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Political theater as Perdue-GOP meet

Perdue urges reform agenda: Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue on Wednesday urged the incoming Republican legislature to create an independent bipartisan redistricting commission, pass session time limits, and make the workings of the legislature more transparent. But the Republican lawmakers had their own message for the governor: Thanks for the advice, now start making some deeper budget cuts in preparation for next year's projected $3.7 billion shortfall. (N&O)

Lottery sales lose: The sour economy is slowing state lottery ticket sales for the first time since the lottery began nearly five years ago. If projections for weak sales hold, the North Carolina Education Lottery won't raise as much money in the current fiscal year as it did in the one that ended July 1, lottery officials said Wednesday. The amount that the lottery sends to the state education fund would fall by about $17 million from the previous year's record $419 million. (N&O)

State Muslims want to chat with Ellmers: The election of tea party favorite Renee Ellmers to Congress in November was a loss for Democrats and incumbent Bob Etheridge. But some area Muslims say it's more like a sharp blow for them.
The winner of North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District seat offended many Muslims with a TV campaign ad that claimed that a planned Muslim community center near ground zero in New York City was a "victory mosque," possibly funded by terrorists. Dismayed by the ad, individuals and groups within the Triangle's Muslim community say they are interested in pursuing a truce with Ellmers. They have been trying to reach out to her since the ad first aired in late September. (N&O)

House repeals gay ban: For the second time this year, the House voted to dismantle the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, giving the Senate a final shot in the waning days of this Congress to change a law requiring thousands of uniformed gays to hide their sexual identity. (N&O)
 

Survey says: anti-health care members should reject Congressional health care coverage

A majority of American voters think the new members of Congress who opposed last year’s health care overhaul ought to reject the federal health care plan that they’ll be entitled to when they take office in January, according to a national survey released today by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm in Raleigh.

According to the survey, 53 percent of registered voters think those who campaigned against what they called “Obamacare” should reject the congressional health care plan. A third of respondents think they should accept it.

Among registered Democrats, 40 percent said the new anti-health reform members should accept the government plan, and 46 percent said they should decline it.
Among registered Republicans, 28 percent said incoming anti-health reform members should accept the government health care plan, and 56 percent said they should decline it.

The push-button telephone survey was of 707 registered voters called between Nov. 19 and 21. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.7 percent.

In North Carolina, the only new member of the delegation is U.S. Rep.-elect Renee Ellmers, a Republican from Dunn. Ellmers was supported by tea party activists and campaigned against the health reform bill. She told The News & Observer last week that she is likely to accept the federal government’s health care plan.
 

N.C. Republicans nominate House speaker today

Tillis and Stam vie for vote: House Republicans meet today to nominate a new speaker for the N.C. House. Rep. Thom Tillis of Cornelius, is currently minority whip. He's running against Minority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam of Apex. (Charlotte)

Minority leadership: Meanwhile on the Democrat's side of the aisle, outgoing House Speaker Joe Hackney of Orange County says he'll run for minority leader in the wake of legislative losses that will flip control to the Republicans. (AP)

Ellmers' first week:  On Friday, Renee Ellmers was finishing up her first week in D.C. while back in Raleigh, U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge was at a press conference acknowledging that N.C.'s 2nd District had a new representative in the U.S. Congress. (N&O)

School cuts ahead?: North Carolina could lose more than 5,300 teachers and all public school classes would be larger under a proposal for education cuts prepared for Gov. Bev Perdue's budget office. (N&O)

Settlement for black farmers: The U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation awarding $1.15 billion to black farmers across the South for past discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (N&O)

Etheridge concedes to Ellmers

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge conceded this afternoon, saying the recount shows that Renee Ellmers is the next representative from the 2nd Congressional District.

“The numbers confirm that despite the incredible support we had - and neither candidate getting to 50 percent - in the end we came up just a little too short,” Etheridge said in his statement.

He congratulated Ellmers, but also slammed the style of his opponents.
“The combination of the national tide that swept the country, massive amounts of secret corporate cash funding a campaign of distortions, and dirty politics by Washington, D.C., partisan operatives was just too much to overcome,” Etheridge said. “But what’s done is done.   I congratulate Mrs. Ellmers and wish her well as she prepares to serve the people of North Carolina’s 2nd District.”

Etheridge thanked his wife, Faye, and touted his record over seven terms. He said he was proud of his office’s constituent service, of his work on the Farm Bill, of his amendment to promote federally backed school construction bonds and of his bill to provide survivor benefits to family members of firefighters and other first responders killed in the line of duty.

“As I prepare to leave elected office, I do so with my head held high and my heart filled with gratitude for all the people who have helped me along life’s journey,” he said. “I know many of you are disappointed by the outcome of the election, as am I, but we move forward knowing that God still has work for us to do.”

The recount, which concluded today, showed Ellmers was 1,489 votes ahead of incumbent U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge.

The N.C. Board of Elections will certify the results Tuesday.

The final recount was 93,878 votes for Ellmers, a Republican, and 92,389 for Etheridge, a Democrat.

In the end, Etheridge gained just a six-vote difference.

The recount caps a contentious race that saw Ellmers, a nurse from Dunn, leap from long-shot activist to freshman lawmaker. She filed to run against Etheridge because of her frustration over health care reform, but few political observers thought her chances were good.

Then Republican operatives covertly released a video of Etheridge being questioned by two unidentified men on a Capitol Hill sidewalk. When they asked him about whether he supported President Barack Obama’s agenda, he grabbed one of the men and demanded to know, “Who are you?” It was a YouTube sensation.

Ellmers drew her own national attention with a video that declared a proposed Muslim community center near the Ground Zero site was a “victory mosque,” and seemed to compare Muslims to terrorists.

Ellmers raised far less than Etheridge, but enjoyed significant outside help from conservative political groups.

Etheridge, a former tobacco farmer and state schools superintendent from Lillington, has served seven terms in the House of Representatives. He was in Washington this week for the lame-duck session.

Ellmers was here too, going through the week-long orientation for incoming freshmen. She will be sworn in Jan. 3.

Etheridge to concede

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge will concede at 3 p.m. today after recount results show that Renee Ellmers will be the next congresswoman from the 2nd Congressional District.

Ellmers was 1,489 votes ahead of incumbent U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge today after a week-long recount.

The N.C. Board of Elections will certify the results Tuesday.

The final recount was 93,878 votes for Ellmers, a Republican, and 92,389 for Etheridge, a Democrat.

In the end, Etheridge gained just a six-vote difference.

Etheridge is scheduled to give a statement at 3 p.m. today in Raleigh.

The recount caps a contentious race that saw Ellmers, a nurse from Dunn, leap from long-shot activist to freshman lawmaker. She filed to run against Etheridge because of her frustration over health care reform, but few political observers thought her chances were good.

Then Republican operatives covertly released a video of Etheridge being questioned by two unidentified men on a Capitol Hill sidewalk. When they asked him about whether he supported President Barack Obama’s agenda, he grabbed one of the men and demanded to know, “Who are you?” It was a YouTube sensation.

Ellmers drew her own national attention with a video that declared a proposed Muslim community center near the Ground Zero site was a “victory mosque,” and seemed to compare Muslims to terrorists.

Ellmers raised far less than Etheridge, but enjoyed significant outside help from conservative political groups.

Etheridge, a former tobacco farmer and state schools superintendent from Lillington, has served seven terms in the House of Representatives. He was in Washington this week for the lame-duck session.

Ellmers was here too, going through the week-long orientation for incoming freshmen. She will be sworn in Jan. 3.
 

Still counting ...

Lee and Wake counties begin recounting their votes today in the race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge and Republican Renee Ellmers. Other counties in the 2nd Congressional District began their recounts on Wednesday.  The state Board of Elections may not have final results until Friday. Stilll, it will be Tuesday before the board certifies the results.

Recount begins as Ellmers learns D.C.'s ways

While Renee Ellmers is in Washington learning the ropes, the recount that determines if she'll stay there begins.On Wednesday, the counties that make up the 2nd Congressional District start recounting the votes to see if Ellmers maintains her lead over incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge. Two counties, Lee and Wake, won't start their recount until Thursday. Over in Johnston County, the recount is expected to take all day.

Meanwhile Ellmers is in D.C. this week with other freshman lawmakers who are learning their way around Capitol Hill. In addition to the usual networking and name tag reading, the new members find out where their offices are and have a class picture taken.Tea Party members were also invited by Dick Armey to a two-day retreat last week in Baltimore. It was also attended by a reporter from The New York Times who quoted Ellmers as “gushing” to the former U.S. Rep., “Dick, you're wonderful.” See the story here.

N.C. conservatives head to D.C.; looking for 'hokey-pokey'

About 150 conservative voters from Raleigh, Greensboro and the 2nd Congressional District are riding up in three buses to Washington, D.C., today to remind lawmakers that they aren’t going away. The group from North Carolina will join the tea party-backed “November Speaks” rally at noon in front of the U.S. Capitol.

Today begins the lame-duck session of Congress, in which the outgoing members will try to vote through as much as possible before the next crew of representatives takes over in January.

“We’re making sure they don’t do any hokey-pokey while they’re here,” said Dallas Woodhouse, head of the N.C. chapter of Americans for Prosperity. “The more subtle message is we want to make sure they know we’re keeping an eye on them. Their natural tendency over time will be to ease back and spend other people’s money.”

Also in town this week for orientation is the new crop of House freshmen, who include a host of tea-party backed Republicans – among them Renee Ellmers of Dunn.

“I think we got a good one in Renee,” Woodhouse said.

Ellmers won’t be declared the official winner until her re-count against incumbent U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge is complete. She remains more than a thousand votes ahead of him.

Etheridge heads to a recount 1,489 votes down

With all provisional and absentee ballots counted and certified in the state's 2nd Congressional district, incumbent Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge still trails his Republican challenger Renee Ellmers by 1,489 votes.

But the margin between the candidates is less than the 1 percent threshold required for a candidate to request a recount.

Etheridge was about 1,650 votes behind before Friday's canvass in the districts 10 counties was complete. Historically, recounts in the state have rarely changed the election results, especially when the margin is as wide as that facing Etheridge.

Etheridge issued a statement affirming that he wants the ballots counted again.

“Throughout my career in public service – from the military to serving in Congress– I’ve known there is nothing more important than preserving the sacred right to vote and that is why North Carolina should go forward with the process lawmakers designed to ensure accuracy and integrity when the margin is less than 1 percent,” Etheridge said, according to the statement.

“Unless voters are assured that the results of the election are accurate then they’ll never be sure that the people’s voice was heard or that the result is valid. As more votes were counted over the last week, it became increasingly clear that this race is too close to call and a recount is warranted.”

Johnnie McLean, the deputy director of the State Board of Elections, planning for a recount will start on Monday. There was no immediate estimate of how much the recount will cost.

UPDATED to include Etheridge's statement.

Ellmers makes "not ready for primetime" list

Another political outfit has deemed Republican Renee Ellmers not “ready for primetime.”

Hotline On Call, the National Journal website that tracks all things political in Washington, listed Ellmers this week among the top five Republican freshmen likely to do or say something in their first term that will hurt their re-election chances. Here’s what Hotline had to say:
 
“Until the closing days of the campaign, Ellmers was considered a longshot to unseat Rep. Bob Etheridge (D). That's probably why no one paid attention to her outlandish TV ad that claimed that the proposed Ground Zero mosque in New York City was a "victory mosque" for Muslims. Ellmers also didn't make any friends at the National Republican Congressional Committee when she lashed out at them on her website earlier this week for not helping to pay for her recount fees. “

Hotline’s point echoes that of an NRCC spokesman this summer, who said the Ellmers campaign wasn’t yet ready for primetime. The group declined to add her to its “Young Guns” list of GOP contenders.

The NRCC now is backing Ellmers. The organization actually has chipped in $10,000 total: $5,000 for the recount and another $5,000 for her general campaign. And it pledged last week to help with staff time and expertise as well. The NRCC now lists her on its recount website, with a link to her website.

Ellmers remains about 1,500 votes ahead in her challenge to incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge. If she remains within one percent by the final election canvass on Friday, he is likely to ask for a recount.

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