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Nonprofit backing Pat McCrory rebrands, plans first big-dollar event

UPDATED:The private nonprofit formed to advance Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's agenda is newly reorganized and poised to hold its first big-dollar member retreat next week at a swanky Greensboro resort.

The June 27-28 event at the Grandover Resort opens with a dinner and exclusive forum featuring McCrory and S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley. The minimum price for two tickets to the Thursday night activities is $1,000. The Friday agenda includes policy briefings and roundtable discussion with McCrory and other civic and business leaders, according to a fundraising invitation.

It costs $10,000 for two to attend the entire two-day event and benefits the Renew North Carolina Foundation, an entity created by key allies to the governor formerly known as the Foundation for North Carolina, which hosted its own inaugural ball. About 100 to 150 people are expected to attend, organizers said.

Peacock hires Team McCrory for Charlotte mayor's race

Apparently Edwin Peacock thinks Jack Hawke, a veteran GOP strateigst, has a touch with Charlotte mayors.

Peacock, a former Charlotte City Councilman, has hired Hawke to be his senior strategist in his campaign for Charlotte mayor. He is seeking to succeed Mayor Anthony Foxx who has been nominated by President Obama to be Transportation Secretary.

Hawke was chief strategist last year for the gubernatorial campaign of Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor. Peacock has hired much of the McCrory team, also hiring Russell Peck as his general consultant, and Bill Lee of Telopinion as his pollster.

Claude Pope Jr. seeks state GOP chair

Claude E. Pope Jr., a Brunswick County businessman and former Wake County Party chairman, announced his candidacy for state GOP Party chairman on Wednesday.

Pope, 52, hopes to succeed former Congressman Robin Hayes, when the state Republican convention meets in Charlotte June 7-9. Hayes announced earlier this week that he would not seek a second full term.

“I want to provide strong support for county parties,” Pope said in a statement. “Coming from that background, I know there are ways the county organizations can make a huge difference in how their local governments are run.''

He also said he intends to work closely with Gov. Pat McCrory, the legislature and other Republican office holders if elected.

Traditionally, governors have a large say in the selection in choosing the party chairman. McCrory has not voiced his preference, although Pope has close ties to McCrory and to key McCrory advisors such as Jack Hawke and budget director Art Pope.

Art Pope and Co. anchor McCrory transition

Governor-Elect Pat McCrory's transition team includes conservative stalwart and political contributor Art Pope and several others who worked at Pope-funded organizations.

Political operatiave Jack Hawke is a former president of the John W. Pope Civitas Institute. He's part of the transition team leadership.

Transition director Thomas Stith is a former Civitas Institute vice president.

Lindsey Wakely worked at the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, and is former legal counsel for Pope's company, Variety Wholesalers. She's the transition lawyer.

Pope is CEO and chairman of Variety Wholesalers and chairman and president of the John William Pope Foundation. He is a co-chairman overseeing transition operations.

Top LA media guru to handle McCrory TV

Pat McCrory has hired Fred Davis, a well-known Los Angeles media consultant with broad experience in North Carolina, to produce TV ads in his bid for governor.

Davis has produced TV ads in presidential campaigns for President George W.  Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, and for Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential effort. In North Carolina he handled Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole's two campaigns and Patrick Ballantine's 2004 gubernatorial campaign.

His campaigns have sometimes drawn controversy. His 2008 Dole ad criticizing Democrat Kay Hagan for attending a Boston fund raiser hosted by a couple promoting atheist causes drew sharp criticism from Hagan and other Democrats who said it unfairly suggested that Hagan was an atheist.

Davis also made the ad comparing Democratic candidate Barack Obama to celebrities Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. In 2002, Davis helped elect Republican Sonny Perdue governor of Georgia by casting Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes as a giant rat casting his shadow over the state.

State elections investigation into McCrory campaign clouded by questions of timing

UPDATED: The state board of elections is investigating Pat McCrory’s 2008 bid for governor more than 18 months after the state Democratic Party filed two complaints alleging violations of campaign finance laws.

Gary Bartlett, executive director of the elections board, cautioned that the inquiry so far is not implicating McCrory’s campaign in any wrongdoing, saying “nothing thus far (has) given us any pause.”

McCrory’s campaign sent a letter to state elections officials Friday questioning the timing of the investigation, given that the original complaints were filed in April 2010 and no action was taken until Oct. 31 this year.

“It’s a sad and desperate attempt to muddy the political waters and a waste of taxpayers’ money,” said campaign spokesman Brian Nick who called the complaints “frivolous and without merit.”

(Read full story here.)

The investigation into McCrory began as speculation swirled as Gov. Bev Perdue’s previous campaign faced an investigation involving unreported flights from donors and other campaign finance violations. A Wake County prosecutor indicted three Perdue associates earlier this week on criminal charges related to their work on the governor’s campaign.

Bartlett, a Democrat, said his office is looking into the McCrory complaint now because he wanted it complete before candidate filing for the governor’s race starts in early 2012. McCrory is the likely Republican Party nominee.

“We want to get it over with so it doesn’t look like ... it’s following up on the Perdue thing because it’s not,” Bartlett said.

The April 2010 complaints were filed by Andrew Whalen, a Democratic operative who at the time served as executive director for the state Democratic Party. The timing of the complaints themselves also raises questions, coming about 18 months after Perdue won the 2008 campaign but amid former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley’s legal troubles.

McCrory Committee Letter.pdf

McCrory building campaign team

As he explores a potential gubernatorial bid next year, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has put together a team of advisors to help with his effort.

They include Jack Hawke, the former state party chairman, who managed his 2008 campaign for governor. It also includes Jonathan Brooks, an Eastern North Carolina political consultant who has worked for the Senate campaigns of Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole, and for Congressman Walter Jones. And Brian Nick, a former top Dole aide.

Only Brooks is under contract right now, with Hawke and Nick volunteering their time, McCrory said. McCrory said he has not hired any major media consultants or pollsters.

Although McCrory has not announced his candidacy, he is traveling extensively around the state and widely expected to seek rematch with Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.

A poll commissioned for the N.C. Center for Voter Education last month  found McCrory leading Perdue by a 51 to 38 percent margin with 13 percent undecided..

Conducted Feb. 8-10 by 20/20 Insight Polling, the statewide poll of 600 registered North Carolina voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Conservative group makes big TV drop against McIntyre

Americans for Prosperity this morning began a $100,000 independent TV ad buy directed against 7th District Democratic Congressman Mike McIntyre.

The new TV ad ties McIntyre to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and says the $787 billion stimulus bill has been a bust. 

“They promised it would kick start the economy,” says the announcer. “It didn't. They promised it would lower unemployment. But we've lost 4 million more jobs.”

The ad asks what taxpayers have got in return from the Obama-Pelosi “stimulus boondoggle” that McIntyre voted for besides “bigger government. trillions in debt. millions in lost jobs.”

Americans for Prosperity is a national conservative organization, that is running a Novmber is Coming initiative to elect conservatives to office. Raleigh business executive Art Pope is one of four national directors of the group.

A long time political associate of Pope, former state Republican Party chairman Jack Hawke, is a key strategist for the campaign of McIntyre's opponent, Republican Ilario Pantano

Pantano's campaign announced Friday that it has raised $850,000 since entering the race in January including $464,000 in the last quarter.

But the question is whether Pantano's campaign has peaked too early.  The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee recently released a poll showing McIntyre building on his lead.

And the word on the street is that the Pantano campaign has been worried enough that it has been shopping around for a new media consultant for the final weeks of the campaign.

No pay raises for state employees

EMPLOYED IS THE NEW PAY RAISE: North Carolina's teachers and state employees can expect another year without a pay raise.

Gov. Bev Perdue said that, although salaries will remain flat in the coming budget year, she's aiming to pay back the 0.5 percent pay cut that state workers and teachers received last year in the form of a two-day furlough.

"There is no money for teacher or state employee raises," Perdue said in a recent interview. "I hope to find money to repay the furlough. Because I've been able to pay the bills, and I need to give them back their money the way I did local governments." (N&O)

BLOGGING TOO MUCH FOR HAWKE: Jack Hawke, a veteran political consultant and former N.C. Republican Party chairman, did something last week he said he hadn't done in 45 years — left a campaign.

Hawke was a top adviser to Tim D'Annunzio, one of six Republicans running for the 8th District congressional seat Democrat Larry Kissell holds.

Hawke said that he left in part over D'Annunzio's postings on the blog "Christ's War," which combines politics with biblical references and end-times theology. Hawke said he has repeatedly urged the candidate to take down the blog, only to see it reappear later. A recent post called for the abolition of much of the federal government. (Charlotte Observer)

TAFT DIES: The assault of State Board of Education member Kathy Taft became a homicide Tuesday when she succumbed to her injuries.

Emergency workers rushed Taft, 62, of Greenville, to WakeMed Raleigh Campus on Saturday morning after she was found at the home of tax lawyer John M. Geil. Taft's family issued a statement of sorrow and of support for Geil, who friends and neighbors have said was Taft's boyfriend. (N&O)

D'Annunzio lands ex-McCrory strategist

Republican Tim D'Annunzio, a wealthy Hoke County businessman running for Congress in Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell's district, has hired former N.C. Republican chairman Jack Hawke as a top strategist.

"It's obviously a wide-open race," Hawke said today. "Tim has the resources to be a formidable candidate."

D'Annunzio is one of at least five GOP candidates trying to unseat Kissell. So far, D'Annunzio has had the deepest pockets, Jim Morrill of The Charlotte Observer reports. He put $300,000 of his own money into the race shortly after announcing this fall.

Hawke was top strategist for Republican Pat McCrory's gubernatorial campaign last year. On Sunday D'Annunzio lost another former McCrory adviser when Chris Emanuel of Charlotte resigned as deputy campaign manager, citing "managerial differences."

Emanuel, meanwhile, was among more than a dozen veterans of the McCrory campaign who met for a holiday party last night at Charlotte's "Tavern on the Green." McCrory said it wasn't a preview of a possible 2012 race.

"I always said we'd stay together regardless of what happens in the future," he said.

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