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Morning Memo: GOP not united on budget; Tillis explains abortion vote

REPUBLICANS SCRAMBLE TO PASS THEIR OWN BUDGET: Ten House Republicans voted against their party's $20.6 billion spending plan, including one of the chief budget writers. GOP leaders held an extra lengthy caucus meeting Tuesday to whip members to vote for the bill but hours before hand lobbyists reported that it looked like it could fail.

The House passed the budget on a 66-52 preliminary vote. … It’s somewhat unusual for the majority party to lose more than a handful of its members’ on a budget vote. It’s even rarer for a budget committee leader to vote against the budget as did Rep. Linda Johnson, a Kannapolis Republican.“I was not pleased with the education budget,” Johnson said. (More below.)

THOM TILLIS SETS HIS ABORTION VOTE STRAIGHT: Every move House Speaker Thom Tillis makes is viewed through the prism of his U.S. Senate campaign in 2014. And for weeks the Republican's rationale for supporting the House's much-debated abortion measure remained quiet. Asked about it Tuesday, Tillis said "it happens to be something that I support and I thought if I didn't, they'd say, 'Why didn't you?' so I thought would solve the question by making it very clear where I stood on the bill." It puts Tillis, who is considered a moderate Republican, in the same position as Rick Santorum. (Read why below.)

***Keep reading for more North Carolina political intelligence in today's Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Executive Mansion to turn blue Thursday night

The Executive Mansion will be illuminated in the color blue tonight to symbolize First Lady Ann McCrory's support of Down syndrome cognitive research.

McCrory is joining New Jersey's Pat Christie and other First Ladies around the country to bring attention to World Down Syndrome Day. The blue coloring is part of what is called “Light the Way” event.

“I am inspired by the advancement in research that will empower individuals with Down syndrome to reach their full potential,” the First Lady said in a statement.

In radio interview, McCrory defends wife's privacy

Gov. Pat McCrory defended his wife's privacy Thursday, saying "she has no interest in the spotlight."

In an interview with a Raleigh radio station, the Republican talked about his wife's private role as First Lady for the first time. Earlier this month, he declined to talk about his wife for a profile on Ann McCrory. "She refuses to talk to (the press)," McCrory said, touting that she's never been interviewed. "She says, 'That's your gig, I'll do my own thing.'"

What costume should Gov. Perdue wear for Halloween?

Gov. Bev Perdue and First Gentleman Bob Eaves are hosting trick-or-treaters this evening at the Executive Mansion but don't expect them to don a scary costume.

A governor's office spokeswoman says Perdue and Eaves will appear as themselves. (Insert your own punch line here.)

So don't expect anything like this costume (at right)  from former First Lady Mary Easley, submitted by reader Bob Wheeler who took his family by the mansion in 2007.

Maybe Perdue and Eaves just didn't have ideas for a costume.

Got an idea for them? Put it in the comments section and we'll update the list later today.

Man arrested trying to go at Gov's Mansion

A 21-year-old man was arrested overnight after police said he climbed over the wall surrounding the grounds of the Executive Mansion in downtown Raleigh.

Alan Connor Herndon, of 2132 Balboa Road in Raleigh, was charged with first-degree trespass, according to North Carolina State Capitol Police.

Herndon was intoxicated and told officers he was looking for a place to go to the bathroom, Deputy Chief Lenora Mitchell said.

The man was spotted by state troopers at the mansion, home to Gov. Bev Perdue, at about 2:10 a.m. Herndon is being held in the Wake County jail in lieu of $500 bail.

Executive Mansion gets its place in history

The governor's house now has it own historical highway marker.

The marker was erected this week outside the Executive Mansion. It recognizes the Victorian home on Blount Street that has served as the official residence for North Carolina governors since 1891. The marker was unveiled yesterday.

Here's your history lesson on the mansion, courtesy of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

Construction started in 1883 after Gov. Thomas Jarvis appealed to the legislature to build a suitable home. Since the end of the Civil War, governors had rented a house or stayed in a hotel. "It does not comport with the dignity of the State for the Governor to live in a hotel, where he is unable to dispense the hospitality incumbent upon him and due the state, to say nothing of the personal inconvenience to himself," Jarvis noted.

Of course, Jarvis never dreamed of a female governor living in Raleigh.

Perdue hosted party for inmates

Gov. Bev Perdue is taking flak over an annual holiday party for the inmates who work at the Executive Mansion.

WTVD-TV first reported that Perdue appeared at a holiday party at the mansion in which a group of 18-20 inmates, some convicted of murder, were in attendance.

The festive event is in contrast to Perdue's tough talk over a different group of inmates who are seeking release from their life sentences. Perdue has said those inmates, lifers convicted of violent offenses, are a danger to society.

"The important distinction is that the governor supports the system that reviews an inmate's record and makes a determination about his or her readiness to re-enter society," said Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson. "The court rulings would have allowed these people out without that review."

In October, two inmates got into an altercation at the mansion, Pearson said. They were immediately removed and have not been back.

"The trustees who work with the mansion are heavily supervised. They go through a rigorous selection process before they even get there," Pearson said. "Their presence at the mansion is a part of their rehab. They are learning important skills."

The inmates have been helping with the holiday season tours of the mansion during which 6,000 guests have been through the building, Pearson said. The tradition of throwing a party to thank the inmates for their work started in the 1980s.

The event didn't cost taxpayers anything. During the year, the mansion is available for private receptions and fees from those events paid for the party.

First gardener

Gov. Beverly Perdue did a little digging in the dirt between meetings today, planting a few collards outside the Executive Mansion.

The greens will be donated to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, reports Lynn Bonner. Cabbage is also going into the freshly tilled soil at the corner of Person and Jones streets.

The early-morning gardening publicized a national "Plant a Row for the Hungry" campaign, which encourages gardeners to plant extra food for donation.
Perdue's husband, Bob Eaves, an apparent speed-gardener, got quite a few plants in the ground.

The campaign runs until the end of the month, and collards take about 60 days to mature. But the plants do fine in cool weather, and Jill Staton Bullard, food shuttle CEO, said they'll be happy to take them when they're ready.


A governor and a gardener

Gov. Beverly Perdue says she is trying to set a good example by growing a garden on the grounds of the Executive Mansion.

"I'm not the best gardener in the world," Perdue confessed to a conference today at N.C. State University designed to encourage the consumption of more North Carolina-grown food, reports Rob Christensen.

Perdue doesn't have to be an expert gardener. Prison trustees assigned to the mansion in downtown Raleigh do most of the work in growing lettuce, cabbage and other foods.

But Perdue said she helped pick some strawberries from the garden last week.

Sewell among guests at Mansion

Gov. Beverly Perdue opened the doors of the Executive Mansion to some of her political supporters last week.

Among the invitees was a former Board of Transportation member who had made Perdue's path to the state's top job a bit more arduous, reports Dan Kane.

Louis W. Sewell Jr., a Perdue fundraiser, resigned from the board last fall after The News & Observer reported that in two instances Sewell had advocated for road projects near businesses that he or his son co-owned. He said in both cases he was not trying to enhance his property, but remedy road problems that were affecting general traffic.

Days after the report (and just before Sewell resigned), Perdue was unclear about whether she would attend a fundraiser Sewell was throwing on her behalf in Jacksonville.

When asked if she would reappoint Sewell to the board, Perdue said, "Lord have mercy. I'm trying to win the governor's race."

Sewell cancelled the fundraiser and resigned from the transportation board shortly after that.

Perdue has since changed board operations so that members can not approve road building contracts.

David Kochman, Perdue's communications director, declined to identify all of the roughly 25 people who attended the meeting on March 30. But he confirmed that Sewell and Lanny Wilson of Wilmington, another Board of Transportation member, were there.

More after the jump.

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