of a big term to describe a rule senators can use to sort of just stall — the filibuster is a stalling tactic. In order to end someone's filibuster, you basically need 60 votes, and Democrats don't have that.

So that's where they are. They're planning to pass their agenda this year and next before the midterm elections. And they're sitting here wondering, "What will we do if Republicans filibuster and then we don't have the 60 votes to end it?"

Terry: OK, so now on to Jeff Jackson. What has he said about where he stands on the filibuster?

Specht: Now, state Sen. Jackson was first asked about this back in January. He was on "Capital Tonight" and the anchor, Tim Boyum, asked him, you know, should it survive? And Jackson said, and I quote, "It's completely dependent on whether or not Sen. Mitch McConnell chooses to act in a responsible way." He goes on to say that if McConnell uses it to block legislation, then he says, "It's gone.". So it's clear that Jackson is a little skeptical about Mitch McConnell, but his opinion hinges on what McConnell does.

Now, fast-forward to April 8. Jackson reads a story in The Washington Post that says West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat considered a swing vote, says he will under no circumstance even consider reforming the filibuster. That's when Jackson steps in and calls Manchin's position "reckless," accuses him of giving up here at the start, he says, and that Democrats "have to be able to deliver on things that matter to people."

The NRSC saw Jackson's tweets on April 8 as evidence that he's speaking up about it, that he's turned against it. When we asked Jackson about this, he says nothing has changed. His view of the filibuster remains the same. He is "filibuster skeptical."

Terry: Now, the press release from the National Republican Senatorial Committee also mentions fellow Democratic Senate candidate Erica Smith, saying that Smith got Jackson to flip-flop on the filibuster in under a month. What's the committee talking about there?

Specht: There was a story in Politico in March that talked to Democrats across the country, and one of them said that killing the filibuster, abolishing it, is the new litmus test for Democratic candidates. And in that story, Jackson describes himself as "filibuster skeptical," saying, you know, sort of taking out this lukewarm position, this wait-and-see approach.

Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent in this U.S. Senate primary race, Erica Smith, says that she opposes the filibuster. She is willing to go that far and say, let's do away with it.

Now, there was a poll that came out that showed Smith and Jackson not far apart. And so the NRSC is suggesting here, hey, this story came out and then this poll came out. And so Jackson is reacting to that. That's their claim with that press release.

Terry: You reached out to the committee about this press release. What did it say?

Specht: They thought it was obvious. They pointed us to that Spectrum News interview. They pointed to the poll with Jackson and Smith, and then they pointed to Jackson's tweets and said, hey, you know, it's obvious he's gone from a pro-filibuster position to an anti-filibuster position.

Terry: How did you rate that claim?

Specht: We put this claim through the "Flip-O-Meter" because whenever anyone is accused of flip-flopping, that's a very specific term. And it's a very dangerous thing. If you're a politician and you're found to have flip-flopped on something? People can hold that against you for years. And so we have a meter just for this. It's not the "Truth-O-Meter" that judges things on whether they're true, false or somewhere in between. We have a "Flip-O-Meter" that determines whether or not people have done a full flip-flop, a half flip or no flip at all.

And in this case, we did not see any clear-cut evidence of a flip. So Jackson here on our Flip-O- Meter, it's a "no flip."

Terry: All right, Paul, thank you.

Specht: Thank you.

These fact checks are a collaboration between PolitiFact and WRAL. You can hear them Wednesdays on WFAE's Morning Edition. Do you want to know more about politics in North Carolina? Sign up here to have WFAE's weekly Inside Politics newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.