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Morning Memo: National Republicans launch billboards targeting Hagan

REPUBLICANS LAUNCH BILLBOARDS HITTING KAY HAGAN: The National Republican Senatorial Committee is debuting seven billboards across the state targeting U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's support for the federal health care law. Republicans are trying to make the case that Hagan, a Democrat facing re-election in 2014, accomplished nothing besides supporting Obamacare in the first five years of her term. (See a copy of the billboard here.)

"Kay Hagan promised North Carolinians that she would govern as a centrist, but instead has been a Democratic partisan, supporting the President's signature initiatives lock, stock and barrel," said Brook Hougesen, a NRSC spokeswoman.

The effort is designed to put the one-term incumbent -- who polls show is vulnerable -- on the defensive while the GOP struggles to find a dominant candidate. House Speaker Thom Tillis is the most prominent name in the race but other major Republicans are still considering whether to run. Cary physician Greg Brannon, a tea party candidate, is also making a bid. The billboards are located in Greensboro, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and the Raleigh-Durham area.

***More North Carolina political news -- including U.S. Senate campaign updates -- below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Governor throws ball, catches controversy

Gov. Pat McCrory decided Monday to throw the baseball around with one of his security guards, and even that became grist for controversy.

A Democratic group, called Progress NC, delivered 16,000 petitions to the governor's office on Monday criticizing the proposed cuts to education. The delegation, led by former Congressman Bob Etheridge and including a group of children, was told by an aide that he was busy in a meeting until 5 p.m.

But a short time after, one of the group took a picture of McCrory throwing the baseball around as his chief of staff, Thomas Stith looked on. The group said the photo was taken about 4:42 pm. The group soon distributed the picture with the headline:” Pat McCrory Throws Kids A Spit Ball. Governor Ducks Out of Capitol Office for A Game of Catch To Avoid Facing Children Petitioning Their Government.''

Democratic ol boy network formed to counter GOP

Call it the Democratic old boy and old girl network.

But a group of former Democratic officials have quietly put together a group to try to counter what they see as harmful policies of Republican control in Raleigh.

Called the Old North State Caucus of former elected officials, mainly former legislators, but also former judges, congressmen and local elected officials. The caucus does not have a political action committee, or a budget.

But it does have a speaker's bureau, and in recent weeks, it has been holding news conferences, speaking to groups, writing letters to editors.

Morning Memo: Is the Senate's tax plan a tax hike for many?

TAX PLAN COULD MEAN TAX HIKE IN LONG TERM: The majority of taxpayers likely would see a tax increase after the plan is fully implemented, according to early long-term projections from legislative fiscal researchers who analyzed the potential legislation – not a tax break as Senate Republican leaders suggested when announcing the plan this week.

A taxpayer with a federal adjusted gross income below $51,000 could pay an average $100 to $200 more in the 2017 tax year. Based on current tax brackets, 2.3 million taxpayers would fit that category, according to the analysis, while 1.8 million taxpayers could expect an average $300 to $3,000 tax cut that year. In announcing the plan Tuesday, Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, emphasized that the legislation was not yet finalized, but said the “vast majority,” or roughly two-thirds of taxpayers, would initially get a tax cut as a result of the legislation. (More below.)

***This is the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for North Carolina political news and analysis. Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com. And read more new details about the tax plan below.***

Etheridge: GOP power grab 'pretty frightening'

A legislative reunion in honor of the statehouse's 50th birthday brought former lawmakers out of the woodwork. And the difference between the gray-haired Democrats and the Republican young guns was visually apparent.

Former Congressman Bob Etheridge, a Democrat who served two-terms in the N.C. House, said the legislature of the past is nothing like the current one under Republican control. "A lot of folks who were here today remember the days when you would come to this building -- you may argue and we had Democrats and Republicans -- but we were doing things to make a difference to move North Carolina forward," he said. "And what I saw in the paper the other day, the (legislative) proposals give me reason to be very concerned."

Pittsboro mayor named new Democratic Party chairman

Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller was elected chairman of the N.C. Democratic Party over former congressman Bob Etheridge by a vote of 309-298.

Voller was the only candidate campaigning after former state senator Eric Mansfield dropped out of the race. Etheridge left the meeting before he was nominated and did not speak on his own behalf.

Etheridge supporters said the party needed someone who could raise money and who had statewide and national connections.

Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham urged voters to pass the baton to a new leader.

Parker and Etheridge may enter Democratic Party chairmanship race

With former Sen. Eric Mansfield's withdrawal from the Democratic Party chairmanship race, party figures have begun to scramble.

Embattled current chairman David Parker, who had announced he would not seek another term, has begun making calls about possibly serving another term.

Meanwhile, former Rep. Bob Etheridge, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor last year, is being recruited by some party leaders, to run for party chairman.

Etheridge's name was floated last spring, but was apparently torpedoed by then Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton who thought Etheridge's entrance in the race made an already difficult Democratic run that much more problematic.

Meanwhile, Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller may be in the strongest position, having campaigned aggressively for the post since late last year. This week he picked up the endorsement of Ben Chavis, the former national chairman of the NAACP.

UPDATE: Parker said he is not running for Democratic Party chair. He said he preside at the state Executive Committee meeting in Durham on Feb. 2 and hand over the gavel to the new chair.

Vilsack stumps in NC for Obama on Wednesday

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack will campaign across North Carolina on Wednesday for President Barack Obama's re-election.

Vilsack is scheduled to make appearances with former Congressman Bob Etheridges in Raleigh, Wilson and in Wilmington.

Obama campaign plans 150 watch parties tonight in NC

The Obama campaign will host more than 150 debate watch parties across North Carolina today, the campaign announced.

In Charlotte, the debate watch party will be headed by Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and Newton Massachusetts Mayor Setti Warren. In Raleigh, it will be headed by David Both, an employee laid off by a Bain-acquired firm. In Wilmington, former Congressman Bob Etheridge will preside.


Democrats go after Romney's "47 percent" remark

North Carolina Democrats went after GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney Tuesday, criticizing his comments that 47 percent of the public pay not taxes and view themselves as victims.

“This sort of disrespectful language has no place in a presidential campaign at all,” said Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx in a teleconference. “It's hard to be president of all the people when you you write off half of them.''

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