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Obama administration sending two education officials to Greensboro on Monday

The Obama administration is sending two of its education officials to Greensboro Monday talk about its efforts to make college more affordable.

U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter and John Wilson, the White House HBCU executive director, will participate in a college affordability forum at NC. A&T State University at 3 p.m.

According to the White House press office, their remarks are part “of a series of conversations that senior Administration officials are having with students, families, educators and local leaders across the country on the importance of keeping higher education affordable:”

They are also part of a long list of surrogates the administration has been sending to North Carolina – a key battleground state. First Lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to be the commencement speaker at A&T on May 12.

Reiff strategizing for NEA

Democratic campaign maestro Jay Reiff has taken a job with the National Education Association, helping the teachers group with its political efforts in mid-Atlantic and midwestern states.

"There's a little irony in this," said John Wilson, NEA's executive director and former president of the N.C. Association of Educators. Wilson is a longtime supporter of Gov. Beverly Perdue, and Reiff managed the campaign of Perdue's Democratic primary opponent last year, then-State Treasurer Richard Moore.

Reiff will work with NEA affiliates in N.C., Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Kentucky and Ohio in analyzing elections, identifying candidates to endorse and helping elect them. Virginia, where Reiff previously worked as a Democratic strategist, elects a governor this year.

"I suspect Jay will be spending a lot of time assisting our Virginia affiliate with that race," Wilson said.

Reiff ran former Gov. Mike Easley's successful campaigns in 2000 and 2004, as well as U.S. Sen. Bob Casey's campaign in Pennsylvania in 2006.

Wilson appointed Reiff to temporarily fill the job for several months, after which the job will be opened to applications under union rules, Wilson said. Reiff can apply and will be in the best position to be hired because he has been in the post, Wilson said.

Names in the mix for Perdue's Cabinet?

Who might Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue appoint to her Cabinet?

The New Bern Democrat has already appointed a transition team and chief of staff and said that she will put Tom Lambeth in charge of an endowment for gubernatorial campaigns, but she has not yet named anyone to the 10 positions that run state departments.

Based on conversations with Raleigh insiders, a few names have come up:

Transportation: State Sen. Clark Jenkins chairs the Appropriations committee on transportation. Gene Conti is a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Lanny Wilson is vice chairman of the N.C. Turnpike Authority and has Senate leader Marc Basnight's backing. David Joyner is a transportation expert and head of the turnpike authority. Nina Szlosberg, a Board of Transportation member appointed to oversee environmental issues, has the support of transit advocates, women political leaders and environmentalists.

Crime Control: Scott Thomas is the district attorney for Carteret, Craven and Pamlico counties and served in the state Senate from 2000 to 2005. Current Secretary Bryan Beatty has served in that position since 2001 and is reportedly interested in staying.

Juvenile Justice: Linda Hayes has chaired the Governor's Crime Commission since 1995 and is a past chair of the national Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

Commerce: Crandall Bowles is the former chair of Springs Industries and wife of UNC system president Erskine Bowles. Senate Finance Committee chairman David Hoyle is well known as an advocate for business in the legislature. Rep. Jim Harrell helped pass incentives bills.

Revenue: Former state Sen. Oscar Harris served as Perdue's campaign treasurer.

Health and Human Services: Former Raleigh city manager Dempsey Benton was brought in to clean up problems in the mental health system and is reportedly interested in staying.

Environment and Natural Resources: Current secretary Bill Ross has served since 2001 and is reportedly interested in sticking around.

Administration: State Rep. Alma Adams filmed a TV ad for Perdue in the primary, but later criticized her transition team for its lack of diversity.

Cultural Resources: Adams, an art professor, may also be considered for this department.

In addition, National Education Association executive director John Wilson may be under consideration for an advisory role in education, although the state Superintendent of Public Instruction is elected separately from the Cabinet.

Previously: Five Perdue appointments to watch

Homegrown labor leaders in N.C.

Three major labor leaders are based in North Carolina.

Though the state has historically not been considered friendly to labor, it has produced three leaders of major national unions in recent years:

John Wilson: A former Raleigh teacher, Wilson worked his way up the ranks of the N.C. Association of Educators, serving as president and executive director. Now executive director of the National Education Association, he has ties to Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue.

Jack Cipriani: After moving to North Carolina in 1975, Cipriani was a shop steward at Miller Brewing and now serves as Eastern Region vice president of the Teamsters. Gov. Mike Easley appointed him to the state's Employment Security Commission.

Chris Chafe: The Carrboro resident began organizing textile mills, eventually heading UNITE HERE and advising John Edwards' presidential campaign. Earlier this year, he was appointed executive director of Change to Win, a coalition of labor unions.

The three may be as much a symptom as a cause of increased labor activity in North Carolina, since their experience in traditionally hostile territory dovetails nicely with an increased emphasis on offense by national unions.

It's official: It's Jesse Day

Jesse HelmsThe governor might as well declare today Jesse Helms Retrospective Day.

In addition to the documentary tonight on UNC-TV, an upcoming biography, a feature story in the N&O and a multitude of blog posts, the former senator is the topic du jour on the State of Things.

Host Frank Stasio will talk with William Link, author of "Righteous Warrior;" John Wilson, director and producer of "Senator No;" and NPR's Adam Hochberg, who covered Helms in the 1990s.

"To some, he was an inspired leader of a new modern conservative movement who fought profligacy in government and in the culture," the station says. "To others, he was a polarizing figure who used race and homophobia to help further his political career, provoking the very worst in people."

The show airs at noon on 91.5 FM in Chapel Hill, 88.9 FM in Manteo and 90.9 FM in Rocky Mount.

"Senator No" airs tonight on UNC-TV at 9 p.m.

Senator, Bono

Bono, frontman of the rock band U2, talks about his experience lobbying former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina to help pay for prescription drugs for African AIDS victims, in the documentary "Senator No," by filmmaker John Wilson.

The documentary airs on UNC-TV tonight at 9 p.m. The video can also be seen here.

Helms biographer aimed for balance

Independent filmmaker John Wilson tried hard to be evenhanded.

He told the N&O's TV critic, Danny Hooley, that he wanted his new documentary, "Senator No," on former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, to be objective and balanced. Otherwise, he said, viewers with strong feelings would stop watching:

"A lot of people have very strong and polarizing feelings about Helms, one way or the other," Wilson says. "What I really wanted to do was try to present to people information about Helms that they might not otherwise find out—and that they might not really want to know. Maybe [I could] show people who hate Helms why so may people love him, and show people who love Helms why so many people hate him."

Dome watched the documentary last night and gives it two thumbs way up. "Senator No" airs tonight at 9 p.m. on UNC-TV.

Helms documentary airs Jan. 15

Jesse Helms will be featured in a UNC-TV documentary on Jan. 15.

Jack Betts has the details on This Old State:

The UNC-TV documentary, produced by filmmaker John Wilson, is entitled "Senator No: Jesse Helms." A press release from the public television station quotes University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato as observing, "Whether you like him or dislike him, he was at the heart of the conservative movement that changed America from the 1970s to today."

In addition, a biography of Helms by former UNC-Greensboro historian Bill Link is due on Feb. Its title is "Righteous Warrior: Jesse Helms and the Rise of Modern Conservatism."

NCAE considers gubernatorial endorsements

The first major endorsement of the North Carolina governor's race could occur this weekend.

Leaders of the 70,000-member N.C Association of Educators will interview gubernatorial candidates on Saturday and may recommend an endorsement to their membership, Rob Christensen reports.

The early line is that Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue is the favorite. John Wilson, the executive director of the National Education Association, the group's parent organization, cosponsored a fund raiser in June for Perdue that was attended by about a dozen top NEA officials.

But the head of the NCAE said she does not have it in the bag.

"John Wilson has the freedom to support whoever he wants," said Eddie Davis of Durham, the NCAE president.

Davis noted that the NCAE has endorsed three of the gubernatorial candidates in earlier races — Perdue, state Treasurer Richard Moore, and former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr.

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