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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."

In new Democratic polling, some state lawmakers looking vulnerable

The upheaval from the legislative session continues to reverberate as lawmakers look at what it did for their prospects in 2014. Voters are wavering, Republicans are openly discussing a course-correction next year and the N.C. Democratic Party is trying to capitalize. And now, it's showing in legislative district polls.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm based in Raleigh, recently looked at eight state Senate districts held by Republicans, finding two leaning Democrat and six more in the toss-up category. PPP pollster Tom Jensen writes that "the political landscape has shifted in such a way that Democrats have a lot more opportunities to eat into the Republican majority next year than could have ever been imagined even six months ago."



Document(s):
PPPSenate.pdf

Morning Memo: In 2014 Senate salvo, Kay Hagan hits back at Phil Berger

KAY HAGAN CAMPAIGN HITS BACK: It seems like the 2014 U.S. Senate race is underway. Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan is responding to GOP Senate leader Phil Berger's new TV ad on voter ID. Berger is not an announced candidate but his TV ad sure makes it look like he is running -- hitting Hagan in the opening lines.

The Hagan campaign will release a point-by-point counter to the Berger ad Monday to highlight her opposition to voter ID and try to put focus on the other voting law changes deeper in the bill. “Kay is standing up for access to the ballot box for all voters because she believes this fundamental right shouldn’t be a political football,” said Preston Elliott, Hagan’s campaign manager, in a statement. “Phil Berger can self-promote all he wants, but at the end of the day, his disastrous record in the General Assembly and attempts to open up elections to corporate influence will speak for themselves. North Carolinians need leaders focused on jobs and rebooting the economy for middle class families, not politicians willing to mislead voters just to throw political potshots.”

VALERIE FOUSHEE TO REPLACE KINNAIRD: A Democratic Party committee chose first-term state Rep. Valerie Foushee of Chapel Hill on Sunday to fill former state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird’s vacant District 23 seat. Foushee thanked Democratic Party members and voters. The first thing the party needs to do is take back the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, she said to thunderous applause. “We have a lot of work to do,” said Foushee. “It’s already been expressed by every candidate. All of you read the papers, all of you are engaged, you know what we’re facing. I promise you I will continue to fight as I have fought. I will fight every day. You will hear from me. I will be present.” Read more here.

***Read more from the U.S. Senate campaign news and a look at political stories ahead this week below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: The recasting of Gov. McCrory? Unraveling his shifts

PAT McCRORY LINKS MEDICAID REFORMS TO TEACHER PAY HIKES -- Governor pledges big announcement in coming months: Speaking at the Cary Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet Wednesday evening, Gov. Pat McCrory promised "controversial" proposals to change the state's Medicaid system. Overruns in Medicaid costs are a huge burden on the state and have drained funding for education, he said.

Citing issues with federal regulations, "a lack of waivers from the feds, and frankly, some of the politics within Raleigh here," McCrory said he wanted to change the state's implementation of the federal health program for people with low income.

"I'm going to have to bring up some fairly controversial proposals to change Medicaid, or we're going to continue to have some very, very serious issues here in North Carolina," McCrory told the crowd. "That's coming in the next three, four months. I'll probably introduce them while the legislature's out of town, between now and May," he said, drawing laughs. Changes to Medicaid, he said are " the way we're going to get raises to the teachers."

***McCrory appears to be charting a new course, but the administration is backtracking on a different education announcement. Read it all below in today's Dome Morning Memo***

Morning Memo: What Pat McCrory and Bev Perdue have in common

SENATE OVERRIDE VOTE EXPECTED: The state House on Tuesday took little more than half an hour to override the governor’s vetoes of two bills, on immigration and drug-testing welfare recipients. The resurrected legislation now passes to the Senate, which will vote Wednesday morning and is expected to easily override. Gov. Pat McCrory lobbied House members to sustain the vetoes to little success -- but he didn't try a similiar effort with lawmakers in the Senate, a chamber that he has been at odds with for most of the legislative session.

HOW PAT McCRORY AND BEV PERDUE ARE ALIKE: From Catawba College political expert Michael Bitzer: "What appears to be constant between the two governors is the distaste by independent voters. While (former Gov. Bev) Perdue faired worse earlier than (Gov. Pat) McCrory has, they both have reached a similar point of nearly 50 percent disapproval among independent voters. While the Perdue-McCrory gap is pretty noticeable among independents expressing their disapproval, the convergence in August, after the dust of the legislative sessions had settled, is pretty striking." See his analysis of polling results and the one chart that tells the McCrory story.

***Read more on the override votes in the House and where the N.C. delegation stands on Syria below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

House, Senate delay override votes while McCrory pushes his case

Republican legislative leaders convened at noon Tuesday to consider whether to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s two vetoes but did not take immediate action.

The House recessed until 4:30 p.m. to give lawmakers time to travel to Raleigh after the holiday weekend. The immigration measure and drug testing bill originated in the House, so the chamber must act first. The waiting Senate recessed until Wednesday morning to give the House time to vote.

Republicans and Democrats in the House made plans to meet privately this afternoon before the veto session. Both chambers are expected to void the vetoes by the necessary three-fifths majority but the delay gave McCrory more time to convince his GOP brethren to sustain.

State Rep. Valerie Foushee makes bid to replace retiring Sen. Ellie Kinnaird

A first-term state lawmaker already is looking for a promotion. State Rep. Valerie Foushee, a Chapel Hill Democrat, announced Wednesday she would seek appointed to replace retiring state Sen. Ellie Kinnard in District 23.

Foushee won election to the legislature in November to a district that covers Orange and Durham counties. She maintained a low profile in her first session, often deferring interview requests and speaking little on the House floor -- a contrast to Kinnaird who is a vocal critic of the Republican-led Senate. Her prior experience includes the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board and the Orange County Commission, chairing both during her tenure.

Senate GOP raised big cash during legislative session

Senate Republicans out-raised their Democratic counterparts by more than 12 to 1 during the first half of 2013, and GOP senators had four times more cash remaining in their campaign accounts than Democrats as of June 30, an analysis by the Insider's Patrick Gannon shows.

Senate Republicans on average raised nearly $38,000 during the first six months of 2013, a figure boosted by the $475,000 raised by their leader, Sen. Phil Berger of Rockingham County. Democrats raised $5,800 on average, with Sen. Martin Nesbitt of Buncombe County leading that caucus by collecting about $26,600 in donations.

In all, 32 Republicans (fundraising totals for Sen. Dan Soucek weren't available) raised more than $1.2 million. The 17 Senate Democrats brought in $99,000 from Jan. 1 through June 30, according to campaign finance data filed with the State Board of Elections.

The numbers show the sitting GOP lawmakers with a sizable cash advantage early in the election cycle, which isn't unusual as donors typically gravitate to the political party that controls legislation.

Morning Memo: Perdue closes her campaign for good, leave Democratic party hanging

PERDUE CLOSES CAMPAIGN ACCOUNT: From AP: Former N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue has closed her campaign accounts, distributing the more than $1.2 million political war chest raised for her derailed 2012 re-election bid. Nearly $800,000 went to the Democrat and her husband to repay personal loans made to her political campaigns between 2000 and 2008, according to campaign finance disclosure reports filed last week with the N.C. Board of Elections.

Another $200,000 went to a pair of writers assisting Perdue with her autobiography and about $120,000 went to a charity. Most of the remainder was paid to lawyers and campaign staff.

***Find out who Perdue left off her campaign spending list below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

11 Republicans switch votes, give bill new life

Proving that nothing is ever dead at the N.C. General Assembly, the Senate revived a measure to keep the Judicial Standards Commission's reprimands of judges secret.

The Senate voted down the measure a week ago, led by prominent Republicans who joined forces with Democrats, citing transparency concerns.

But 11 Republican senators switched votes Thursday when the bill resurfaced, approving it 28 to 14. The 11 who voted against it before they voted for it: Tom Apodaca, Chad Barefoot, Tamara Barringer, Kathy Harrington, Brent Jackson, Wesley Meredith, Louis Pate, Ron Rabon, Jeff Tarte, Tommy Tucker and Trudy Wade.

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