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Etheridge tours food banks

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge will tour food banks this week to promote part of the new farm bill, which he helped write in Congress.

Among the Lillington Democrat's stops will be the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle in Raleigh on Thursday, Barb Barrett reports.

The five-year bill includes billions of dollars for nutrition and food assistance programs, including $50 million this year alone to deal with emergency needs by food banks wrestling with increased food and gas prices.

President Bush vetoed the farm bill May 21, saying it did not do enough to reform subsidies to wealthy farmers. Congress now is working to override the veto.

Other stops on Etheridge’s tour include food banks and pantries in Clayton, Sanford and Olivia.

Conservative Union: Foxx, McHenry tops

The American Conservative Union ranked two North Carolina representatives tops.

U.S. Reps. Patrick McHenry and Virginia Foxx both scored 100 percent on the conservative group's annual Congressional ratings — two out of only 62 representatives to land among its "best and brightest" for the 2007 session.

At the same time, four Congressional Democrats — Reps. David Price, Brad Miller, Mel Watt and G.K. Butterfield — scored 0 percent, landing among the group's "worst of the worst."

The ratings were based on votes on a minimum wage hike, stem-cell research, the Iraq war, Amtrak funding, earmark reform, border security, support of Planned Parenthood and energy policy, among other things.

The rest of the delegation was in between. Among Republicans, Rep. Sue Myrick scored a 96, Rep. Howard Coble an 83, Rep. Robin Hayes a 79, and Rep. Walter Jones a 71. Among Democrats, Reps. Mike McIntyre and Heath Shuler, both Blue Dog Democrats, scored 44 and Rep. Bob Etheridge an 8.

Sens. Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole both scored a 92.

Dems host Johnson fundraiser

The state’s Democratic congressional delegation hosted a fundraiser this morning in Washington for Daniel Johnson, a candidate for the 10th Congressional District seat.

Johnson is challenging Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of Cherryville in November.

The fundraiser was held at Tortilla Coast, a popular restaurant about a block from the House row of office buildings on Capitol Hill. Most tickets ranged from $250 to $1,000 a plate, though House staffers could get in for $100, reports Barb Barrett.

The event was hosted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its chairman, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, along with U.S. Reps. David Price, Bob Etheridge, Mel Watt, Heath Shuler, Brad Miller and G.K. Butterfield.

Of Tar Heel representatives, only U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre’s name was omitted. Spokesman Dean Mitchell said McIntyre was a host, but that the invitation was sent before the office’s official approval. McIntyre was not able to attend.

State Republicans jumped on the fundraiser as proof that Johnson is a Washington-backed politician. GOP Chairwoman Linda Daves today wrote Johnson a letter:

Only a few days after issuing a patently false press release claiming that your pockets have not been stuffed with cash from Washington liberals and attacking Congressman McHenry for pointing that out, I am shocked and appalled to discover that you are in Washington today for a fundraiser hosted by several liberal, Washington politicians.

You owe Congressman McHenry and the people of Western North Carolina an apology.

Etheridge: Bush "all hat and no cattle"

As expected, President Bush vetoed the 2008 Farm Bill this afternoon, immediately unleashing criticism from some Capitol Hill Democrats.

“The president seems to be all hat and no cattle,” said Rep. Bob Etheridge, a Lillington Democrat who helped craft the bill’s final version, reports Barb Barrett. “By vetoing the farm bill the president is standing against rural America and families in need.”

The veto came as no surprise, with Bush saying all along that the five-year bill was too hefty and didn’t go far enough to reform subsidy payments to farmers.

Etheridge defended the bill, saying the “safety net” helps keep farmers afloat in uncertain times.

The House plans a veto override vote this afternoon. Both the House and the Senate passed the bill earlier this month with plenty of votes to override a presidential veto.

Clinton meeting postponed

Sen. Hillary Clinton postponed a planned meeting today with U.S. Reps. Mike McIntyre and Bob Etheridge, both of whom are still being wooed by the Democratic presidential candidates.

Etheridge meeting with Clinton

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge also is scheduled to meet with Hillary Clinton today.

The Lillington Democrat and U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton are the only two uncommitted Democrats in the Tar Heel delegation, Barb Barrett reports.

Earlier: McIntyre meets with Clinton; Etheridge meets with Barack Obama

McIntyre meeting with Clinton

U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre plans to meet today with Sen. Hillary Clinton as he continues to be wooed by the Democratic presidential candidates.

McIntyre and U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge are the only Democrats in North Carolina's congressional delegation who have yet to make endorsements in the race, reports Barb Barrett.

“I’m remaining uncommitted,” McIntyre said in an interview. “Both camps understand that. That doesn’t mean they’re not trying.”

McIntyre met twice with Sen. Barack Obama last Thursday, once as a member of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, once with other Democrats from North Carolina.

McIntyre, of Lumberton, said he talked with Obama about the importance of beach renourishment and dredging the intracoastal waterway, both issues that have not been high priorities for the Bush administration.

McIntyre said he thinks all the states and territories ought to have their chance to vote in primaries this year, a sentiment echoed by the Clinton camp.

“The superdelegates’ role is to broker the best nominee,” McIntyre said.

Etheridge still thinking about timeline

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge had this to say about his meeting last week with Barack Obama in Washington:

"I had a chance to listen to him. It was the first time to have a personal, face-to-face conversation with him. You can tell a lot about a person that way."

So what did Etheridge, a superdelegate, learn?

"He’s a good listener, and that's always healthy in a leader."

Etheridge, a Lillington Democrat, said he had spoken with Hillary Clinton previously. So when is he making an endorsement?

"I don’t know. I haven't laid out a timeline yet."

Previously: Etheridge is uncommitted, has no plans to endorse, wants process to work, will support eventual nominee.

Etheridge: I'll support nominee

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge will support the Democratic nominee.

A spokeswoman for the Lillington Democrat took exception to a recent Dome post that took a guess that he was not endorsing either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama because he does not want to be tied too closely to the nominee in a conservative district.

Joanne Peters noted that Etheridge endorsed John Edwards in 2007 and campaigned for him in Iowa. He also endorsed Edwards in 2004 and supported the Kerry-Edwards ticket that year.

"He's supported and campaigned with other Democratic candidates in the past and fully intends to support the Democratic nominee in 2008," she said.

She said Etheridge is not endorsing because he "wants the process to play out," but she would not say whether that meant he would announce after the final primary on June 3, before the national convention or after one of the candidates drops out.

There are gradations of support after all. For example, endorsing a candidate long before the primary. Endorsing a candidate shortly before a primary. Saying you'll vote for the winner of your district. And waiting until someone is the nominee to endorse them.

Etheridge also supported Al Gore in 2000, but went out of his way at a debate to say he wouldn't be "cowtied by any president." And Edwards, a native son and a candidate popular in rural areas, is a different situation entirely.

The Hamlet Superdelegates

To endorse or not to endorse?

That's the question for the five remaining uncommitted superdelegates from North Carolina in the presidential primary contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Here's a roundup of them and our best guess on why they haven't decided yet.

U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre: Met with Clinton Thursday and his district went for her narrowly. Told AP that superdelegates should "let the process work." Translation: Does not want to be tied to Democratic nominee in conservative district.

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge: Met with Obama Thursday and his district went for him substantially. Repeatedly says he has no plans for endorsement. Translation: Does not want to be tied to Democratic nominee in conservative district.

Carol Peterson, Buncombe County commissioner: County voted for Obama by double-digits. Willing to wait until the Democratic convention. Obama and Clinton have both called her personally. Translation: Enjoying the attention.

David Parker, Statesville attorney: Impressed with Obama; interested in economy. Concerned about racial inequality. Does not think superdelegates have to follow the wishes of voters. Willing to wait until convention. Translation: Enjoying the attention.

Muriel Offerman, Democratic National Committee: Concerned about racially lopsided victory of Obama in North Carolina. Met Clinton, Obama several times. Says she won't decide until all states have voted. Translation: Will announce after June 3.

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