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The "influencers"

Campaigns & Elections, a trade magazine for politicos, named the top "political influencers" in its latest edition. Ten from each state made it to the list.

Five Republicans and five Democrats, a mix of North Carolina lobbyists and campaign consultants, got the nod.

The five Republicans: John Davis of John Davis Consulting; Tom Fetzer, lobbyist and former Raleigh mayor and state GOP chairman; lobbyist Dana Simpson; political consultant Carter Wrenn; and political consultant Chris Sinclair. Davis is actually unaffiliated.

The five Democrats: Political consultant Brad Crone; consultant Mike Davis; strategist Scott Falmlen, a former state Democratic Party executive director; lobbyist Bruce Thompson; and Andrew Whalen, consultant for the Blue Dog Coalition and a former state Democratic Party executive director.

Blue Dog Democrats targeted by robo calls

The Blue Dog Democrats, including North Carolina's Heath Shuler and Mike McIntyre, say they are about to be hit by recorded messages criticizing them for their recent tax votes.

“The National Republican Congressional Committee will begin bombarding homes with robo-calls, just days before Christmas and on the second day of Hanukkah, peddling their dishonest spin about why millions of America's working families are facing a tax increase beginning January 1st,” said  a memo distributed to reporters by Andrew Whalen of the Blue Dog PAC.

Whalen writes that “Blue Dogs stand with the overwhelming bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate ready to protect working families from a tax increase. House Republicans, their Tea Party freshmen, and commitment to ideology rather than American families are to blame for this looming tax increase.”

Whalen said the calls are also going into districts of Reps. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Ben Chandler of Kentucky, Jim Costa of California and Collin Peterson of Minnesota.

Shuler and McIntyre are high on the Republican list for defeat in the 2012.

Whalen to run Blue Dog Democratic operation

Former state Democratic executive director Andrew Whalen will try to help the Blue Dog Democrats make a come back in 2012.

Whalen, a political consultant based in Raleigh, will run the Blue Dog's political committee, trying to elect more moderate Democrats.

Blue Dog Democrats picked up seats across the country during the 2006 and 2008 elections but suffered major losses during the Republican sweep in 2010.

There are now 25 members of the Blue Dog Coalition in Congress including North Carolina's Health Shuler and Mike McIntyre.  The group, which is co-chaired by Shuler, was formed in 1995. They are focused on policies advocating fiscal restraint and a strong national defense.

Among other goals, said Whalen, was to engage more moderates in the political process.

“The majority of the people out there don't get involved on a day-to-day basis,” Whalen said. “We are going to try to engage some of those voters; let them know who the Blue Dogs are, what they are doing and what actions they are taking to end the partisan gridlock.”

This is the first time, Whalen said, the Blue Dogs have tried to ramp up their operation by hiring a staff member.

Whalen said he would give up his position as director of Shuler's Third and Long PAC.

“I am thrilled to have Andrew in this position with the Blue Dogs as we move toward the 2012 elections,” Shuler said in a statement. “He will be an invaluable resource not just to my re-election efforts, but to all the Blue Dogs running across the country. He knows how to communicate with voters and win in the tough districts Blue Dogs represent.”

Democratic Party executive director leaves for Shuler PAC

Andrew Whalen, executive director of the state Democratic Party, is going back to work for U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler.

Whalen was Shuler's deputy campaign manager in 2006 and his campaign manager in 2008. He'll take over as executive director of the former NFL quarterback's PAC, 3rd and Long, overseeing fundraising and Shuler's political activities. Whalen will also be a part-time "senior adviser" in the Washington office. His salary will be paid by the PAC.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working in North Carolina, while also affecting the national political discourse and helping Democrats retake the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives by communicating the message of the Democratic Party to independent voters throughout the country,” Whalen said in a statement.

Shuler has leadership ambitions. He challenged U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi for minority leader last month.

Whalen leaves at the end of the year. Party Chairman David Young announced his decision to leave that job soon after the November elections, when Democrats lost both the state House and Senate.

Democrats announce boycott against Pope stores

The state Democratic Party today called for a boycott of the stores owned by Raleigh businessman Art Pope to protest what they call his “corporate takeover of our elections.”

At a news conference at party headquarters, Andrew Whalen,  the Democrats' executive director, said Pope's company, Variety Wholesalers, had helped finance three independent committees in an effort to influence 20 legislative races in 48 counties.

“Pope's company, Variety Wholesalers, has directed hundreds of thousands of dollars – profits taken from hard-working North Carolinians who shop at his stores – to fund organizations that attack Democratic candidates,” Whalen said.

He said Pope is “an ultra right wing political operative” pushing to dismantle an agenda that gives protections to many working people and provides a safety net for people down on their luck.

The Democrats plan to list the names and locations of Roses, Maxway, Super Dollar, Value Mart and Super 10 Stores in North Carolina on their website and also send the information in an e-mail to 50,000 Democrats.

Pope said he doubted the boycott would work.

“The Republicans believe we will prevail by having better qualified candidates and being right on the issues,” Pope said Tuesday. “The conservative policy groups will continue to set forth proposals they think will improve the lives of North Carolina families.”

“The Democratic Party, rather than engage in that debate, wants to threaten people with economic retaliation to shut them up,” Pope said. “I will not be shut up.”

Democratic staffer's good humor praised by GOP chair

At the end of a media conference at Republican headquarters Tuesday, party chairman Tom Fetzer took the unusual step of calling up to the podium a young Democrat tasked with going to GOP events with a video camera.

Adrian Ortega smiled uncomfortably as Fetzer praised his work ethic and good humor.

"It takes a unique personality to go into the lion's den," the GOP chairman said, before adding that the opposing party shouldn't be so stingy when supporting its staffer.

Fetzer recounted how Ortega was at a Republican event in the mountains, drove home to Raleigh that night and then returned back to the western part of the state again the following day for another GOP rally.

"The milage alone should have paid for a hotel room," Fetzer said.

Both parties employ staffers, known as trackers, to follow around the opposition in the hope of capturing an embarrassing gaffe on video.

Andrew Whalen, the executive director of N.C. Democratic Party, agreed with Fetzer's assessment of Ortega's work. A former college intern, Ortega was added to the party's paid staff last summer, Whalen said,

"He is a fantastic employee and we are glad to have him," Whalen said.

After extolling his virtues on Tuesday, Fetzer gave Ortega a small gift — a red GOP beer koozie featuring a the party's elephant logo.

"I think you might need an adult beverage come election night," Fetzer quipped.

Here comes the Democratic spin

During the first Senate debate, the Republican spin machine was working overtime, declaring that Republican Sen. Richard Burr had trounced Democrat Elaine Marshall.

But the Democrats were silent.

But after the second debate Wednesday night, it was the Democratic spin machine that kicked in.

“This evening's debate gave North Carolina voters a clear choice between a candidate who would move the state forward, and an entrenched incumbent who offers only more of the same failed policies of the past,” said the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Andrew Whalen, the executive director of the state Democratic Party, said Marshall showed why “we need her strong voice in the U.S. Senate fighting for fair trade policies that protect American jobs and to hold Wall Street bankers accountable.”

GOP and Dems bicker over Hoyle

State Republican Chairman Tom Fetzer accused Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue of cronyism in appointing Democratic state Sen. David Hoyle as her new revenue secretary.

Fetzer questioned whether Hoyle, the co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was best choice because of increases in the state budget.

“Since Sen. Hoyle was elected, the state budget and increased taxes have become a financial burden on North Carolina taxpayers, and under his leadership, the state has fallen into an economic quagmire,” Fetzer said in a statement released after a news conference.

Andrew Whalen, the state Democratic Party executive, called Fetzer's attack “pathetic."

“Senator Hoyle is recognized, trusted and proven leader when it comes to fostering an environment that promotes business growth,” Whalen said.

Whalen said with Hoyle's help, North Carolina has been recognized as one of the best states for business development.

Burr assailed for donations from Texas businessmen

The Democratic Party is calling on Republican Sen. Richard Burr to return $9,600 in campaign contributions from two leading executives of a Texas-based tax firm being prosecuted for deceptive trade practices.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott charged TaxMasters and Chief Executive officer Patrick Cox with violating the state's consumer protections law, after receiving more than 1,000 complaints from customers who said they had been deceived or lost money.

Cox and Alex Clamon, the company's vice president, both donated $4,800 to Burr's re-election campaign during a Houston fundraiser in February, reports Rob Christensen. They have also contributed to many other Republican candidates.

“These individuals have been charged with stealing money from hard-working families,” said Andrew Whalen, the state Democratic Party's executive director. “They've used that ill-gotten money to fund racing teams and Senator Burr's campaign. It's despicable. Burr should immediately return the $9,600 he's received from the management of this firm to show that he does not condone this type of consumer fraud.”

The Burr campaign however, was not inclined to act immediately.

“We still live in an America where people are innocent until proven otherwise,” said Samantha Smith, Burr's campaign spokeswoman. “And if found guilty, the contributions will be returned.”

“Given the North Carolina Democratic Party's track record of donors, they are in no position to make such claims and should hold themselves to the same standard,” Smith added.

Dems try to draw complicated lines of conspiracy

The political party wars continue to be fought at the complaint box at the State Board of Elections.

Democratic Party chairman Andrew Whalen filed a complaint Thursday that accuses Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory of coordinating with an independent committee of the Republican Governors Association, Ben Niolet reports. To make his case, Whalen called reporters to a news conference where he showed off a complex flow chart that attempts to lay out connections between donors to the committee and Richard Hudson, McCrory’s campaign manager.

The chart and the complaint includes no specific allegations that the McCrory campaign solicited or coordinated with the PAC, which would be a violation of state law.

"This is baseless and an absurd accusation," Hudson said, noting that the purported connections, many of which could be drawn between any political operative. "I can show you seven degrees of separation between Kevin Bacon and me, but that doesn’t mean I starred in 'Footloose.'"

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