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Morning Memo: Hagan gets opponent; Records show deeper DHHS troubles

KAY HAGAN GETS A FEISTY CHALLENGER: All the attention is focused on the Republicans vying to replace Democrat Kay Hagan in the U.S. Senate. But Hagan, too, will face a primary challenger. The Fayetteville Observer reports that Fred Westphal, a retired educator from outside Fayetteville, plans to make a bid. And he’s mighty sure of his chances. "She doesn’t have a chance against me," Westphal, 76, told The Fayetteville Observer. "She won’t get the party nomination."

INTERNAL EMAILS SHED MORE LIGHT ON DHHS TROUBLES: The state agency overseeing the new computer system that sends money to health professionals treating poor patients downplayed problems with the software even as complaints rolled in to Gov. Pat McCrory’s office from doctors, dentists and medical equipment companies.

Correspondence obtained by The News & Observer from McCrory’s office show that complaints were flowing in from frustrated health care providers, with some appealing directly to his chief of staff and his lawyer, by the end of July. Those complaints were passed on to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the system. On Aug. 5, DHHS sent out the news release "NCTracks is on Track."

***Read more from the DHHS records and get a full political news roundup below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: More strong numbers for McCrory, immigration ads debut

CIVITAS POLL PUTS McCRORY ABOVE 50%: A Civitas poll puts Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's favorability rating at 54 percent, a touch higher than a poll earlier in the week showing it at 49 percent. His unfavorable rating is 30 percent, according to the political nonprofit that traditionally supports Republicans. Look for more numbers on Dome soon.

IMMIGRATION ADS PROVIDE GOP COVER: Americans for a Conservative Direction, a group backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, is airing an ad in North Carolina that defends the immigration legislation. The Hill reports that it is targeted at six red-leaning states and designed to support Republicans who favor the plan. From the story: "Anyone who thinks that what we have now on immigration is not a problem is fooling themselves," (Marco Rubio) says in a news clip featured in the ad. A narrator goes on to say that "conservative leaders have a plan," and cites news outlets like McClatchy, CNN and the Washington Post in describing it as "the toughest enforcement measure in the history of the United States," "bold" and "very conservative."

***Happy Friday! Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. A quiet day in N.C. politics. No legislative action and the governor lists no public events. Find more news and analysis below. ***

Emerging from conference, bill restricts state's study of climate change

In a closed-door conference committee, Republican lawmakers appeared to add a provision to a bill that would prohibit any state agency from developing or implementing a plan to address climate change unless authorized by the legislature .

The new language appears in Senate Bill 10 -- a controversial measure that sweeps clean several key boards and commissions, wiping off Democratic appointees to make room for GOP favorites. The Senate rushed the bill through early in the session but the House balked and wrote its own version. The bill emerged from a secretive conference committee Wednesday and appears on the House calendar for action Thursday. It's not clear whether the House will consider the measure today.

Ad campaign designed to boost president's climate change message

The Environmental Defense Fund is airing television advertisements in North Carolina to boost President Barack Obama's climate change message in the State of the Union address.

Morning Memo: A new 2014 map, McCrory mum on second big departure

UPDATED: WHAT REDISTRICTING MEANS: Only one competitive congressional race in 2014. Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball political rankings show what happens when congressional districts are packed with like-minded folks. Of the state's 13 congressional races, only one is deemed competitive between parties. The seat is Democratic Congressman Mike McIntyre in District 7. McIntyre won a close race in 2012 -- one of the few where Mitt Romney won the president vote -- and another tight contest is expected in 2014. The pundits at University of Virginia give him the early edge, though, ranking the race "leans Democratic."

***You are reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more news and analysis below.***

Morning Memo: Senate GOP questioned on legality of power grab

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: No votes in the House on Thursday but the Senate is expected to give final approval to a bill to purge the state's boards of any Democratic appointees. Gov. Pat McCrory hosts legislators for a private breakfast and attends two closed-door events in Wake County. Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller is hosting a morning press conference to lay out his vision for the minority party amid GOP reign.

TEA PARTY GROUP MAY SCREEN GOP U.S. SENATE CANDIDATES: Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips said his group may begin to support candidates in Republican primaries, the Daily Caller reports. The move could have implications on North Carolina's U.S. Senate race in 2014 -- which is expected to draw a robust field to challenge Democrat Kay Hagan. Americans for Prosperity is a tea party group that once held close ties to Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director, Art Pope, who led the national board and donated significantly to the organization.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more news and analysis of N.C. politics below.***

Morning Roundup: Campaigns prime for final push, First Lady in Charlotte

After the nearly $1 billion worth of TV ads, three presidential debates and all the speeches, John White will use a bullhorn Tuesday to shout a message to voters: “This is your final call!” Election Day is a day away and the final ground war for Campaign 2012 is making its last push. A look at the campaigns' final operations.

More political stories:

--The race for North Carolina hurtles toward the finish Monday as First lady Michelle Obama, joined by singer Mariah Carey, will headline an airport rally in Charlotte on Monday afternoon. The visit comes a day after former President Bill Clinton spoke to 4,000 supporters in Raleigh. Clinton photo gallery.

--State legislators last summer ignored research that shows sea-level rise will accelerate its creep up North Carolina’s coastline this century. This week, waves of science will say they were wrong. Some researchers said the 39-inch rise a state science panel expects by year 2100 may be far too low.

Morning Roundup: Dalton, McCrory square off in first debate

The governor’s race enters a new phase Saturday when Democrat Walter Dalton and Republican Pat McCrory trade harsh words in the campaign’s first debate. Sponsored by the N.C. Bar Association, the Wilmington forum is an important milepost in the campaign, giving the candidates an opportunity to define their candidacy and separate themselves from their partisan affiliates. So far the race is defined by association.

More political headlines:

--A joint press conference on the budget this week provided a striking moment pointed toward an emerging dynamic between Phil Berger and Thom Tillis, according to many political observers, who saw subtle tears in the GOP fabric compared to a year earlier when Republican lawmakers worked closely together to move North Carolina to the ideological right. 

Butterfield attends climate conference

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Wilson Democrat, is in Copenhagen for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change.

Butterfield joined the U.S. congressional delegation because he is vice chairman of the subcommittee on energy and the environment within the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Barb Barrett reports.

The 20-member, bipartisan delegation will meet with representatives from key countries involved in the negotiations and also with advocacy and business leaders to discuss job creation. The group left for Copenhagan on Thursday and returns this weekend.

NC's delegate in Copenhagen

North Carolina can claim a delegate to the United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen that starts this week.

Ellie Johnston, a UNC Asheville senior, is one of 27 students from across the country selected to attend the gathering. Johnston, a 22-year-old from Greensboro, will travel with representatives from SustainUS, a nonprofit group for youth involved in advocacy for a sustainable environment.

The young delegates will attend sessions and meet with government officials.

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