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Morning Memo: National Republicans launch billboards targeting Hagan

REPUBLICANS LAUNCH BILLBOARDS HITTING KAY HAGAN: The National Republican Senatorial Committee is debuting seven billboards across the state targeting U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's support for the federal health care law. Republicans are trying to make the case that Hagan, a Democrat facing re-election in 2014, accomplished nothing besides supporting Obamacare in the first five years of her term. (See a copy of the billboard here.)

"Kay Hagan promised North Carolinians that she would govern as a centrist, but instead has been a Democratic partisan, supporting the President's signature initiatives lock, stock and barrel," said Brook Hougesen, a NRSC spokeswoman.

The effort is designed to put the one-term incumbent -- who polls show is vulnerable -- on the defensive while the GOP struggles to find a dominant candidate. House Speaker Thom Tillis is the most prominent name in the race but other major Republicans are still considering whether to run. Cary physician Greg Brannon, a tea party candidate, is also making a bid. The billboards are located in Greensboro, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and the Raleigh-Durham area.

***More North Carolina political news -- including U.S. Senate campaign updates -- below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to attend Wake fundraiser

JAN BREWER TO ATTEND WAKE GOP FUNDRAISER: The Wake County Republican Party announced Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer will attend a Sept. 14 fundraiser in Raleigh for the local party's fall candidates. The announcement email includes the now infamous photo of Brewer, a Republican, wagging her finger upon meeting President Barack Obama at an airport tarmac. The top ticket for the fundraiser is a $5,000 VIP package and a single ticket is $75. The party expects the event to sell out.

THE MUMMIES RETURN: From columnist Rob Christensen-- "We have seen this before in North Carolina – the reign of the green-eyeshaded men who thought low taxes trumped all, and if there were any coins left in the till at the end of the day they would throw it into the education pot.

"It was called the 1800s. And Walter Hines Page had a name for them. He called North Carolina’s leaders “the mummies” as in very old, well-wrapped, very dead Egyptians because of their complacent conservatism." Read his full column here.

***Get more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Bill Maher's screed rips North Carolina GOP

BILL MAHER RIPS NORTH CAROLINA A NEW ONE: Comedian and liberal commenter Bill Maher spent five minutes recapping North Carolina's rightward political shift concluding: "North Carolina is going ape $*!# in a way no other state has."

Maher introduces the clip comparing the state to a third world country "where Democracy itself hangs in the balance." He later blames Art Pope for the circumstances and suggested his guest Jay-Z ought to buy the state. See the clip above.

McCRORY WATCH: Gov. Pat McCrory hasn’t signed any bills in a week and there are 38 of them on his desk. Deadline to sign them is a minute before midnight on Sunday, Aug. 25. He signed a spate of legislation July 29.

***The biggest bill on his desk -- read about it below. Along with more North Carolina political news in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo:Petition calls on McCrory to veto voter ID law

More than 10,000 NC residents have signed a petition asking Gov. Pat McCrory to veto the voter ID bill that passed the legislature last week. At a press conference Friday, McCrory indicated he would sign the bill although he also admitted he was unfamiliar with a part of it. The bill morphed from one focused on having voters show a photo ID at the polls to one that includes changes to early voting, campaign finance and the state's presidential primary. It also lets any registered voter challenge another's vote on election day and repeals Stand By Your Ad and other provisions. See the list here. Welcome to Dome's Morning Memo on this Wednesday.

Ellmers says she won't run for U.S. Senate

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers said today she will not run for the U.S. Senate.

Ellmers, a Dunn Republican in her second term, had been mentioned as a possible challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen Kay Hagan. Ellmers said earlier she was thinking about entering the Senate race. Instead, she said in an statement Tuesday, she intends to run for re-election to the House.

"After a great deal of reflection and prayer, I have come to the decision that I will run for re-election in the U.S. House of Representatives," she wrote. "This was not an easy decision to make, but the right one for me, my family, and the second district of North Carolina. I have been very blessed to get to where I am now and owe my accomplishments to God, my husband Brent, and my son Ben."

In her statement, Ellmers emphasizes the need for Republicans to connect with women.

Dr. Greg Brannon and House Speaker Thom Tillis are the announced candidates in the GOP primary, but other Republicans are considering the race.

Ellmers raises only a congressional-level money

If Rep. Renee Ellmers gets into the U.S. Senate race, she would have to play catch up on fund raising.

Ellmers, a second term Republican from Dunn, reported raising $158,000 in the second quarter, not a large amount for a candidate who is considering a U.S. Senate bid., according to Roll Call, a Capitol Hill publication. She had $180,000 in cash on hand as of June 30th. As Monday her report had not been put on line by the Federal Election Commission.

That compares with the more than $2 million raised by Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in the second quarter and the $4.2 million she reports having on her hand.

House Speaker Thom Tillis' report had not yet been filed, but his campaign has said he will report raising $300,000 during a several week since he announced and will report $250,000 on hand.

National GOP still trying to recruit an opponent for Hagan

UPDATED: 3:11 p.m.: Word on street is that the National Republican Senatorial Committee is in Raleigh on a recruiting trip to find an opponent for Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan next year.

The GOP operative is talking with Senate leader Phil Berger and Congresswoman Renee Ellmers or at least their people, to see if they have an interest in running next year. Berger confirmed to Dome he met with NRSC representatives Tuesday morning.

The scouting trip suggests that the national party is not yet completely sold on House Speaker Thom Tillis, the major GOP candidate who has announced his candidacy.

That was reflected in a blog by former NRSC consultant Jim Ellis who wrote Monday that North Carolina was one of three Senate races that "show some promise for Republicans but are regarded as major candidate recruiting disappointments.''

"Sen. Kay Hagan should be on the top of the vulnerability list, but she's not,'' Ellis writes. "Republicans didn't draw a top-tier challenge candidate, but we'll see if state House Speaker Thom Tillis' campaign can develop. Considering the legislature's poor approval ratings, Tillis has an even steeper hill to climb to position himself for victory.''

Morning Memo: Abortion bill stirs opposition, puts McCrory, Tillis in tough spot

A TEXAS SHOW AT THE NC STATEHOUSE? The Senate's blind-sided rush to push a far-reaching measure to limit access to abortions Tuesday evening is stirring opposition groups. NARAL posted an alert on its Facebook page, telling its supporters to come to the Legislative Building on Wednesday morning “to let them know we are watching.” Within a few hours, more than 150 people had posted that they’d be traveling to the legislature Wednesday morning. Action NC also sent emails calling on supporters to pack the Senate gallery this morning. It's not likely to draw the 5,000-some who flooded the Texas legislature earlier this week to support Wendy Davis, but expect vocal opposition.

THE POLITICS OF THE ABORTION BILL: Beyond the policy, the politics of the abortion bill are fascinating. The Senate is doing a better job than Democrats putting House Speaker Thom Tillis and Gov. Pat McCrory in a tight spot on tough issues. McCrory said he doesn't support further limits to abortion. And Tillis is simultaneously attempting to prevent a serious challenge from his right in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in 2014 while also setting sights on Democratic Kay Hagan. Even more than McCrory, what Tillis does with this legislation when it comes to his chamber is the key to watch. But right now it's like someone is trying to make it difficult on him.

***The House is vacationing but the Senate is making big headlines. Read more N.C. political news and analysis below in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Tillis likely a 'no' on immigration; Ellmers weighs Senate race

TILLIS LIKELY WOULD HAVE VOTED 'NO' ON IMMIGRATION BILL: House Speaker Thom Tillis said Thursday he likely would have voted against a bipartisan immigration measure approved by the U.S. Senate. The Cornelius Republican is making a bid to replace U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in the 2014 elections. Hagan voted for the bill. Tillis, after initially saying he hadn't looked at the bill, added that he shares "a lot of the concerns that Sen. (Richard) Burr has and Sen. (Jerry) Moran." Burr and Moran voted against.

Pressed on how he would have voted, Tillis said, "I'm not informed enough to know how I would go but most likely I would have taken the position of the majority the Republicans." The majority opposed the bill but 14, including Sens. Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, voted in favor.

ELLMERS TO DECIDE IN NEXT TWO WEEKS ABOUT U.S. SENATE BID: Roll Call has the update -- Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., has pushed back her timeline to make a decision about the Senate race for another couple weeks. “I haven’t quite reached my full decision, but I think I know where I’m leaning,” Ellmers told Roll Call on Thursday between votes on Capitol Hill.

***More on Ellmers decision below, along with the disbandment of the Beard Caucus and more legislative news in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Hagan vulnerable, but GOP still searching for a contender, poll suggests

No consensus has formed among Republicans in next year's Senate race, but Congresswoman Virginia Foxx has the most support, according to a new poll.

Foxx leads among Republican voters with 23 percent, followed by state Senate leader Phil Berger with 11 percent, House speaker Thom Tillis and Congresswoman Renee Ellmer with 9 percent, former U.S. Ambassador with 8 percent, Cary physician Greg Bannon with 7 percent, Charlotte minister Mark Harris at 4 percent and former Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Wheeler at 3 percent.

That is according to a new survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic leaning firm based in Raleigh.

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan leads all potential Republican candidates by margins ranging from 4 to 9 percent.

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