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Morning Memo: Let the shutdown politics begin

THEN SHUT IT DOWN: The U.S. government started shutting down early Tuesday after a bitter fight over the new health care law deadlocked the Congress and stymied every attempt to keep money flowing after the federal fiscal year ended at midnight. It was the first such collapse of the government in nearly two decades and there was no immediate way to know how long it would last or how it would end. Read more here.

NOW BLAME GAME BEGINS: Hours after the partial shutdown, the blame game started, with Democrats and Republicans trying to say the other party was responsible. North Carolina congressmen are in the crosshairs.

***Read more shutdown politics and a look at what Gov. Pat McCrory did as the impasse and a federal lawsuit against the state loomed -- it's all below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Which bill will McCrory sign first?

LAWMAKERS THROW McCRORY A BONE: The first bill to Gov. Pat McCrory's desk is likely to be a measure to cut unemployment benefits for the jobless. The Republican supports the bill but don't be surprised if it's not the first one he signs. The House worked late Wednesday to pass another bill designed to create two paths for high school graduates: technical schools or college. McCrory campaigned on this issue and Democrats expect to him to make it the first bill he signs. "The word on the street is that the governor wants to have a press conference on this," Democratic state Rep. Paul Luebke of Durham said on the House floor in criticizing the speed at which it progressed. The bill was heard in committee and given initial approval in the House in the same day.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: State Auditor Beth Wood appears before lawmakers this morning to talk about a recent audit showing troubles in the Medicaid system -- a documents Republicans are using as justification to block a Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law. A Senate committee will consider a measure to block public access to records about concealed weapons holders. On the House floor, House Speaker Thom Tillis is limiting debate on a controversial measure to block Medicaid expansion to 30 minutes. Lawmakers want to leave early today, in part, because it's Valentine's Day. McCrory is hosting more lawmakers for breakfast and lists no other public events.

Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for all the North Carolina political scuttlebutt. Much more below.

Personnel file: Patrick Sebastian takes helm of Gurley campaign

Tony Gurley has named a former aide to Renee Ellmers and Mitt Romney as the manager of his lieutenant governor campaign.

Patrick Sebastian, a Raleigh native and East Carolina University grad, took the helm of Gurley's campaign in recent days as the Wake County commissioner seeks to separate himself from the crowded Republican primary in the bid for the state's No. 2 post.

A letter to the editor for Uncle Pat

Pat McCrory's nephew wrote a letter to the editor last year.

In the letter, printed Aug. 8, 2007, in the Greensboro News-Record, Patrick Sebastian laments the failure of the legislature to pass anti-gang laws called for by McCrory:

It's frustrating that North Carolina has the weakest gang laws in the South and our governor and legislature refuse to do anything about it.

This was the year that the House finally agreed with the bipartisan delegation of North Carolina mayors to give harsh penalties to gang members. It's pathetic that the Senate and governor did not agree.

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory led the charge and knows the problems that gangs cause in big cities and small towns alike. Because of the lack of leadership of Gov. Easley and Sen. Marc Basnight, more innocent North Carolinians will be terrorized by gang activity again this year.

The letter does not identify Sebastian as McCrory's nephew.

A graduate of Broughton High in Raleigh, he attends East Carolina University in Greenville.

Lending a hand to Uncle Pat

At his campaign kickoff, Pat McCrory called on his relatives for help.

"To the other members of my extended family, my brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews, you'd better get ready to help Uncle Pat and Aunt Ann," he said.

As it turns out, one relative has been helping for a while.

McCrory's nephew, Patrick Sebastian, has posted a dozen comments on Under the Dome and The Charlotte Observer's Web site and even wrote a letter to the Greensboro News-Record on his uncle's behalf, as first noted by Tom Jensen on the Public Policy Polling blog.

The comments were made under the screen name packpat1, which is part of an e-mail address used by Sebastian and until recently was listed on his Facebook page.

Sebastian, a sophomore at East Carolina University, called for Republicans to recruit a candidate for governor with "good name ID," defended a poll by McCrory, called McCrory's mayoral rival Beverly Earle "corrupt" and another Republican gubernatorial candidate "a desperate man."

He also called Mike Easley a "do-nothing governor."

"Agree with that," said McCrory advisor Stan Campbell. He said that Sebastian doesn't start work until next week. He said any comments were not done officially for the McCrory campaign.

"He likes politics, and he's probably inclined to help his uncle," he said.

After the jump, Sebastian's comments on Dome.

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