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Morning Roundup: The N.C. political year in review

While North Carolina experienced a predicted blockbuster political year in 2012, the details weren't as anticipated by some.

Charlotte hosted North Carolina's first-ever major party national convention. A proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in North Carolina passed by a whopping 22 percentage points. And although it wasn't shocking that former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory was elected governor, the ease of his victory was surprising, as was his Democratic rival - Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, not Gov. Beverly Perdue. Read AP's political year in review here.

More political headlines below:

--North Carolina’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which has spent nearly $1 billion to clean up polluted waters and protect untainted ones, will face a dicey future as legislators convene in January.

--The N.C. House’s new Republican majority whip believes he has the votes to stop North Carolina’s green-energy mandate – the first in the Southeast when it was enacted in 2007 – in its tracks. Rep. Mike Hager of Rutherford County views the mandate as the government unfairly “picking winners and losers” in the marketplace. As chairman of the Public Utilities committee, Hager would like to freeze it at the current 3 percent level.

Post-election, redistricting reform effort hits the road

The Republican-led redistricting effort left a clear mark on the 2012 elections and it's drawing attention to an effort to make the process nonpartisan.

The N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform will begin a statewide tour this week to pitch their idea for redistricting reform to business leaders with the local chamber of commerce in six cities, said director Jane Pinsky. The group -- backed by members of both political parties -- wants to an independent panel to redraw political district boundaries every 10 years instead of the state legislature.

Weekend Roundup: Can Pat McCrory keep his word? And more takeaways

Like all political candidates, Pat McCrory made many promises in his campaign. Now comes the hard part. Can his keep his promises? Read more here and check out a feasibility study for his top goals.

More political headlines:

--Read Rob Christensen's six takeaways from Tuesday's election. See a huge graphic breakdown of the vote. And geek out on a precinct-level analysis.

The pharmacist candidate says he's got the right 'prescription'

Republican state House candidate Tom Murry, a pharmacist, debuted his second TV ad of the campaign season this week, saying he has the right "prescription" to help the state.

The 30-second spot lists a few Republican accomplishments from the prior session, including cutting the gas tax and a business tax cut. The incumbent's campaign spent $100,000 to target the TV ad to his Morrisville-area district through cable and YouTube channels.

Weekend Roundup: Questions to debate in the governor's race

On Wednesday, the first of three televised gubernatorial debates will be held between Democrat Walter Dalton and Republican Pat McCrory. This is a key moment in particular for Dalton, the lieutenant governor, who trails the former Charlotte mayor in all the polls. The one-hour debate will begin at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast across the state. Rob Christensen gives his 10 questions for the candidates.

More political headlines:

--North Carolina’s next governor could determine whether the broad changes that are remaking the state’s environmental landscape – both political and natural – continue or are reined in. But both candidates are mostly silent on the issue.

--Five weeks before Election Day, the best place to get a snapshot of the presidential race in North Carolina might well be up here in the mountain towns of Watauga County. Unlike the Republican-red counties surrounding it, Watauga has turned purple in its politics – just like North Carolina, still one of nine battleground states in the 2012 contest between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

New governor gets to dole out the salary cash to department heads

Republican legislative leaders are in tune with the concerns of Democrat Gene Conti, who complained this week that he is underpaid as the state’s transportation secretary.

That’s why they amended the state budget this year to give North Carolina’s next governor new power to set salaries for non-elected state department heads.

“These agencies have gotten huge in terms of budget and responsibility,” said state Sen. Richard Stevens of Cary, one of the Senate’s chief budget-writers.

Democrats try to crown new nickname on Thom Tillis

Democrats are looking to coin a new nickname for the House Speaker: King Thom Tillis. The state party launched a website and Twitter handle under the monicker with the slogan, "looking out for the King's interests, not yours."

Like other political hit sites mocking politicians, the page about Tillis is a collection of unflattering headlines rehashing  romantic relationships his aides had with two lobbyists, the pending state ethics probe and his costly statewide town hall tour, among others. 

Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw fired back: "Have you ever heard of a king who term limits himself?" he said referring to the speaker's pledge to serve only one more term.

N.C. voters don't seem to like the state legislature

Days after the legislative session ended, the majority of North Carolina voters disapprove of the General Assembly.

A new poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows 52 percent disapprove and 22 percent approve of the state legislature's job. Another one in four voters are unsure.

Notebook: Pat McCrory keeps Perdue as major campaign focus

Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue won't appear on the 2012 ballot -- but she remains the focus of Republican candidate Pat McCrory's stump speech.

The Perdue-pinata theme continued Saturday evening when the former Charlotte mayor rallied Republicans at the Orange County Republican Party's Lincoln-Reagan Dinner.

Here's a few scribbles from my notebook:

--It seems like McCrory relished the chance to challenge Perdue before she exited. And it is clear he is trying his best to tie the other Democratic candidates for governor as closely to Perdue and former Gov. Mike Easley as possible. "All the names that are being discussed supported the Easley-Perdue policies and the way they did business," he told me in an interview after his speech, which hit similar points. "Not one of them spoke against the culture of ethics in the last eight years and said, 'this is wrong.' We can't find it from any of the people running now."

In Perdue's departure from the race, some conservatives see a White House conspiracy. "We have a post-American president who nudged aside a failed governor in North Carolina to make it harder for Pat McCrory," said Frank Roche, a talk radio host and former GOP candidate who served as the event's emcee.

Candidates emerge in local legislative races

With candidate filing starting Monday, state legislative races are getting interesting.

In District 38, a Wake County open seat created in the GOP-led redistricting, four Democrats are making a bid. Lee Sartain, a 30-year-old Raleigh Democrat, is the latest to join the race, making an official announcement Tuesday. He joins Lindy Brown, a former Wake County commissioner, who recently unveiled her new campaign website.

Abeni El-Amin and Yvonne Lewis Holley are also looking to make a run for the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Deborah Ross.

Republicans moved Ross to House District 34, double-bunking her with close friends and fellow Democrat Rep. Grier Martin. And at this point, it appears Ross and Martin may challenge each other in a Democratic primary.

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