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Harris is attempting to become a rare clergy/senator

If Charlotte Pastor Mark Harris is elected to the U.S. Senate next year, he will be a rare example of a member of the clergy be elected to the nation's upper chamber, according to Smart Politics blog.

Since the direct election of senators began 100 years ago, only three members of the clergy have been elected. They were Ohio Republican John Bricker (US Army Chaplain, elected 1946 and 1952), Missouri Republican John Danforth (Episcopal priest, 1976, 1982, 1988) and Arkansas Republican Tim Hutchinson (Southern Baptist pastor, 1996). Arkansas Democrat Kaneaster Hodges (Methodist, 1977) was appointed to the Senate.

Unlike Bricker, Danforth, and Hutchinson, Harris is launching a Senate bid without having previously held a political office, according to Smart Politics.

Morning Memo: Cooper's unofficial debut; peek inside GOP voters' minds

ROY COOPER'S DEBUT: Attorney General Roy Cooper is the featured speaker Saturday morning at the N.C. Democratic Party's Western Gala. The speech at the women's breakfast will serve as his unofficial debut in the 2016 governor's race. In recent weeks, Cooper has made his intentions to run clear and the event will give him a platform to begin gathering Democratic support as other party challengers emerge. Later in the evening, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and R.T. Rybak, the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, will speak at the party fundraiser.

***A must-read analysis of Republicans and its potential impact on the N.C. Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

North Carolina's GOP Senate candidate will accept nomination at a casino

UPDATED: Picture this: North Carolina's Republican U.S. Senate candidate accepting the party's nomination at a casino. And what if that candidate is Mark Harris, the outgoing president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina?

It's a possibility. The N.C. Republican Party announced it will hold its 2014 state convention at the Harrah's Cherokee Casino and Hotel in the far western part of the state.

Even if it's not Harris who wins the nomination, the optics are less than ideal. Republican lawmakers were deeply divided in 2012 on whether to allow the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to expand gambling at the casino to include slot machines and live table games, such as blackjack and roulette. It's the most high-profile bill approved in the House -- where U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis presided -- that a majority of Republicans opposed.

Morning Memo: Harris stakes his ground; GOP lawmaker presses McCrory

HARRIS DECLARES HE'S THE SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE IN THE RACE: The Rev. Mark Harris, a leading social conservative, entered the North Carolina Senate race Wednesday, setting up a potential insider/outsider GOP primary showdown next May with House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Harris, the outgoing president of the state Baptist Convention, said he would campaign as a staunch advocate for lowering taxes, reducing government, ending Obamacare and protecting gun rights, that he would back measures that he believes would improve “traditional moral values.” Read more here.

GOP SENATOR SAYS McCRORY ADMINISTRATION IS BREAKING THE LAW: A high-ranking Republican state senator said Wednesday that Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration is flouting the law. Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, complained that McCrory hasn’t named an independent Unemployment Review Board to review decisions on unemployment benefits made by the state Division of Employment Security. Rucho’s remarks came during a legislative committee meeting where lawmakers were questioning Dale Folwell, the agency’s head. Read more here.

***Read more on the Harris announcement and a North Carolina political roundup below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Hundreds furloughed; U.S. Senate candidates make moves

HUNDREDS OF STATE WORKERS FURLOUGHED: The federal government shutdown caused the furlough of hundreds of state government workers whose jobs are fully or partially federally funded Tuesday, and state officials said several thousand more jobs could be be affected.

The state Department of Health and Human Services told 337 employees not to show up for work Wednesday morning. Officials said as many 4,500 DHHS workers could be furloughed or see their hours reduced. There was also a smaller furlough in the Department of Transportation, and a small group of workers at the state Labor Department saw their hours slashed in half.

#NCSEN DAY: The Republican challengers in the U.S. Senate race are all making moves this week to position themselves. Charlotte Pastor Mark Harris enters the race today, Thom Tillis is hiring staff and Greg Brannon is touting fundraising numbers.

***Read all the U.S. Senate race news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

DC pundit: Tillis 'should be a formidable general-election candidate'

A leading Washington political prognosticator is saying Republican Thom Tillis "should be a formidable general-election candidate." Stuart Rothenberg took a look at the N.C. House speaker's candidacy in the context of interview three other Senate candidates recently.

He writes: At the other end of the spectrum (from the tea party) is Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House and the early favorite for the GOP Senate nomination against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.

National GOP tests attack lines against Kay Hagan

National Republicans are outlining their attack points against U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan as it seeks to oust her in 2014, labeling her as ineffective and out of step with North Carolina voters.

In a political memo released Monday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is pushing their calculation of Hagan's performance, saying she's "the most ineffective senator in North Carolina's history" by showing the number of bills she sponsored or cosponsored that became law.

Morning Memo: Feds to challenge N.C. voting law; Senate candidates scrap for cash

FEDS TO CHALLENGE NORTH CAROLINA’S VOTING LAW: The U.S. Department of Justice will file a lawsuit Monday to stop North Carolina’s new voter ID law, which critics have said is the most sweeping law of its kind, according to a person briefed on the department’s plans.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who has said he will fight state voting laws that he sees as discriminatory, will announce the lawsuit at noon Monday, along with the three U.S. attorneys from the state. Critics said the law will disenfranchise African-American and elderly voters, while the Republican-led General Assembly in Raleigh said the law will protect the state’s voters from potential fraud.

***Read more on the forthcoming lawsuit, get #NCSEN updates and a roundup of North Carolina political headlines below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Pete Brunstetter says he won't seek U.S. Senate seat

State Sen. Pete Brunstetter announced Thursday he will not seek the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Kay Hagan.

The Winston-Salem Republican's announcement comes days after Senate leader Phil Berger decided against a bid. It could mean the Republican field is set but some GOP operatives still see room for a vibrant challenge from the party's right wing.

In a statement, Brunstetter did not go into detail about his reasoning, saying the "task must fall to someone else."

"The Republican nominee will have my full support in the general election," he said in a statement. "Meanwhile, I will remain focused on the many critical issues facing the state of North Carolina as I continue my work in the NC Senate."

Morning Memo: Rove to raise money for Tillis; Harris plans statewide tour

GOP strategist Karl Rove will headline a series of fundraising events for U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis in mid-November, an aide to the former Bush administration official confirmed to Dome. The details are still being finalized but Rove and Tillis are likely to hit events across the state, Tillis allies said.

Next week, Tillis will attend a reception hosted by Rove’s political action committee, Crossroads GPS, which spent big money in the 2012 election. Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan used Rove as a foil in one of her recent fundraising pitches -- showing Rove’s close link to Tillis may help both sides.

As Tillis focuses on raising money his latest rival Mark Harris begins a high-flying announcement tour for next week. Read about it and more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

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