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Berger, Tillis call voting lawsuit 'baseless,' while Hagan, Democrats cheer move

Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis called the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit against the North Carolina voting law "baseless."

Reacting to the lawsuit, the two Republican legislative leaders issued a joint statement saying it is "nothing more than an obvious attempt to quash the will of the voters and hinder a hugely popular voter ID requirement."

"The law was designed to improve consistency, clarity and uniformity at the polls and it brings North Carolina’s election system in line with a majority of other states," the statement continued. "We are confident it protects the right of all voters, as required by the U.S. and North Carolina Constitutions.”

Meanwhile, Democrats and interest groups cheered the move, including U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who had urged the Justice Department to review the 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."

Berger and Tillis not exactly best buddies

The coolness between Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis was on full display in this interview with News 14's Tim Boyum.

Berger, who this week announced he would not run for the U.S. Senate, was asked if he would support Tillis. Berger said he would support the nominee, and spoke highly of fellow Sen. Pete Brunsettter, who is considering the race.

Morning Memo: GOP Senate hopefuls take hard line on defunding Obamacare

North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senate candidates are taking a hard line on federal budget negotiations – a position that puts them at odds with the state’s lone GOP senator, Richard Burr.

Four Republican candidates said Monday they support efforts to defund the federal health care act, apparently even if those efforts lead to a government shutdown. Their comments came the same day state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger announced he won’t join those running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Kay Hagan.

***Read more from the GOP candidates -- reaction to Berger's decision -- below in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

Libs and Big Bird go after Berger and Orson Scott Card

Progress NC Action, a liberal advocacy group, delivered 15,000 petition signatures to the office of Senate leader Phil Berger Monday, asking him to withdraw the appointment of science fiction writer Orson Scott Card to the UNC-TV Board of Trustees.

Card is best known for his science fiction, but some of his comments have created controversy including an article on his blog which he called "an experiment in fictional thinking'' in which he posits a future in which Obama rules as a "Hitler or Stalin style dictator with his own "national police force'' composed of "young-out-of-work burn men.''

He suggested that Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama might amend the Constitution to allow presidents to run forever that he would "win by 98 percent every time.'' He added: "That's how it works in Nigeria and Zimbabwe; that's how it worked in Hitler's Germany.''

"Will these things happen?'' he writes. "Of course not.''

Joining Progress NC Action was someone dressed in a Big Bird of Sesame Street costume, although the Big Bird figure was denied entry into the Legislative Building

"Thank goodness Phil Berger decided not to run for the U.S Senate today,'' said Gerrick Brenner of Progress NC Action. "Berger's appointee to the UNC-TV Board of Trustees is an embarrassment and it begs the question. Does Phil Berger agree with comparisons of the president to Hitler?''

Card is the author of many famous science fiction books including Enders Game, which is scheduled to be released as a motion picture starring Harrison Ford in November.

Phil Berger won't run for U.S. Senate

UPDATED: State Senate leader Phil Berger will not seek the Republican Party nomination for U.S. Senate. His decision leaves House Speaker Thom Tillis as the most prominent Republican candidate seeking to challenge Kay Hagan.

State Senate leader Phil Berger said Monday that will not make a bid for U.S. Senate, ending weeks of speculation about his political intentions that threatened to scramble the North Carolina political picture.

“In the final analysis, the decision I made was now is just not the right time,” Berger said in an interview. “I feel like we've initiated a number of things at the state level that I want to see further along before I move on to something else.”

Morning Memo: Berger to make decision; Wos as a mentor to McCrory

MORAL MONDAYS IN THE FOOTHILLS: The North Carolina NAACP is taking its protest of legislative action to Yadkinville. The civil rights group said its Moral Monday and the Forward Together Movement will be at the Yadkin County Courthouse at 7 p.m. Monday.

The NAACP has been protesting actions by the Republican-dominated General Assembly for weeks. The group says it's concerned about what it calls attacks on teachers, unemployed workers, immigrants and voting rights, among other issues. Read more here.

TODAY IN POLITICS: Other political headlines to expect: Senate leader Phil Berger announces whether he will run for the U.S. Senate on Monday. Gov. Pat McCrory will take his message outside the capital city again, traveling to McAdenville for a tour at Pharr Yarns Facility and then visit Belmont for a business roundtable at the String Bean on Main Street.

***Read a dissection of the Aldona Wos profile below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Phil Berger to announce Senate decision on Monday

Senate leader Phil Berger is saying he will announce Monday Phil Berger whether he will challenge Kay Hagan on Monday, according to the Washington Post.

Most of the betting is that Berger will remain in the Senate, where he is regarded as the most powerful figure in the Capital. He has encouraged one of his lieutenants, Sen. Pete Brunstetter to look at the race.

On the other hand, Berger has been running TV in the Greensboro market, which is near his home in Eden and where his son Phil Berger Jr. might run for Congress if Howard Coble retires.

A number of other Republicans have already announced their candidacies, most notably, House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Elon Poll suggests that Hagan is vulnerable, but opposition weak

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is not in a particularly strong position as she faces re-election, but that is also true for her potential opponents, according to a new poll.

Hagan has an approval rating of 38 percent and a disapproval rating of 35 percent, with 26 percent not sure, according to a new Elon University Poll.

But then two-thirds of North Carolina voters have never heard of House Speaker Thom Tillis, the best known of her Republican opponents.

Of those who did recognize Tlllis' name, 22 percent had a favorable opinion, 34 percent an unfavorable opinion, and 43 percent don't know. Tillis will obviously have to introduce himself to most voters.

State Senate leader Phil Berger is about in the same boat, with 64 percent not knowing who he is.

Berger, who is weighing to run, has a favorable rating among 20 percent, an unfavorable rating among 29 percent, with 49 percent not knowing.

The survey of 701 registered voters was conducted Sept. 13-16 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.

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