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Morning Memo: Harris to enter Senate race; Black Caucus wants DHHS inquiry

MARK HARRIS TO MAKE U.S. SENATE BID OFFICIAL: Rev. Mark Harris plans to tell supporters Thursday that he’s decided to enter the race for Republican U.S. Senate nomination early next month, party sources told the Charlotte Observer. Harris, pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, has been on a "listening tour" around the state.

He’s expected to announce Oct. 2. Harris would join a list of GOP candidates that include House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius and Dr. Greg Brannon of Cary. The winner would face Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

WHERE CONGRESS STANDS ON SYRIA: An interactive graphic makes it easy to see where North Carolina’s congressional delegation -- and those in other states -- stand on the Syria question. Take a look here.

***Below in the Dome Morning Memo -- the latest on the DHHS salary controversy and state elections inquiry of a lawmaker’s campaign spending.***

Morning Memo: What Pat McCrory and Bev Perdue have in common

SENATE OVERRIDE VOTE EXPECTED: The state House on Tuesday took little more than half an hour to override the governor’s vetoes of two bills, on immigration and drug-testing welfare recipients. The resurrected legislation now passes to the Senate, which will vote Wednesday morning and is expected to easily override. Gov. Pat McCrory lobbied House members to sustain the vetoes to little success -- but he didn't try a similiar effort with lawmakers in the Senate, a chamber that he has been at odds with for most of the legislative session.

HOW PAT McCRORY AND BEV PERDUE ARE ALIKE: From Catawba College political expert Michael Bitzer: "What appears to be constant between the two governors is the distaste by independent voters. While (former Gov. Bev) Perdue faired worse earlier than (Gov. Pat) McCrory has, they both have reached a similar point of nearly 50 percent disapproval among independent voters. While the Perdue-McCrory gap is pretty noticeable among independents expressing their disapproval, the convergence in August, after the dust of the legislative sessions had settled, is pretty striking." See his analysis of polling results and the one chart that tells the McCrory story.

***Read more on the override votes in the House and where the N.C. delegation stands on Syria below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Another donor to Gov. Bev Perdue under investigation

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby is looking further into the case of a wealthy Democratic campaign donor who helped pay the salary of a staff member of former Gov. Bev Perdue's 2008 campaign in violation of state election laws.

An SBI investigator went before the Wake County grand jury to provide a sketch of a case against Charles Michael Fulenwider, a Morganton resident who provided $32,000 to Tryon Capital Ventures in Chapel Hill, to help pay the salary of Julie Sitton, a fundraiser for Perdue's campaign who was paid off the books, investigators contend.

The grand jury issued a presentment, stating that there was probable cause to believe Fulenwider broke campaign laws. The presentment is a procedure used occasionally to give prosecutors an idea whether they have a case strong enough for a possible indictment. 

Fulenwider, according to Willoughby, has been cooperative with investigators and prosecutors during a longrunning investigation into Perdue's campaign activities. Sitton and Peter Reichard, Perdue's former campaign finance chief and an executive with Tryon Capital Ventures, have already pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the case.

Senate advances bill to undo Dix lease

A bill that revokes Raleigh’s lease on the Dorothea Dix hospital property sailed through a Senate appropriations committee Thursday, with several legislators calling former Gov. Bev Perdue’s final major act “illegitimate.”

After a heated debate, the Republican-led committee approved the measure with a few Democrats dissenting. Supporters of the bill argue that the state signed away the property for less than it’s worth, and they want to craft a new lease with Raleigh that reserves some of the land for state offices.

“This was a lame-duck deal done by a lame-duck governor,” said Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Republican from Union County who co-sponsored the bill. “It was kind of an end run to the process. ... This is the point of the city taking property from state government – a power grab without question.” More here.

Morning Memo: Florida GOP governor takes N.C. Democrats approach

FLORIDA GOP GOV -- AN OBAMACARE HATER -- TAKES THE REP. INSKO APPROACH: That's right. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who first entered politics to fight the federal health care law, is proposing to take the money for Medicaid expansion for the first three years when Washington will pay the full cost. State Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat, proposed the same thing in North Carolina, but Republican lawmakers shot it down repeatedly. "That's just completely nonsensical and doesn't work," Republican Rep. Nelson Dollar said of Inkso's idea.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House is taking it easy today. A skeletal session with no recorded votes -- none until Tuesday, in fact. The Senate will convene for action at noon. But most the action will take place in the Commerce Committee where the bill to speed up and incentivize fracking with get a hearing. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events on his schedule. He leaves this evening for Washington to attend the National Governors Association and Republican Governors Association winter meetings. Wonder if McCrory will talk to Scott and Ohio Gov. John Kasich about how their recent decisions to expand Medicaid?

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more N.C. political news below.***

Zipper, former first dog of NC, has died

Dome's condolences go out to former Gov. Bev Perdue and her husband Bob Eaves.

The couple's Tibetan terrier died this week in New Bern, reports the New Bern Sun Journal.

Zipper was 7 1/2 and died after suffering a stroke, the paper reports. She had been suffering from lymphoma.

Eaves told the Sun Journal, Zipper enjoyed one final visit to the Trent River the evening before she died.

Zipper is survived by her mother, Dosie. Both dogs lived the high life in the Executive Mansion during Perdue's term.

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.'"

Morning Memo: 'Gov. Pay Raise', Sen. Hartsell face tough questions

GOV. PAY RAISE: The salary hikes Gov. Pay McCrory gave to his cabinet are stricking a chord. From N&O columnist Barry Saunders: If you saw our new governor live or on television banging away on a drum set with a band at Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre last week, you already know Ringo has nothing to worry about.

For further evidence that the governor is tone deaf, all you had to do was read the newspaper the next day and see that Gov. Pat, henceforth known as Gov. Pay Raise, McCrory bestowed sizable raises on the people closest to him while sprinkling a pittance upon those outside his inner circle – you know, the ones who do the actual work.

You are reading the Dome Morning Memo, an analysis of the day's political headlines. Read much more below. Thanks.

AHEAD THIS WEEK: The UNC system committee considering a new five-year plan meets Monday. The NAACP holds is own legislative briefing -- sure to be much different from the one Republicans will hold -- Tuesday to talk about poverty and economic justice.

Former Gov. Perdue to give UNC lecture on women in the media

Former Gov. Bev Perdue will give a lecture Jan. 17 at the UNC-Chapel Hill journalism school as part of the "Women in Media Leadership Series."

Perdue, the former Democratic governor who was no fan of the media, will give a brief talk and answer questions from students on stage. The 4 p.m. lecture will take place at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium in the FedEx Global Education Center on campus.

Memo offers a glance at N.C. budget picture

Just before she left office, former Gov. Bev Perdue issued a budget for the upcoming two-year cycle. It's a document that was required by law but was largely symbolic as she left office and handed control to Republican Pat McCrory.

How symbolic? The document itself is no longer available on the governor's Web site. Still, it did provide a preview about the shape of the state's finances approaching a new year, budgetwise, including that Perdue's team saw room for pay raises and other expansions that were off the table in the worst years. McCrory, in his first news conference as governor, also said the state is looking at a small surplus heading in to budget season.

A recent memo from one state budget guru, Dan Gerlach, who was former Gov. Mike Easley's budget czar, adds a similar view of the overall picture.

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