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Cooper changes his committee to make it more gubernatorial

In another sign that Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper is laying the ground work for a gubernatorial bid in 2016, he has officially changed the name of his political committee from Cooper for Attorney General to Cooper for North Carolina.

Cooper has stepped up his visibility and has been privately telling Democrats of his interest in challenging Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

Two Democrats have already announced, former state Rep. Ken Spaulding of Durham and former Chapel Hill town council member James Protzman.

First Democratic gubernatorial - yes gubernatorial -- forum to be held Saturday

This may set a record for early Democratic gubernatorial forums for the 2016 election, but the first one will be held Saturday, Sept. 7.

Declared gubernatorial candidates James Protzman and Kenneth Spaulding will speak at a Chatham County Democratic breakfast that begins 9 a.m. at Holland Chapel AME Zion Church in Apex. The keynote speaker is Chris Fitzsimon, founder and director of NC Policy Watch. Both Protzman, a former Chapel Hill councilman and business owner and Spaulding, a former state lawmaker, have announced their candidacies very early. Both hope to replace Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

Meeker floats gubernatorial balloon

Former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker acknowledged Wednesday he is thinking about running for governor in 2016.

Meeker told Dome he believes he is one of about a dozen Democrats with the background, contacts and potential to unseat first-term Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

He said he's considering a return to the campaign trail, but that no serious decisions would be made until after the 2014 mid-term elections. — Staff writer J. Andrew Curliss

Will Democratic gubernatorial candidates in cuffs become the new litmus test?

James Protzman, the founder of the blog BlueNC and a Democratic candidate for governor in 2016, plans to get arrested Monday night as part of the “Moral Monday'' protests at the Legislative Building.

“Everyone comes to Moral Monday with a unique set of concerns and demands,' Protzman said in a statement. “Mine are very specific. Republicans in North Carolina have rigged our elections through extreme gerrymandering, to the point that our government cannot be considered legitimate. To restore our democracy, lawmakers must redraw our legislative districts in time for the 2014 election cycle. Once we have new districts, members of the General Assembly must resign and stand for new elections.''

Morning Memo: Senate race takes shape, mass arrests continue

SENATE RACE TAKING SHAPE: A U.S. Senate race with national stakes is taking shape in North Carolina, with one Republican jumping in, one bowing out and a handful of others waiting in the wings. They’re aiming at Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, one of the GOP’s top targets in 2014. She’s one of seven Democratic senators in states carried last year by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Republicans call them the “Red State 7.” “If it’s not the Number One race, it’s top three for sure,” says Kevin McLaughlin, senior advisor to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “North Carolina is very, very ripe for the picking.” This weekend several announced and would-be candidates are expected to attend the state GOP convention, which begins Friday at the Charlotte Convention Center.

MORAL MONDAYS CONTINUE: A larger-than-ever crowd is expected at the statehouse Monday evening for the latest in the wave of civil disobedience protests leading to arrests at the legislature. James Protzman, a Democratic activist who says he will run against Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016, announced he will be among those arrested. Are they working? Read Rob Christensen's column below the jump.

***It's the second week of June and adjournment is not in sight. Get a legislative roundup and more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Education bills in House, Senate; film credits get scrutiny

WAS IT REALLY AN APOLOGY? Rep. Larry Pittman issued a letter of apology to House Speaker Thom Tillis. But did he apologize for what he said -- that the potential Republican candidate for U.S. Senate is thwarting gun legislation and other "constitutional conservative" measures -- or just the way he said it? Read it again: "While we do still have some disagreement about process, I have done damage to his reputation in a manner in which I did not consider at the time," Pittman wrote.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: Two major education bills in the legislature today: the House will consider a bill to limit pre-K enrollment and the Senate will hear a measure to overhaul how charter schools are regulated. The calendars are full of other measures, touching on everything from the environment to insurance.Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a National Day of Prayer service in Greenville at 12:15 p.m. and then tour the downtown Main Street minutes later. He also plans to attend the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame gala at 7 p.m.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Keep reading below for more on the questions surrounding Mel Watt's confirmation and other North Carolina political news and analysis.***

McCrory doing away with college athletics? No, just a spoof

A post on BlueNC, a liberal blog, sparked a confusing moment in Gov. Pat McCrory's press conference this morning.

James Protzman authored what he calls a "Blue Onion" post, a reference to the satirical, fake news sites The Onion, with a headline that read, "Breaking: McCrory to shut down all college athletics programs."

It's clearly a spoof -- but one TV reporter from an unknown outlet didn't get the joke. "Governor, could you please explain your position on doing away with athletics programs at UNC campuses?" the reporter asked McCrory.

"My position on doing away with ... I don't know what," McCrory said, clearly confused -- like the rest of the reporters and staff in the room.

Money for Marshall in Chapel Hill

James Protzman, a prominent Chapel Hill blogger, will hold a fundraiser for Democratic Senate candidate Elaine Marshall on Monday.

Protzman and his spouse, Jane Brown, a UNC-Chapel Hill professor, will hold the fundraiser in their Chapel Hill home. The price of admission ranges from $100 to $2,000, reports Rob Christensen.

Among those sponsoring the event at different levels are Ann and Lex Alexander, Jan Allen, Art Benavie and Marcy Lansman, Stan and Roberta Black, Eliska Chanlett, Joan and Ward Cates, JoAnne and Shelley Earp, Peter Filene and Erica Rothman, Tracey Fine, Ron and Cindy Geary, Rhonda Gibson, David Hsich and Priscilla Ching.

Also, Paul and Caroline Lindsay, John McGowan and Jane Danielewicz, Andy and Eliana Perrin, Barry Popkin, Maggie Scarborough, Jim and Yasmine White.

N.C. blogger turns to novel-writing

James ProtzmanOne of the state's most prolific bloggers has gone old-school.

Liberal blogger James Protzman, one of the founders of the influential progressive group blog BlueNC, has written a novel called "Jesus Swept."

The book focuses on the boundary between religion and politics in American life, something that Chapel Hill resident has often written about in a more sharp-tongued manner on his blog.

In a press release, Protzman said the novel is a response to the growth of cultural power among religious conservatives and a "challenge to those who believe their ideas about what is right and good are morally superior."

Drawing on the works of goofball rabble-rousers Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins, the novel centers on a 19-year-old who becomes "a new Jesus" after finding a silver bracelet at Myrtle Beach.

It is published through Kitsune Books of Florida and available at Protzman says he is at work at a second novel, to be called "Plaid."

First something-or-other

No, he won't be called "First Dude."

Bob Eaves, husband of Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue, is honored and excited about his new role as the governor's spouse. He will not, however, assume the title chosen by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's husband, Todd.

Perdue lightheartedly suggested a contest on the Internet to determine the title, Mark Johnson reports.

Dome would like to kickstart that contest right here. Readers, what should his title be?

The official title for now will continue to be "First Gentleman." A shorter version — "First Man" — has also been thrown around, as have the more casual "First Fella" and "First Guy." Brits (especially tabloid editors) might favor "First Lad," but that seems a bit odd here.

What about "First Bob"?

Update: BlueNC blogger James Protzman suggests "First Mate." Given Eastern North Carolina's nautical history, that has some nice historical resonance...

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