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Some North Carolina lawmakers defer pay, Renee Ellmers refuses

UPDATE: Renee Ellmers reversed course and will decline her salary during shutdown. Read the latest here.

As some North Carolina congressional lawmakers defer pay during the shutdown, GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers is refusing to do so -- and her remarks are drawing the attention of an advocacy group.

"The thing of it is, I need my paycheck. That is the bottom line," Ellmers told WTVD, the Raleigh ABC station, Wednesday.

More than 70 congressional lawmakers are voluntarily not taking a salary during the partial government shutdown. Democrat David Price of Chapel Hill is donating his check to charity and Republican Robert Pittenger is returning it to the U.S. Treasury. Republicans George Holding, Virginia Foxx and Mark Meadows are not accepting their pay.

Phil Berger Jr. returns from Cuba

Phil Berger Jr. – son of state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger of Eden – has been increasingly visible this year, speaking out on such issues as capital punishment and home visits by prisoners. He is also on the board of the N.C. Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

That organization sent out a news release on Wednesday noting that Berger had recently been in Cuba to observe pre-trial hearings of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, at Guantanamo. He was chosen by the National District Attorney’s Association.

Berger, who is Rockingham County’s district attorney, has expressed an interest in running for congress if U.S. Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro retires. Coble is 82 and has been dealing with recent health issues.

Phil Berger Jr. observing 9/11 court hearings at Guantanamo Bay

Potential Congressional candidate Phil Berger Jr, the son of N.C. Senate leader, is in Cuba this week observing the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, at Guantanamo Bay.

The Greensboro News & Record reported Berger, the Rockingham County District Attorney, was selected to attend the trial by the National District Attorney's Association. Berger, a Republican, is the son of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and has expressed interest in running for Congress if Rep. Howard Coble retires.

Berger is staying at the Naval Based dubbed Camp Justice where the court hearings are being held, the newspaper reported. He is observing preliminary hearings and returns this weekend.

Top UNC official to run for Howard Coble's seat

Laura Fjeld, a former high-ranking university official, has filed for the congressional seat held by Republican U.S. Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro.

Fjeld spent the past five years as vice president and general counsel for the 17-campus University of North Carolina system. Before that she worked for two major law firms.

Throughout my thirty-two year career," Fjeld said in a statement, "I worked with large and small businesses that were creating jobs and growing out state's economy. Most recently, I worked with Republicans and Democrats to protect the quality of our state's public universities for this and future generations.''

"I have great optimism about our future in North Carolina, '' she said, " but partisan politics are toxic. I haven't created the problems in Washington D.C. -- but I will be part of the solution.''

McIntyre, Rouzer, Jones, Price, Holding, and Coble and fund raising

Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre has raised $354,448 during the first six months of the year, while his likely GOP opponent, David Rouzer has raised $145,182, according to campaign finance reports.

McIntyre, the 7th district congressman who survived a very close election last time had $383,067 on hand in his campaign kitty as of June 30th, while Rouzer, a former state senator, had $168,269 on hand.

Most of McIntyre's money($274,028) was raised from political action committees.

The Rouzer campaign noted that it out raised McIntyre in individual donations $112,819 to $78,520 during the second quarter.

Coble planning for re-election, but leaves retirement door open

He's 82 and plagued with recent health problems, but Republican Congressman Howard Coble is keeping his re-election chances alive even as potential GOP replacements circle. At the same time, he's leaving the door cracked for a possible retirement.

From Travis Fain at the Greensboro News-Record: "U.S. Rep. Howard Coble hasn’t made a final decision about re-election, but he’s planning a fundraiser in September, keeping an eye on his health, and he’s “on course” to seek a 16th congressional term, Coble said Wednesday.

"Coble, a Greensboro Republican whose 6th District seat represents a large swath of the northern Piedmont, said he has recovered from the unexplained dizzy spells that caused him to be hospitalized earlier this year, and he hasn’t missed any recent meetings because of them. “Right now we’re on course for running again, even though I have not made a final decision,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Coble, who is 82 and first won his seat in 1984, said his health would be a primary factor in the final decision. But it’s “not the whole thing,” he said. “Keep in mind, of course, that I’ve been up here for three decades,” he said. “That needs to be weighed in as well ... so stay tuned.” More here.

High Point businessman announces for Coble's House seat

High Point businessman Don Webb, a Republican, on Thursday announced that he would run for the seat held by veteran GOP Congressman Howard Coble.

Webb said he would offer a more conservative alternative to Coble, who he noted had voted to raise the debt ceiling during the past 29 years.

“Many Republicans say they are committed to cutting the size and scope of government,” Webb said in a statement. “Yet, year after year, the same people forget their commitments and instead, add burdens to citizens be refusing to lead this nation responsibly. It's time for a representative who will fight for less government control and more individual freedom.''

Webb's challenge comes at a time when there has been considerable speculation about whether Coble, who is 82 and who has had health problems, will seek another term. District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. has been looking at the 6th district race as has Mark Walker, a music minister from Greensboro.

Webb, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is a financial advisor and the manager of a local branch of a national wealth management institution. He is a member of the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority, the High Point University's Board of Visitors, and the High Point Regional Health Foundation Board.

How Ellmers, Jones, Holding, McIntyre are doing with their fund raising

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn, a potential U.S. Senate candidate next year, has not yet begun cranking up her money-raising operation.

She raised $97,797 in political contributions during the first quarter of the year, according to federal campaign reports. She had $133,586 on hand at the end of March. That is fine for a congresswoman seeking re-election, but not the kind of money associated with a Senate race.

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan raised $1.6 million during the first quarter and had $2.7 million on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton, who will likely face another tough re-election effort again next year, raised $118,779 in the first quarter and had $181,672 cash on hand.

Ellmers receives award from American Conservative Union

The American Conservative Union has named U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn one of its 2012 ACU Conservatives.

A whopping 91 percent of Ellmers' votes made the ACU happy, but she still fell short of its Defender of Liberty title which requires every vote on certain bills picked by ACU to match the organization's desires. ACU looks at votes on bills that "serve as a clear litmus test separating those representatives who defend liberty and liberal members who have turned their backs on our founding principles."

The ACU argues for limited government, individual liberty, free markets, a strong national defense and traditional values.

Other N.C. representatives who scored above 80 percent included Howard Coble of Greensboro, Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk, Patrick McHenry of Cherryville and Sue Myrick of Charlotte, who is now retired.

The ACU award comes the day after the Club for Growth — which supports limited growth and low taxes — tagged Ellmers as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) and put her on a a list of Republicans that scored below 70 percent on the club's scorecard.

Morning Memo: Who is McCrory? We still don't know

McCRORY REITERATES CAMPAIGN THEMES: In his first State of the State address, Gov. Pat McCrory, who has been in office six weeks, offered the broad outline of a legislative agenda that includes lower income tax rates, a revamped education system that uses technology in the classroom and a streamlined government that makes customer service its mission. “Achieving these goals will not be easy. ... But we will do it. We must do it,” said McCrory, who entered through the 11-foot golden doors into the House chamber. Republican lawmakers gathered for the joint legislative session frequently interrupted the 45-minute speech – the first by a GOP governor in 20 years – with applause and even hoots and hollers, giving the speech a pep rally feel at moments.

WHO IS McCRORY? WE STILL DON'T KNOW: North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s public image has yet to come into sharp focus during his first weeks in office, even as he presented his program Monday night to a joint session of the legislature, columnist Rob Christensen writes. Is he Charlotte Pat, the centrist mayor of North Carolina’s largest city who campaigned as someone able to work across party lines? Or is he more in line with the deep-seated conservatism that dominates the legislature and much of the Southern GOP? “The public hasn’t formed a really hard impression of Gov. McCrory yet,” said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University. “He certainly campaigned as a moderate, pragmatic-oriented, problem-solving executive-type who understands the importance of government-business partnerships.

Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- the State of the State edition. More analysis of the governor's speech below and a preview of today in politics.

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