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NBC 17 reporter becoming McCrory's communications director

UPDATED: NBC 17 political reporter Kim Genardo is joining the governor's office as communications director.

The station made the announcement this morning. She replaces Chris Walker, who left after three months, citing family concerns. Gov. Pat McCrory's office made it official a few hours later. “Kim Genardo is a very talented professional who has a wealth of experience in media and covering state government,"McCrory said in a statement. "We are thrilled to have her as part of our team.”

Genardo, who starts her new job Wednesday, has been with the station for 15 years. She is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She will receive a $120,000 annual salary.

Media blogger Jim Romenesko is raising questions about the move, noting Genardo interviewed McCrory 10 days before the announcement.

Morning Memo: N.C. part of 'great gerrymander', GOP legislature pushes ahead

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: Monday legislative sessions are typically quiet but Republican lawmakers are using the first one this year to push two major proposals to overhaul unemployment benefits amid the state's $2.5 billion debt to the federal government (House) and block the expansion of Medicaid under the federal health care law (Senate). The floor action for both chambers starts at 7 p.m. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events today.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Republicans have the votes to pass the measure but the question is how big a fight Democrats will mount. The tone and strategy of the Democratic opposition will help define the partisan relations this legislative session and signal whether the minority party will acquiesce to GOP supermajorities or make their lives difficult.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo -- keep reading for more analysis and a N.C. political news digest. ***

McCrory's communications director leaving already

Less than a month into his administration, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is watching the departure of a key staffer, The Charlotte Observer's Jim Morrill reports Saturday.

Chris Walker, the governor's communications director, said Saturday he's leaving to return to his family in Nashville. He blamed the decision on the inability to sell his house in Tennessee as well as the pending arrival in April of his second child.

"This is just an unfortunate logistical challenge," Walker said. "Thankfully the governor was very understanding."

Walker said he'd remain in Raleigh while McCrory searches for a replacement. He intends to go back to consulting.

McCrory hires his press secretary from the Hill

Gov. Pat McCrory's press shop is adding to its ranks. The governor's office confirmed that Crystal Feldman, a spokeswoman for the House Resources Committee, will join the staff as press secretary next week.

Feldman, whose move was first reported by, worked on the committee, under Republican Chairman Doc Hastings of Washington state, for nearly two years. She previously served as a spokeswoman for the California Republican Party and started in politics at the Republican National Committee in 2008. Her Twitter account says she is a Duke basketball fanatic and a Georgetown Universitty graduate.

McCrory's communication's director is Chris Walker, a Romney campaign veteran. And his campaign press secretary Ricky Diaz is remaining on board to coordinate communications within state agencies.

McCrory picks 3 more cabinet members + 3 more staffers: Art Pope, Kieran Shanahan among them

Gov.-elect Pat McCrory announced three cabinet appointments and trio of key staff hires in a news conference Thursday. He named as his top budget official Art Pope, a conservative political financier and former state legislator. Pope will take a leave from his business interests, his foundation and from all public and nonprofit boards he serves on in order to assume the job, for which he will be a non-paid volunteer, McCrory said. UPDATED again.
1356045441 McCrory picks 3 more cabinet members + 3 more staffers: Art Pope, Kieran Shanahan among them The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Burr names new spokesman

Sen. Richard Burr will have a new spokesman next week.

Chris Walker, who has served as press secretary since late 2007, is leaving to work as communications director for former Sen. Bill Frist's education initiative, Tennessee SCORE.

A graduation of the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, Walker had worked for sen. Fred Thompson, at federal agencies and for the Republican National Committee before joining Burr's office.

Starting next week, David Ward will be Burr's spokesman.

Ward, a native of Raleigh and a fellow Wake Forest University alum, has worked with Walker on Burr's communications team.

In 2008, he was named one of the "50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill" by a local newspaper.

Anti-smoking group against alternative

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids opposes a bill from North Carolina's senators.

The anti-smoking advocacy group said this afternoon that a proposal from Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan to create a new agency to regulate tobacco falls short.

The two senators proposed the bill as an alternative to legislation currently working its way through Congress that would give the Food and Drug Administration regulatory authority over tobacco.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said that the Burr-Hagan bill would create an unnecessary new agency without experience in tobacco, tie the hands of regulators and create loopholes for tobacco companies.

"Congress should not be distracted by this weak legislation," he said in a statement.

Chris Walker, a spokesman for Burr, said that he hopes lawmakers and other groups will seriously consider the bill, which was introduced today.

"I'm curious if they've even had a chance to read it," he said.

Burr's Web site flaw cleared up

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr's team works fast.

Earlier this afternoon, Dome briefly mentioned that the design of the Winston-Salem Republican's "Constituent Services" page on his Web site was flawed.

A large blank spot on the page made it look like nothing was on the page, even though Burr had several links for such things as requesting a flag or learning about internships.

(To be clear: This is nothing like the spelling snafu that slammed Pat McCrory. The links were there, but the page was hard to navigate.) 

In typical Washington fashion, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pounced on the rather minor flaw even as Burr's team quickly fixed the problem.

"Based on the number of tour and flag requests the office has received, as well as requests for assistance with federal grants and a surge in applications for summer internships, North Carolinians appear to have had little trouble navigating the Constituent Services sections of the website," said spokesman Chris Walker in an e-mail.

He said they fixed the glitch to help Dome and others better navigate the site in the future. 

Burr to visit Guantanamo Bay

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is going to Guantanamo Monday.

The Winston-Salem Republican will visit the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba that currently holds about 245 men on suspicion of terrorism.

He'll be joined on the day-long visit by David Vitter of Louisiana, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is organizing the trip.

President Obama signed an executive order calling for the closure of the prison within a year.

Spokesman Chris Walker said Burr wants to understand the "facts on the ground" before making a final decision on his thoughts on Obama's order.

"So far, he's unconvinced that moving trained terrorists to the U.S. is in the best national security interests," he said.  

Concealed guns now OK in national parks

Residents with concealed weapons permits can now carry their guns into Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Smoky Mountains National Park.

The U.S. Department of Interior issued new rules today allowing guns into national parks and wildlife refuges if residents also have concealed weapons permits in the state where the parks are located.
Previous regulations prevented firearms in national parks, even when a carrier held a concealed weapon permit, Barb Barrett reports.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican and a hunter, was among a bipartisan group of lawmakers pushing for change. He had co-sponsored legislation that would have allowed guns in parks.

"This is just to allow law-abiding citizens to continue to carry their weapon while they're in the national park, when the state allows them to carry anyway," said Burr spokesman Chris Walker.

The new rules do not allow target practice or the carrying of weapons into federal buildings.

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