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Morning Memo: Cooper's unofficial debut; peek inside GOP voters' minds

ROY COOPER'S DEBUT: Attorney General Roy Cooper is the featured speaker Saturday morning at the N.C. Democratic Party's Western Gala. The speech at the women's breakfast will serve as his unofficial debut in the 2016 governor's race. In recent weeks, Cooper has made his intentions to run clear and the event will give him a platform to begin gathering Democratic support as other party challengers emerge. Later in the evening, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and R.T. Rybak, the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, will speak at the party fundraiser.

***A must-read analysis of Republicans and its potential impact on the N.C. Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Perdue closes her campaign for good, leave Democratic party hanging

PERDUE CLOSES CAMPAIGN ACCOUNT: From AP: Former N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue has closed her campaign accounts, distributing the more than $1.2 million political war chest raised for her derailed 2012 re-election bid. Nearly $800,000 went to the Democrat and her husband to repay personal loans made to her political campaigns between 2000 and 2008, according to campaign finance disclosure reports filed last week with the N.C. Board of Elections.

Another $200,000 went to a pair of writers assisting Perdue with her autobiography and about $120,000 went to a charity. Most of the remainder was paid to lawyers and campaign staff.

***Find out who Perdue left off her campaign spending list below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Daily Show says North Carolina trumps South Carolina in crazy

VOTING BILL TARGET OF LAUGHS: Another day, another national television show puts North Carolina at the butt of the jokes. The Daily Show on Comedy Central took aim at the recently approved elections bill that puts restrictions on voting. Host John Oliver joked that the state election bill would place “all voting booths on buoys that are only accessible by yacht." The segment lumped North Carolina together with Texas and Florida but the Tar Heel state (starting at 2:30) received particular attention and Senate leader Phil Berger make an appearance from a TV clip. Oliver says the voting bill is just the “tip of the true $h*!-berg of a legislative session" and concludes: “Your move South Carolina. Oh, you thought you had crazy Carolina all sown up, didn’t you?”

***The state's system to deliver food assistance is troubled and ALEC is targeted ahead of this week's meeting. Read more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

By one vote, Cowell's bill for pension investment flexibility survives

By a rare narrow vote, the House Finance Committee approved a bill Wednesday to give State Treasurer Janet Cowell more flexibility to invest the state's pension money, even after the panel weakened the measure.

The 14-13 vote reflects the ardent opposition from the State Employees Association of North Carolina, which is concerned about the risk of moving into alternative investments and opposes Cowell's sole management of the retirement fund.

Cowell appeared at the meeting to push to increase the current 34 percent total cap on private asset investments, such as hedge funds and real estate, saying the state's $80 billion pension portfolio is too limited to stocks and bonds. She said with the stock market at all-time highs and interest rates about to rise, the current investment strategy is not sustainable.

Janet Cowell uses CNBC interview to push for more investment flexibility

State Treasurer Janet Cowell took to national TV this week to make a case for why she needs more flexibility when it comes to managing the state's $80 million pension fund.

Cowell told CNBC's "Fast Money" on Tuesday evening that stocks and bonds are not safe bets right now. The state's retirement money is heavily invested in these areas. "Fixed income is one of the highest risk places you can have your money and that means you're not going to have the money you need for retirement if you are putting your money in bonds,” Cowell said on the show. “Alternatives look increasingly attractive given the volatility of the stock market.”

State treasurer warns lawmakers pension fund needs more flexibility, or else

State Treasurer Janet Cowell is urging lawmakers to give her more flexibility to invest the state’s pension money, warning that is is “very unlikely” returns will meet projections without the change.

In a recent letter to legislative leaders, Cowell said returns on the state’s $80 billion pension fund are in jeopardy because global stock markets are hitting an all-time high and bond returns are expected to fall. If the state doesn’t meet the 7.25 percent return rate, Cowell said the taxpayers may be on the hook to buttress the promised retirement benefits.

Document(s):
SB558 letter to General Assembly.pdf

Transportation Secretary Gene Conti gets national transportation award

North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti has been honored with a national award for outstanding contributions to highway engineering.

Conti was presented the Thomas H. MacDonald Memorial Award, the highest designation of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, during the group's annual meeting in Pittsburgh earlier this week.

SEANC rolls out new web, radio ad blitz slamming Forest

SEANC on Thursday rolled out a new web and radio ad blitz against Republican nominee for lieutenant  governor Dan Forest, and promoting Linda Coleman.

The radio ad is playing in the Triangle, the Triad and Charlotte area, while the video is linked from several newspaper websites and posted on YouTube. The newspaper website banner ads also link to www.extremedanforest.com -- no further explanation necessary about what's on that site.

The State Employees Association of N.C. has endorsed Coleman, the Democrat.

SEANC fixes TV ad, but Dan Forest's campaign still cries foul

Republicans are crying foul about a scathing attack ad against lieutenant governor candidate Dan Forest.

The State Employees Association of North Carolina paid for the spot, which touts Democratic candidate Linda Coleman. But the 30-second spot didn't meet a legal requirement that the ad show the picture of the person who is reading the "paid for" disclaimer.

The N.C. Republican Party sent a complaint to state election officials Wednesday and SEANC fixed the ad the same day.

Forest radio ad attacks opponent, though not by name

Dan Forest, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor,  launched a radio ad this week that takes on the state employees association, though not by name.

Forest's opponent, Democrat Linda Coleman, is backed by the State Employees Association of North Carolina, which is running a television ad on her behalf.

"We don't need the unions coming into North Carolina and killing our ability to create new jobs," Forest says.

Forest, a former partner in an architecture firm, says it would be better to have someone with a business background than a former bureaucrat holding the gavel in the Senate. Coleman is a former state agency human resources manager and state personnel director.

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