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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: Questions for Thom Tillis, McCrory wades into tax fight

THREE QUESTIONS FOR THOM TILLIS: House Speaker Thom Tillis' decision to formally enter the Senate race and challenge Democrat U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is not a surprise. But the timing, coming before the end of the legislative session, when Tillis said in January he would make a decision, is noteworthy. Here are three more questions about the race:

1. How long will he remain speaker? Running for the U.S. Senate is no state legislative race. It's all consuming. Does Tillis think he can manage an unruly House that is to his ideological right while campaigning? The case for staying in office: it helps to control the purse strings when you are asking for money. His allied super PAC, by coincidence or not, debuted when the House received the budget from the Senate. The case for resigning: Why have everything the Rep. Brawley's of the world propose drag you into issue fights you don't want?

2. Who will challenge him from the right? Tillis' debuted his run with an AP interview in which he emphasized his ability to work across the aisle -- a common message, but rarely heard in the primary stage of a campaign when you are appealing the fieriest partisans of your party. But it underscores Tillis' moderate tendencies and how Tillis could easily face a big-name challenger who is considered more conservative. The field could get crowded -- and Tillis isn't polling well in GOP primary surveys because he's largely unknown, despite his powerful post.

3. What will Phil Berger do? The possibility that Senate leader Phil Berger could enter the race -- and move to Tillis' right -- would add a whole new dynamic to the Republican primary field as two legislative leaders govern the state by their future ambition. It sounds less likely that he will run but even if he doesn't run, Berger can exert considerable influence if Tillis remains in the legislature by steering legislation that forces him to take positions on issues he may rather avoid.

***Read more on Tillis' Senate bid and Gov. Pat McCrory's step into the tax debate for the first time -- all below in the Dome Morning Memo, the source for North Carolina political news and analysis. ***

Morning Memo: First Lady ventues into policy, TABOR bill gets a hearing

FIRST LADY BACKS BILL TO REGULATE PUPPY MILLS: Venturing into public policy for the first time as First Lady, Ann McCrory issued an open letter to lawmakers supporting House Bill 930 to establish standards for dog breeders. The bill is a weakened version of the original legislation which sought to crack down on puppy mills. "| am writing to thank you for your unanimous support of l-louse Bill 930. Passing legislation to establish basic standards of care for large commercial dog breeding facilities is a very important issue to me, and to people across our state," Ann McCrory wrote in the letter. "| especially wish to Representatives Saine, McGrady and Brown for their leadership on this issue. l hope you and other members of the General Assembly will continue to advocate for this bill, and other legislation establishing higher standards for Commercial breeders. These policies increase our quality of life in North Carolina and ensure better care for dogs across the state. You have my full support."

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: A House committee will consider a Taxpayer Bill of Rights measure, known as TABOR, that would restrict state spending. Its hugely controversial and produced varied results. Other legislative committees will consider trimming environmental regulations and altering rules governing midwifery. On the Senate floor, lawmakers will hear a bill to prevent undercover whistleblower operations at farms and processing plants. And in the House, a bill about cancer drugs that split Republicans faces another vote, as does the LEED certification bill. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more North Carolina political news below. Send news and tips to***

State Employees Association slams McCrory Medicaid plan

The State Employees Association of North Carolina highlighted high-profile problems with Medicaid managed care in other states as it voiced its objection to Gov. Pat McCrory's proposal.

McCrory on Wednesday announced a plan that would open the state's Medicaid business to management by for-profit companies. Each of the state's 1.5 million Medicaid recipients would sign up for coverage with one of three or more companies. The companies would receive a set amount of money per person, and would be liable for overspending

In its objection, SEANC noted problems with Medicaid managed care in Kentucky, Texas, and New Jersey.

In Kentucky, providers complain of late payments and one managed care company has pulled out of the state.

"McCrory stated the move would control costs, provide a better quality of care and increase efficiency," says the email signed by SEANC executive director Dana Cope.

"SEANC shares with the governor these goals for Medicaid, but we differ with the underlying premise that privatization is the key to fixing the Medicaid budget, providing better care or efficiencies."

Morning Memo: McCrory to announce Medicaid overhaul; big day at statehouse

McCRORY TO ANNOUNCE MEDICAID SYSTEM OVERHAUL: Gov. Pat McCrory rejected a Medicaid expansion earlier this year saying the system was broken and Wednesday morning he is expected to describe how he plans to fix it. The Republican has talked frequently about the rising costs of the healthcare system for select low-income and disabled residents and issued a video preview Tuesday saying he would create a "partnership" that will help keep costs low. Check Dome later today for more details from the 10 a.m. press conference.

***It's a jam-packed day in North Carolina politics. Get the full scoop on all the big stories from the Dome Morning Memo below. Send tips and news to***

Morning Roundup: State GOP leaders knew about Goldman-Malone troubles

N.C. Republican Party leaders were aware of a reported relationship between Wake County school board members Debra Goldman and Chris Malone, yet they still discouraged other potential GOP candidates from opposing Goldman in her run for state auditor, a former opponent said Tuesday. After voting Tuesday, Pat McCrory wouldn't say whether he supported Goldman. Read the full story here.

More political headlines:

--The state employees association unveiled a website Tuesday that highlights the GOP lieutenant governor candidate Dan Forest's thoughts on  “Islamic extremists” who want to impose Shariah law and a United Nations plan for sustainable development called Agenda 21. “He is probably the most radical candidate who’s ever run for North Carolina office,” said Dana Cope, the group's leader.

SEANC awards lawmakers who broke party ranks in budget override

The State Employees Association gave awards to three Democratic lawmakers who rebuffed Gov. Bev Perdue and voted to override her budget veto.

Reps. Marcus Brandon, Darren Jackson and Marian McLawhorn received the legislator of the year awards at SEANC's annual convention in Greensboro last weekend for their votes that gave state employees 1.2 percent pay raise and five days of bonus leave time.

Five more years for Cope

Dana Cope, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, received a five-year contract extension from the group's Board of Governors. 

Cope started at the organization in 2000, having worked as a lobbyist for the state Department of Labor. Cope was running in the Democratic primary for Labor Commissioner when he dropped his campaign and took the SEANC job. 

In 2008, SEANC became an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. Cope is a member of SEIU's executive committee. 

SEANC unlikely to endorse in Democratic primary

The State Employees Association of North Carolina appears likely to stay neutral in the Democratic primary for governor, according to Dana Cope, the group's executive director.

The association's political action committee met March 3rd and declined to endorse, in part because there was consensus on which candidate to back.

“A lot of our members are supporting different people in the process,”  Cope said. “A lot of members are supporting McCrory.” He was referring to Republican candidate Pat McCrory.

But Cope said the PAC board has the option of revisiting that decision when it meets again on March 31.

SEANC, which is Local 2008 of the Service Employees International Union, has 55,000 members.

SEANC did endorse Linda Coleman in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. The group has a history of endorsing both candidates of both parties. The group, for example, endorsed and spent large sums on behalf of Republican Patrick Ballantine in the 2004 governor's race.

SEANC lauds Apodaca

Sen. Tom Apodaca, Hendersonville Republican and Senate Rules committee chairman, won the Legislator of the Year award from the State Employees Association of North Carolina's political action committee.

The group cited Apodaca's work on the changes to the state employee health plan as one of the reasons he won the Lisa B. Mitchell Award.

"During this legislative session, Sen. Apodaca's door was open and we always had a seat at his table," SEANC executive director Dana Cope said in a statement.

The N.C. Association of Educators and retirees didn't like the first versions of the health plan changes. Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed the first health plan bill legislators passed.

The award is named for a former SEANC member who worked to build its PAC.

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