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Chief justice candidate's supporters looking for early money lead

Candidates for state Supreme Court are already anticipating expensive campaigns next year, following last year’s record-breaking contest between successful incumbent Justice Paul Newby and challenger Sam Ervin IV from the state Court of Appeals.

Recently, a fundraising letter went out on behalf of Justice Mark Martin, who is running for chief justice on the court, appealing for an early showing of financial muscle to dissuade potential opponents.

“Despite Mark’s accomplishments and his impressive qualifications for this position, there are those who are currently trying to recruit an opponent to run against Mark,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler writes in the letter. “Let’s respond to this effort by sending a strong message of financial support for mark and for his campaign effort.”

No one has yet announced a challenge to the seat being vacated by Chief Justice Sarah Parker, who reaches mandatory retirement age next year.

Two candidates have announced their intentions for Martin’s seat: Ervin and fellow appeals court Judge Robert N. Hunter Jr.

Leading lights of conservative movement converge in Raleigh

A confluence of big-name players will converge in Raleigh on Friday and Saturday for the Civitas Institute’s Conservative Leadership Conference.

Among the speakers: Jim DeMint, former U.S. Senator from South Carolina and now head of the Heritage Foundation; Michelle Malkin, author and Fox News contributor; and James O’Keefe, self-described “video muckracker.”

Local luminaries include state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby, U.S. Rep. George Holding, U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, state Senate leader Phil Berger, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.

The two-day event is at the Crabtree Marriott in Raleigh.

Morning Memo: Florida GOP governor takes N.C. Democrats approach

FLORIDA GOP GOV -- AN OBAMACARE HATER -- TAKES THE REP. INSKO APPROACH: That's right. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who first entered politics to fight the federal health care law, is proposing to take the money for Medicaid expansion for the first three years when Washington will pay the full cost. State Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat, proposed the same thing in North Carolina, but Republican lawmakers shot it down repeatedly. "That's just completely nonsensical and doesn't work," Republican Rep. Nelson Dollar said of Inkso's idea.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House is taking it easy today. A skeletal session with no recorded votes -- none until Tuesday, in fact. The Senate will convene for action at noon. But most the action will take place in the Commerce Committee where the bill to speed up and incentivize fracking with get a hearing. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events on his schedule. He leaves this evening for Washington to attend the National Governors Association and Republican Governors Association winter meetings. Wonder if McCrory will talk to Scott and Ohio Gov. John Kasich about how their recent decisions to expand Medicaid?

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more N.C. political news below.***

Dan Forest wants a closer relationship with governor than his predecessor

Dan Forest took office as the state's No. 2 in a private ceremony Monday at the Capitol.

In an interview after the event, the Republican lieutenant governor said he hopes to establish a better relationship with new Gov. Pat McCrory, noting that his predecessor wasn't too close to Bev Perdue.

Forest's main role is to preside over the N.C. Senate and serve on various boards and commissions. But the lieutenant governor is often delegated duties from the state's chief executive. McCrory told Dome that he expects Forest to play a role in drafting a 25-year transportation infrastructure plan, drawing upon his experience as an architect, and consult on education policy.

Asheville Tea Party PAC auctions AR-15 rifle, handgun

The Asheville Tea Party, on the heels of its “Machine Gun Social” in September, is raffling off an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

“The patriotic Americans who brought you the ‘Machine Gun Social’ are pleased to announce the introduction to their brand new fund raiser – the ‘Great Gun Giveway.’

Liberal group's spending in 2012 campaigns reported

On Sunday, Dome reported some of the big corporate contributors to a national GOP group that helped finance N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby’s re-election.

On the other side of the ledger, the first post-election federal report from the North Carolina liberal umbrella group Common Sense Matters has also been filed.

It reports spending about $774,000 on about a dozen campaigns, including that of Newby’s challenger, appellate Judge Sam Ervin IV, mostly on direct mail.

Its last-minute contributors include the Teamster’s DRIVE Committee, which gave $40,000 total for the year; N.C. Futures Action Fund (Democratic activist Dean Debnam’s project), $295,000 total; the N.C. League of Conservation Voters, $80,000, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, $21,000.

The Republican State Leadership Committee, which spent $13.3 million nationally, sent $1 million to the effort to re-elect Newby.

Newby to administer oath of office for Forest

Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Forest announced on Tuesday he will take the oath of office on Jan. 7 in a private ceremony.

Newly-elected Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby will administer the oath at noon in the Old Senate Chambers of the Capitol Building.

Forest will also participate in the public ceremonial swearing-in on the Capitol Square, on Jan. 12 at 11 a.m. with Gov.-elect Pat McCrory and the other members of the Council of State.

More about corporations that funded N.C.'s Supreme Court race for Newby

Federal campaign finance reports that came out this week provide a closer look at who the corporations were behind the national GOP group that pumped more than $1 million into one of the super PACs that backed state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby’s re-election.

The Republican State Leadership Committee reports spending $13.3 million on campaigns around the country. It sent $1,165,000 million to Justice for All N.C., which in turn contributed heavily to the N.C. Judicial Coalition. Reports for those super PACs aren’t in yet.

Morning Roundup: Are you willing to you help payoff the nation's debt?

The nation's $16 trillion-plus debt has some Americans so worried that they've donated nearly $8 million outside of federal taxes - to help pay it off. Yes, it's less than a drop in the bucket, but every little bit helps, according to the Bureau of the Public Debt, which annually accepts such "gifts." Read the article here.

More political headlines you may have missed over the long weekend:

--State legislators say their upcoming proposal to deal with the unprecedented $2.8 billion unemployment insurance won’t eliminate the issue that has outraged the business community – the higher taxes being imposed on employers to pay down the debt.

Redistricting plaintiffs ask for Newby recusal

Democrats, the state NAACP, and other nonprofits who are suing over redistricting plans want Supreme Court Judge Paul Newby to recuse himself from participating in the case.

They filed a motion Wednesday saying that individuals and political groups with a direct stake in the outcome of the redistricting case spent heavily to support his re-election, and their support "had a significant and disproportionate influence in Justice Newby's victory."

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