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Morning Memo: McCrory defends DHHS, eyes S.C. business

McCRORY DEFENDS WOS: Gov. Pat McCrory has full confidence in Dr. Aldona Wos, the woman he chose to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, even while making a point to say he can not micromanage their hiring decisions. Democratic legislators are calling for a state audit of the department and an investigation into its hiring practices after several media reports over high-paying jobs going to former members of the governor's campaign staff, donors and an employee of Wos' husband. Read the story here.

DON'T FORGET: Inaugural Pints & Politics event today:The N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation, a business-backed political research firm, is putting a little fun into the state capital’s favorite sport: politics. The inaugural Pints & Politics event will include discussion from Chris Sinclair, a Republican strategist at Cornerstone Solutions, and Tom Jensen, the head pollster at Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, about election outcome predictions. Free event but RSVP requested or 919-614-0520. Details: 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19, Natty Greene’s Brewing, 505 W. Jones St., Raleigh

*** Welcome to Dome's Morning Memo.

Duncan begins exploratory effort for primary challenge to Ellmers

Jim Duncan, the chairman of the Chatham County Republican Party, said Wednesday that he is beginning an exploratory effort to possibly challenge 2nd District Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers next year.

Duncan, a retired computer industry leasing executive, didn't offer any direct criticism of Ellmers, but he said there was "a craving for leadership.''

He said he would send the next month talking to people across the district about a possible congressional bid before deciding to run.

"Many of representatives are building a career and look upon it as changing their station in life,'' Duncan said. "That as a citizen is a concern. I think we got it backwards. I wouldn't speak to any specifics concerning Renee. But I have a concern about how our representatives across the board are doing at this point.''

Ellmers may face serious primary challenge from right next year

Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn may have a serious primary challenge from the right next spring.

Jim Duncan, the chairman of the Chatham County Republican Party and co-founder of the grassroots organization, The Coalition for American Principles, is contemplating a challenge to Ellmers. Duncan spent his career as an executive with Comdisco Inc., a high tech equipment leasing company. Duncan grew up where his father -- a South Carolina native -- was a New York city police detective. He has been active in a number of civic activities including the Upper Room Academy in Raleigh and the Durham Boys and Girls Club.

Ellmers was elected to Congress in 2010 as part of the Tea Party movement and as an outspoken critic of Obamacare. But she has received some criticism from the party's right that she has been too close to House Speaker John Boehner and has been insufficiently aggressive in fighting implementation of Obamacare.

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.***

Ellmers opposes US military action in Syria

Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican from Dunn, on Tuesday said she opposed military action in Syria.

"For more than two years we have witnessed the inner turmoil taking place in Syria and the horrendous atrocities executed by the Assad regime,'' Ellmer said in a statement. "Recently, reports have come out showing that chemical weapons have been used in cowardly attacks that have shocked the world in their brutality. These constitute a threat to our allies in Israel and Jordan and therefore warrant additional debate and preparedness.''

Morning Memo: Hold the fries; striking workers, a challenge to Ellmers and more pay questions

It may be harder to get your burger fix today. Fast food workers from about 30 chain restaurants in the Triangle are planning to walk off the job and march to the Martin Street Baptist Church. Welcome to Dome's Morning Memo.

NOT SO FAST FOOD TODAY: Fast food workers say they can't pay their rent and must rely on food stamps to feed their families. Among those planning to strike today an Army veteran who has lost her home. Strikers want higher wages and the right to form a union. Similar walkouts have been staged across the country this year. Full story.

1377778112 Morning Memo: Hold the fries; striking workers, a challenge to Ellmers and more pay questions The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Ellmers mulls how to bring more women to GOP

Rep. Renee Ellmers was in Charleston over the weekend speaking at a conference of conservative women about how the GOP can close the gender gap.

Ellmers, a Republican from Dunn, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and columnist Ann Coulter were among those who spoke at the 3rd Annual Bridging the Gap Women's Summit.

Among other tops, the conference discussed ways to better attract women under 35, and to deal with the perception that the Republican Party policies were hostile to women.

Renee Ellmers under fire on move to defund Obamacare

The National Review is calling out Rep. Renee Ellmers for a flip-flop. The article by Jonathan Strong notes that the Dunn Republican bashed the lobbying group Heritage Action on Twitter and its strategy of trying to defund Obamacare with the next continuing resolution.

“Should we stop #Obamacare? YES! But @Heritage_Action’s strategy w/ Continuing Resolution is WRONG,” she tweeted. Ellmers was upset that Heritage Action was spending $550,000 to attack “conservatives” rather than Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, “who was the deciding vote on Obamacare?”

Strong then notes that in a briefing in March 2011 at the Heritage Foundation, Ellmers said she would push GOP leadership to use a continuing-resolution bill to defund Obamacare.

Morning Memo: GOP faces messy veto politics, with Tillis in spotlight

UPDATED: THE POLITICS OF THE VETO: In pushing to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s of an immigration bill in coming days, Republicans find themselves in the middle of a political mess. The bill won near unanimous approval in the state Senate (43-1) but a solid block of conservative House Republicans voted against it (85-28). Now that McCrory has framed the bill as an anti-immigration conservative test, will that change? A leading Republican -- who voted no -- says the vote isn’t likely to change. And another no vote, GOP Rep. Frank Iller, issued a statement Tuesday saying the bill "opens up too many loopholes in the eVerify system."

EYES ON TILLIS: But what will Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis do? Political analyst John Davis said the race is too "fragile" for Tillis to upset the conservatives in his party. "Tillis cannot make any mistakes especially with the right," David said. "By rushing back into the arena and trying to override McCrory’s veto on the immigration bill, he does risk alienating some members of the Republican Party who are very, very sensitive about this issue."

***More on the 2014 U.S. Senate race -- and the potential Republican field -- below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx won't run for U.S. Senate

Republican U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx says she won't enter the GOP primary for the chance to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan next year.

In an announcement Tuesday afternoon, Foxx said she already has "the best job in North Carolina."

The Banner Elk Republican has ridden atop some polls for months as a voter favorite for the race. Foxx called the encouragement humbling, but said she wants to continue representing her district.

"North Carolina deserves a United States Senator who is committed to increasing freedom and also to reducing the size of Washington's footprint in our lives," Foxx said in a statement. "That starts with electing a Senator who is committed to undoing President Obama's job-crushing heath care overhaul and getting our outrageous national deficit under control. Our conservative candidate for Senate will have my utmost support."

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn announced a few weeks ago she wouldn't be running for U.S. Senate.

House Speaker Thom Tillis and Dr. Greg Brannon are in the GOP primary. A few others, including Senate leader Phil Berger, are thinking about getting in.

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