A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Spotlight On: John Totten


John Totten said he often looks out for his friends and family by emailing them FactCheck.org articles.

When he came across a conservative group’s TV ad about North Carolina’s budget battle, Totten thought of a cousin who lives in that state and uploaded the video to Spin Detectors.

We found that Americans for Prosperity omitted some important information in its ad attacking the Democratic governor and praising the Republican-controlled state legislature. For example, the ad says the legislature added state funding for “2,000 more teachers” and that its budget “adds teachers.” But the legislature’s increased funding didn’t make up for the loss of federal money and discretionary state funds that local districts use to hire teachers. The state had a net loss of 900 teachers overall.

Totten, 65, of Port Charlotte, Fla., said he’s a registered Republican, although he’s probably voted for more Democrats than Republicans in the last 10 years.

“I’ve got no particular bent against Americans for Prosperity,” he said. “I see ads on the other side doing the same thing, and I also point those out. I don’t like to but I do. You don’t want your own team to be cheating. Whoever tells the lie or mischaracterizes the issue, that’s what I’m against — not a particular organization or person.”

Totten, who’s worked as an electrician and in construction most of his life, became politically active before he could vote, working on Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. He continued to volunteer for every Republican presidential nominee through George H. W. Bush.

Borrowing Ronald Reagan’s quote that he didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the party left him, Totten said the Republican Party abandoned him with a “sharp turn to the right.”

“As far as defense, I’m pretty much what you call a hawk,” Totten said. “On social issues, I’ve probably become more liberal over my lifetime. I’m for equal rights for everybody, regardless of gender and regardless of creed.”

– Ben Finley

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