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Hagan calls for approval of Keystone pipeline

Approve the Keystone XL pipeline in the next month, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and 19 other senators are saying in a letter to the new secretary of state, their former Senate colleague John Kerry.

The pipeline would carry oil from the tarsands of Alberta, Canada, to ports on the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. Environmentalists oppose the pipeline because of the heat-trapping emissions from producing and using the oil, and because of threats of spills along the line.

The bipartisan group of senators told Kerry to approve the pipeline quickly. “Further delay will continue to hurt job creation and may damage our relationship with Canada,” they write.

It’s not the first time Hagan has written in favor of Keystone XL. She signed on to another bipartisan letter making that case to President Barack Obama in November.

The State Department’s approval is required because the pipeline crosses the international border. The latest letter said the administration should make a decision in the first quarter of this year. — Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers

Senator Sweet Baby James?

Chapel Hill's James Taylor, who sang America the Beautiful, at Monday's inaugural, has been getting some urging to run for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts.

A public radio broadcaster is encouraging Taylor to enter the race for John Kerry's seat. Kerry is on track to be President Obama's new secretary of state.

“JT, who famously followed that road “from Stockbridge to Boston,' is as much of a hero to the people of the Bay State as General Henry Knox was,” wrote Alan Chartock, president of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio.

He argues that Taylor would have a better chance of defeating likely Republican candidate Scott Brown as Democrat Ed Markey, the dean of the Massachusetts delegation. He is not the first celebrity name to be floated for the seat. Actor Ben Affleck's named had also been mention.

There is no indication that Taylor, who campaigned extensively for Obama, and who played at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September, is actually interested, in running for the Senate.

Another Edwards' ex-staffer writes a book -- this one a novel

Rielle Hunter’s newly released tell-all memoir and former aide Andrew Young’s 2010 inside account aren’t the only John Edwards-inspired books on the market. In August, an ex-staffer’s novel will be published.

Bridget Siegel, who was a young finance director for the 2004 John Kerry presidential campaign with VP nominee Edwards, has written “Domestic Affairs.” According to the publisher, Weinstein Books, the novel is “full of all the scandal and back-room dealings that go into raising money for a presidential campaign.

“It also features an affair with a very married Southern candidate.”

Edenton Street Methodist Church no stranger to politicians

The funeral of Elizabeth Edwards once again put a spotlight on Edenton Street United Methodist Church.

Former Democratic candidate John Kerry, Gov. Bev. Perdue and Sen. Kay Hagan all filed in to pay their last respects to Elizabeth Edwards, the spouse of John Edwards, the former senator and presidential candidate.

As one of Raleigh's main downtown churches, Edenton Street has a rich history that touches on politics.  When U.S. Sen. Willis Smith died in office in June 1953, his funeral was held there attracting a large contingent of officials from Washington including Vice President Richard Nixon. (Smith aide Jesse Helms was a pall bearer.)

Gov. Clyde Hoey(1937-41) was a Sunday School teacher at Edenton Street and his lessons were broadcast on radio.

Hagan on wealthy list, still poor by Congress standards

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan again made The Hill's list of 50 wealthiest members of Congress.

Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, checked in at number 39 on the Washington paper's annual list, which is based on financial disclosure forms. According to The Hill's analysis of Hagan's 2009 form, she was worth $6.9 million.

Her portfolio was mostly unchanged from 2008, although she paid a Tampa, Fla., mortgage down from $500,000 to $250,000. The bulk of her wealth was in large stock holdings and pricey real estate investments.

She has liabilities of nearly $3 million.

Before anyone gets too jealous of Hagan's worth, it's helpful to note that by the standards of Congress, Hagan is hardly big time.

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry, number one on the list, is worth more than $188 million. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain's worth is listed at $11.1 million putting him at 23rd place.

Dome memo: Exonerated

A NEW LIFE: After 17 years behind bars for murder, three judges set Greg Taylor free after finding he was innocent. Taylor's freedom was possible because the state created an innocence commission, the first of its kind in the nation, to give the wrongly convicted a last shot at justice. Taylor's first post-prison meal: pasta salad with shrimp.

NEVER MIND: After weeks of getting slammed over a policy to change the high school history curriculum, state school officials backed down and abandoned plans to focus a history course on more recent events while leaving early history to elementary and middle school. Officials will now work on a new plan. Critics, get your e-mail accounts ready.

IRRELEVANT? State Auditor Beth Wood is delinquent on $1,200 worth of Wake County property taxes. Wood says her personal finances are irrelevant to the job she does as the state's chief financial watchdog.

IN OTHER NEWS: U.S. Sen. John Kerry says he is disappointed by the scandal that has brought down his one-time presidential running mate, John Edwards. State Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer attempted to smear former Gov. Mike Easley's legal troubles on Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue. On the same day, lawyer and former gubernatorial candidate Bob Orr lost two legal challenges to incentives given to private business.

Kerry 'disappointed' by Edwards scandal

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who picked John Edwards to be his running mate in Kerry's 2004 presidential bid, said he is "disappointed" by the scandal that ended Edwards political career.

Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz-Kerry, were speaking to CNN host Larry King for an interview scheduled to air Wednesday. King asked for Kerry's take on Edwards' extra-marital affair and subsequent cover-up.

"Honestly, it's a tragedy," the Massachusetts Democrat said in an interview that will air on CNN's Larry King Live.

Kerry said he was shocked "and obviously disappointed."

"I think everybody just feels awful about it," Kerry continued, "in terms of their family, their relationship that everybody saw publicly, the promise, the hope, you know, obviously a capable career."

In the interview, Kerry also said that he has spoken to John Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, a number of times including very recently.

But, Kerry said he has not spoken to his former running mate.

"I have not. I have called their home, but I didn't know who would answer. I certainly was ready and willing and hoping to say a word [to John Edwards]," he said.


Cunningham names his team

Cal Cunningham, who announced his candidacy Monday, has lined up a consulting team that he hopes will help him get to the U.S. Senate next year.

He has agreed to hire Murphy Putnam Media of Washington to handle his media, Rob Christensen reports. The firm has handled advertising for such Senate campaigns as Mark Begich of Alaska, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Tom Udall of New Mexico as well as such local candidates as Attorney General Roy Cooper and Congressman Bob Etheridge. Murphy Putnam also produced the half hour bio ad for the presidential campaign of Barack Obama last year.

Cunningham's pollster will be Anzalone-Liszt Research of Montgomery Alabama which has extensive experience in North Carolina. The firm worked for Kay Hagan's Senate campaign in 2008, for Cooper, for state Treasurer Janet Cowell and for Congressmen Health Shuler and Larry Kissell.

Handling direct mail will be Pete Giangreco for the Strategy Group in Chicago. He has worked a number of presidential campaigns including Obama, John Kerry, John Edwards and Bill Clinton.

These firms are in addition to the general consultants at Nexus Strategies.

Advocate takes temperatures on climate

A week after major climate change legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate, conservation advocates from North Carolina visited Capitol Hill today to gauge the views of Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan.

Carrie Clark, executive director of the Conservation Council of North Carolina, said she found meetings in both offices "positive," and that both senators are interested in tackling the issue, Barb Barrett reports.

"From Senator Burr we were happy to hear that he sees climate change as a problem and is working hard, and he thinks we need immediate action to avert the impacts that North Carolina is likely to face," Clark said in an interview.

Clark met with staff members in the office of Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican. She was told Burr wants to make sure that legislation doesn’t bring too many negative impacts to residential and commercial energy consumers, and that he wants to see jobs coming into the state.

In another meeting, Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, told Clark she has concerns about the legislation’s costs, but that she’s interested in finding a solution on climate change.

"She totally gets it, and we worked with her when she was a state senator, too," Clark said.

The bill, introduced last week by Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California, would force the U.S. to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050.

The House narrowly passed its own climate change legislation this summer. While in Washington today, Clark said she also stopped by the office of U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, a Waynesville Democrat, to thank him for his vote on the House bill.

Cunningham quacks like a candidate

Former state Sen. Cal Cunningham of Lexington continues to act like a U.S. Senate candidate, but he is not yet ready to announce a decision.

Cunningham was working the crowd at the Democrat's annual Vance-Aycock fund raising dinner in Asheville over the weekend, and he spent a few days last week in Washington attending a seminar put on by The Truman National Security Project, which trains young Democrats on security issues, Rob Christensen reports. He also met with Sen. John Kerry of Mass. and others.

But Cunningham said he has not made a decision on whether to enter the 2010 race for the seat now held by Republican Sen. Richard Burr.

"I am continuing to test the waters with Democrats around North Carolina," Cunningham said. But he added: "I am very heartened by the encouragement. North Carolina is looking for energetic new leadership."

Cunningham may be holding off until he sees what Congressman Bob Etheridge of Lillington decides.

Etheridge has been encouraged to get into the race by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which carries a lot of clout because of its ability to bank roll a Senate campaign. But Etheridge has not been moving around the state, and he was not at the Vance-Aycock Dinner, which is considered a must for a potential Democratic Senate candidate.

There are already two Democratic Senate candidates in the race, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Durham attorney Kenneth Lewis. Both Marshall and Lewis hosted hospitality suites at the Grove Park Inn, the site of the dinner.

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