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Morning Memo: Rural Center questions continue, First Lady steps out

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: In committees, a number of contentious measures are being considered for discussion only. The House Finance Committee will review a taxpayer bill of rights, known as TABOR, that would constitutionally limit state spending. The Senate Education Committee will look at a House-approved bill to give students with disabilities vouchers to attend private schools. Senate lawmakers will also hear a bill in the Finance Committee that critics argue would allow mega-dumps and attract out-of-state trash. Also, the House Commerce Committee will roll out a major bill on Gov. Pat McCrory's agenda to reorganize the state commerce department.

In a rare appearance, First Lady Ann McCrory will step into the spotlight and hold her first news conference to ask the Senate to pass a watered down measure to regulate so-called puppy mills. The House approved the bill but the Senate has sat on it for a month without action. Her event is at 3:30 p.m. at the mansion. Gov. McCrory will have breakfast with lawmakers and then host his education cabinet at 1 p.m.

RURAL CENTER UNDER FIRE: Several board members of the taxpayer-funded N.C. Rural Economic Development Center said this week they are concerned about practices brought to light in a recent News & Observer series and welcome additional oversight.Rural Center leaders, however, said the newspaper reports do not properly reflect the organization’s work.

***More on the Rural Center controversy -- and the N.C. Democratic Party troubles, as well as a headline only Asheville could do best -- below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: McCrory, Foxx square off as legislature takes fast track

UPDATED: IS IT MAYOR PAT OR GOVERNOR PAT? Gov. Pat McCrory told two city of Charlotte staff members this week that state money for the light-rail extension to UNC Charlotte could be at risk if the city builds a controversial streetcar, according to a memo sent Thursday. Without the N.C. Department of Transportation’s $250 million grant, the $1.1 billion Lynx Blue Line extension can’t be built. As Charlotte mayor, McCrory, a Republican, championed light rail, which was one of his signature accomplishments. But he vehemently disagrees with using city property tax dollars to build a streetcar, and used the meeting in Raleigh to relay a message to City Council, according to the memo.

FOXX 'OUTRAGED' OVER WHAT HE CALLS A THREAT: “It’s particularly alarming that he would choose to deliver messages to city staff, particularly messages that contain threats," said Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, a Democrat and potential challenger to McCrory in 2016. “He is governor of the state, and there are a host of issues – tax reform, health care. Why the governor would choose to place focus on a transit project, particularly one contained in a transit plan that he voted to implement makes no sense,” Foxx said.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo a tipsheet on N.C. politics. Click "Read More" for other headlines and news.***

Democratic convention makes NBC's top political story list

NBC News ranks the Democratic convention in Charlotte at the No. 2 political story in 2012 -- sitting behind only Mitt Romney's "47 percent" remark.

The reason from the story: "This year was another reminder that political conventions do matter in presidential contests. After the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C. -- which featured well-received speeches by First Lady Michelle Obama, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, former President Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama -- the Dem ticket got a noticeable bump in state and national polls. ...

Convention puts Charlotte at the top of the 2012 fundraising city list

If you needed further proof that the Democratic National Convention was a nonstop party, here it is. The 362 political fundraisers held in Charlotte during those four days drove the city to the No. 2 spot on the Sunlight Foundation's annual ranking of political fundraising cities.

The Tuesday and Wednesday of convention week turned out to be the busiest fundraising days of the entire year, according to the foundation, with 249 political parties between them.

Obama won't visit North Carolina before election, as campaign suggested

It's official: President Barack Obama will not return to North Carolina, as his campaign suggested he would do after canceling his stadium speech at the Democratic convention.

NBC News reported the president's final campaign schedule before Tuesday's election Thursday morning. "Thursday: Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado. Friday: Ohio. Saturday: Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia. Sunday: New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Colorado Monday: Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa."

No North Carolina. Obama hasn't visited the state since the Democratic convention, a major sign that the campaign isn't as invested in North Carolina as other states.

Morning Roundup: Democrats struggle to pay $10 million in convention debts

How do you pay the bills when the party’s over and the guests have gone? Democratic National Convention organizers are about to find out.

After struggling for more than a year to raise money – and ultimately coming up short – they face $10 million in debts and unpaid obligations, according to reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission. “This is a difficult debt to retire,” said Viveca Novak, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsive Politics. “If (President) Obama loses on Nov. 6, then very few people are going to want to give to this lingering debt from the convention.” Full story here.

More political headlines:

--As Mitt Romney's campaign shifts a staffer to Ohio, saying North Carolina is confidently red, the Obama campaign said rather than downsizing, it had in recent weeks added organizers. “This signals to North Carolina voters that the Romney campaign is taking their votes for granted,” said Cameron French, the chief spokesman for the state Obama campaign.

Morning Roundup: Young voters may swing election, early voting starts in N.C.

A wave of excited young voters helped lift President Barack Obama to a narrow victory in the state four years ago, but flagging support is now putting a repeat win in jeopardy. If Obama does end up losing North Carolina this election, it could be because of voters like Jennifer Bachelor.

An Elon University graduate, Bachelor cast her first vote for president for Obama, but she has agreed with his positions less and less as his term wore on. Her assessment of the president’s performance is so negative that the Raleigh resident watched the vice-presidential debate last week with other staunch backers of the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket at a GOP-sponsored party. Full story here.

More political headlines:

--Early voting starts today in North Carolina -- meaning everyday through Nov. 3 is election day. Find Triangle area voting sites here.

--Walter Dalton leveled a new ethics charge at GOP rival Pat McCrory in the debate. Read a fact-check here.

DNC host fundraisers fell $12.5 million short

The Charlotte host committee raising money for the Democratic National Convention came up about $12.5 million short of its goal, committee leaders said Wednesday, the day they were to file financial documents with the Federal Election Commission.

The committee was obligated to come up with $36.6 million to fund the convention proceedings. For the first time, the Democratic party imposed restrictions on where the money could come from, barring contributions from corporations and lobbyists.

Through cost-cutting, the host committee was able to get the convention budget down to $31.3 million, according to host committee CEO Dan Murrey. But fundraisers were only able to bring in $24.1 million, in cash and in-kind contributions.

Morning Roundup: Congressman Kissell refuses to debate GOP rival Hudson

Citing scheduling conflicts, U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, D-N.C., has declined to commit to a locally televised debate with Republican challenger Richard Hudson.

Hudson, in a statement released by his campaign, called on the Democratic congressman “to come out of hiding.” Full story here.

More political headlines:

--Get a rundown on the feisty second presidential debate and see a fact check on the candidates' statements. Students at Queens College gave the win to the president.

--Emulating President Barack Obama, Walter Dalton also took an aggressive stance while Pat McCrory bobbed and weaved in the governor's race debate. And see an excerpt from a key exchange.

Price: GOP put power ahead of country

CHARLOTTE – Congressman David Price said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told “a whopper” at the GOP convention when he said Republicans hoped Democratic President Barack Obama succeeded.

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