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Cooper says he's planning to run for governor

From The Associated Press: North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said Saturday he’s planning to run for governor in 2016 and told Democratic Party activists that policies adopted this year by Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican legislative leaders have harmed the average state resident.

Cooper used his platform as a speaker at the state Democratic Party’s Western Gala in Asheville to attack Republicans, who with McCrory’s election last year controlled the state’s legislative and executive branches for the first time in more than a century.

Asked whether he planned to run for governor in three years, Cooper told the Asheville Citizen-Times: “It’s a little early to make a formal announcement, but certainly that’s in the plans.”

Candidate emerges to replace Foushee in House

A candidate has announced his interest in replacing Democrat Valerie Foushee in the state House: Drew Nelson, a lawyer who represents indigent clients in appellate court.

Earlier this month,first-term legislator Foushee was named to replace veteran lawmaker Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, who retired in August. Foushee’s House seat is now open and her replacement will be chosen by a committee of the Democratic Party.

The District 50 seat represents Durham and Orange counties.

Nelson is a North Carolina native who received his law degree at UNC-Chapel Hill and obtained a master’s degree from Duke. He is married to a doctor, and the family has lived in Orange and Durham counties for 16 years, according to his campaign website.

He’s a partner at Willis Johnson & Nelson in Raleigh. He says his political experience includes working on environmental issues and serving on former Rep. Joe Hackney’s staff.

Nelson, in a news release issued Thursday, said Republican “extreme policy changes” in education prompted him to seek the office.

“As the son of a North Carolina public school teacher and an elementary school principal, and as the parent of a child soon to be enrolled in public school, education is a critical issue driving my candidacy,” Nelson said.

Morning Memo: Another DHHS hire raises questions; FEC chides Tillis camp

ANOTHER HIRE RAISES QUESTIONS AT DHHS -- Unadvertised job goes to former tea party member: The state Department of Health and Human Services has filled a newly created $95,000 senior planner position with a Greenville woman who was a medical school lecturer for three years but who has been absent from the health care labor force since 2002.

Margaret "Mardy" Peal, 42, has been hired as part of the "Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina," Gov. Pat McCrory’s initiative to allow private insurance companies to run the government’s health care program for the poor in North Carolina.

Peal gave $1,250 to the McCrory campaign in 2012. She helped organize the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party in 2010. The job was not posted, which prevented others from applying. Department officials declined to provide a job description or list Peal’s duties. Read more here.

***More on Peal and news from the U.S. Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Who's ready for 2016? PPP poll puts Democrats ahead of McCrory

Less than a year into Gov. Pat McCrory's term, a new Democratic poll indicates that voters are looking for an alternative.

Public Policy Polling -- a Raleigh firm never shy about looking far ahead to the next hypothetical political contest -- tested the Republican governor against four Democrats and found the challengers all held an edge, though ever-so-slightly in certain cases.

Attorney General Roy Cooper shows the best in a potential 2016 matchup, topping McCrory by 6 percentage points. State Treasurer Janet Cowell, former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and state Sen. Josh Stein all edge the governor but within the margin of error. (From PPP: McCrory's down 48/42 to Cooper, 47/43 to Cowell, 45/42 to Meeker, and 44/42 to Stein.) The Sept. 6-9 poll has a margin of error of plus-or-minus four percent.

Morning Memo: In 2014 Senate salvo, Kay Hagan hits back at Phil Berger

KAY HAGAN CAMPAIGN HITS BACK: It seems like the 2014 U.S. Senate race is underway. Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan is responding to GOP Senate leader Phil Berger's new TV ad on voter ID. Berger is not an announced candidate but his TV ad sure makes it look like he is running -- hitting Hagan in the opening lines.

The Hagan campaign will release a point-by-point counter to the Berger ad Monday to highlight her opposition to voter ID and try to put focus on the other voting law changes deeper in the bill. “Kay is standing up for access to the ballot box for all voters because she believes this fundamental right shouldn’t be a political football,” said Preston Elliott, Hagan’s campaign manager, in a statement. “Phil Berger can self-promote all he wants, but at the end of the day, his disastrous record in the General Assembly and attempts to open up elections to corporate influence will speak for themselves. North Carolinians need leaders focused on jobs and rebooting the economy for middle class families, not politicians willing to mislead voters just to throw political potshots.”

VALERIE FOUSHEE TO REPLACE KINNAIRD: A Democratic Party committee chose first-term state Rep. Valerie Foushee of Chapel Hill on Sunday to fill former state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird’s vacant District 23 seat. Foushee thanked Democratic Party members and voters. The first thing the party needs to do is take back the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, she said to thunderous applause. “We have a lot of work to do,” said Foushee. “It’s already been expressed by every candidate. All of you read the papers, all of you are engaged, you know what we’re facing. I promise you I will continue to fight as I have fought. I will fight every day. You will hear from me. I will be present.” Read more here.

***Read more from the U.S. Senate campaign news and a look at political stories ahead this week below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

State Rep. Valerie Foushee makes bid to replace retiring Sen. Ellie Kinnaird

A first-term state lawmaker already is looking for a promotion. State Rep. Valerie Foushee, a Chapel Hill Democrat, announced Wednesday she would seek appointed to replace retiring state Sen. Ellie Kinnard in District 23.

Foushee won election to the legislature in November to a district that covers Orange and Durham counties. She maintained a low profile in her first session, often deferring interview requests and speaking little on the House floor -- a contrast to Kinnaird who is a vocal critic of the Republican-led Senate. Her prior experience includes the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board and the Orange County Commission, chairing both during her tenure.

Senate GOP raised big cash during legislative session

Senate Republicans out-raised their Democratic counterparts by more than 12 to 1 during the first half of 2013, and GOP senators had four times more cash remaining in their campaign accounts than Democrats as of June 30, an analysis by the Insider's Patrick Gannon shows.

Senate Republicans on average raised nearly $38,000 during the first six months of 2013, a figure boosted by the $475,000 raised by their leader, Sen. Phil Berger of Rockingham County. Democrats raised $5,800 on average, with Sen. Martin Nesbitt of Buncombe County leading that caucus by collecting about $26,600 in donations.

In all, 32 Republicans (fundraising totals for Sen. Dan Soucek weren't available) raised more than $1.2 million. The 17 Senate Democrats brought in $99,000 from Jan. 1 through June 30, according to campaign finance data filed with the State Board of Elections.

The numbers show the sitting GOP lawmakers with a sizable cash advantage early in the election cycle, which isn't unusual as donors typically gravitate to the political party that controls legislation.

Republicans haven't represented the people, House Democrats say in last presser

House Minority Leader Larry Hall on Friday said Republicans had not kept their promise of job creation this session, during the House Democratic Caucus’ last press conference of the year.

"We end this session knowing we did nothing to create jobs, we don't have that prosperity," he said. "We created a tax cut for the millionaires and raised the taxes on the least of these."

Caucus members rebuked the other party’s efforts, asserting that the state GOP has not adequately represented the real people of North Carolina.

House rule change prompted by Democrats entering Thom Tillis' office

An impromptu change to the House rules Thursday is prompting consternation among some Democrats, who say they are being unfairly targeted.

The new rule says no one can enter a lawmaker's office without permission. It doesn't apply to certain legislative staff, including cleaning and law enforcement, and provides an exception for the Rules Committee Chairman who enters with a legislative employee.

It came about after a handful of Democrats entered Speaker Thom Tillis' personal office to deliver a petition calling for a stop to the abortion bill.

NAACP, Democratic voters appeal redistricting ruling

The state NAACP, a group of Democratic voters and other voter-rights organizations are taking their fight against the legislative and congressional boundaries drawn by Republicans to the state’s highest court.

“We know, without a doubt that the battle for voting rights is one that must be won,” the Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP, said on the Wake County courthouse steps on Monday. “We know we’re in a battle for the ballot.”

Their notice of appeal comes two weeks after a panel of three Superior Court judges validated the legislative and congressional districts intended to be used through the 2020 elections. They had 30 days to decide whether to appeal to the N.C. Supreme Court. Read more here.

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