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McCrory orders flags lowered for Preston

Gov. Pat McCrory on Friday ordered all the North Carolina flags on state buildings flown at half-staff in honor of former Sen. Jean Preston, who died on Thursday from complications due to a fall.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jean Preston,” McCrory is quoted as saying in a statement released by the state Department of Administration.

“She and I became very good friends over the years, and I will miss her.” Preston, 77, served seven terms in the state House and three in the Senate before she retired last year. She represented Carteret, Craven and Pamlico counties.

A funeral service for her will be held Monday.

Former Sen. Jean Preston has died

UPDATED:Former state Sen. Jean Preston, 77, who retired in 2012, died Wednesday, the opening day of the new legislative session. The Republican from Emerald Isle suffered a fall while on vacation in Connecticut and died from complications, according to a statement from Senate leader Phil Berger's office. She served seven terms in the House and three in the Senate before stepping down in 2012.

Berger, the Senate President Pro Tem, called Preston"a pioneer in the field of special education who dedicated her life to ensuring our children have the brightest future possible."

Newt picks up NC endorsements

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may have had a disappointing night on Tuesday in Alabama and Mississippi, but his campaign is pushing forward in North Carolina.

This morning the campaign released the endorsements of 10 Tar Heel lawmakers.

They are Sen. Jean Preston of  Emerald Isle, the Joint Republican Caucus leader, Rep. Harold Brubaker of Asheboro,  a former House Speaker, Rep. Julia Howard of Mocksville Rep. William McGee of Clemmons, Rep. Mitchell Setzer of Catawba, Rep. Carolyn Justice of Hampstead, Rep. Marilyn Avila of Raleigh, Rep. Larry Brown of Kernersville, Rep. George Cleveland of Jacksonville and Rep. Roger West of Marble.

Jean Preston not seeking re-election

State Sen. Jean Preston,who has served in the legislature for two decades, announced today, she will not seek re-election.

Preston, 76, a retired teacher and principal from Emerald Isle, served seven terms in the House before being elected to the Senate six years ago.

“It has been my distinct pleasure to serve the people of North Carolina, first as an educator and now as an elected official,'' said Preston.  “However, the time has come to move on to another chapter of my life and give more attention to my family.”

She said she wanted to spend more time with her grandchildren.

Preston, a moderate Republican, has been particularly involved in education issues.

Senate education chiefs named

Senators Jean Preston, Jerry Tillman and Dan Soucek will co-chair the Senate Committee on Education/Higher Education.

Preston, from Emerald Isle, is a retired teacher, principal and administrator.  Tillman, from Archdale, is a retired school administrator.  Soucek, a freshman from Boone, is a former Army helicopter pilot who now works for Samaritan's Purse.

Preston, Tillman and Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville, will also serve as co-chairs of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education/Higher Education. “These leaders know what it is like to structure an educational system from the inside,” said Senate Republican leader Phil Berger, in announcing the appointments.“

State GOP caucus nominates Berger, Brown

Republicans in the state Senate this morning approved Sen. Phil Berger as the nominee to become their new leader, staff writer Lynn Bonner reports.

Berger, of Eden, previously was minority leader. In January he will replace Democrat Marc Basnight as president pro tem of the state Senate, one of the most powerful political positions in North Carolina.

State Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican from Jacksonsville, was voted majority leader by the Senate GOP caucus during a closed-door meeting at their state headquarters on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh.

On the Budget: Jean Preston

Jean PrestonSen. Jean Preston
Carteret County Republican
Ninth Term

What two things would you cut in the state budget? "Maybe we could combine More at Four and Smart Start, because when we added More at Four, a lot of constituents in my district said we are already serving a lot of four year olds."
She also said job training programs should be looked at for possible duplication of services.

Are there any taxes you would be in favor of increasing? "No."

— Dan Kane 

Six women serve in state Senate

The state Senate will have six women next session.

Three of the women are from major urban areas: Sens. Julia Boseman of Wilmington, Katie Dorsett of Greensboro and Linda Garrou of Winston-Salem.

A fourth, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, is from Carrboro, a liberal enclave near UNC-Chapel Hill.

Only two come from small towns: Sen. Jean Preston of Emerald Isle (population 3,855) and incoming Sen. Debbie Clary of Cherryville (population 5,680), about an hour drive from Charlotte. They are the only Republicans.

Coincidentally or not, both Preston and Clary served seven terms in the state House before being elected senator. None of the other female senators served in the House.

Two former female senators from urban areas have since won statewide races. Former Sen. Janet Cowell of Raleigh was elected state treasurer in November, while former Sen. Kay Hagan of Greensboro was elected U.S. senator.

As noted previously, rural areas have been slow to elect women.

The women make up 12 percent of the 50-member Senate.

Crowd is gathered for Palin in Greenville

It's after 6 p.m. and the Gov. Sarah Palin show just got under way. It was supposed to begin about 20 minutes ago, but political events often run late.

But the arena in Greenville is looking not-quite-full, with plenty more space left on the floor around the podium, Barb Barrett reports.

The traveling press hasn't yet arrived, but most of the local press are here, including about a dozen satellite TV trucks outside.

Audience members are still arriving, wearing McCain/Palin t-shirts, hauling official campaign signs, waving gold-and-purple ECU Pirate pom-poms and sporting all kinds of stickers. There are some "handmade" signs too, those sketched out by volunteers last night and with sayings such as "Palin Nation."

The press has been cordoned off from audience members, so interviews with Palin fans aren't possible now.

The teleprompters have been set up for Palin's speech.

On the agenda tonight are brief speeches by State Senate candidates Jean Preston and Louis Pate, gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who is running for re-election. According to the schedule, she's on just before Palin and has 45 minutes.

That could just be cushion for the big event — Palin is scheduled to go on at 7:05 p.m., introduced by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

Board members join Public Policy center

The N.C. Center for Public Policy Research has added three new board members.

Ken Eudy, chief executive officer of Raleigh public relations firm Capstrat; Natalie English, senior vice president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce; and Betty Craven, president of the Warner Foundation, were elected to the center's board of directors.

The 23-member board also includes N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Wanda Bryant and state Sen. Jean Preston, among others.

Board members serve three-year terms.

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