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Morning Roundup: Democrats turn up heat in debate, party controversy

The Democratic gubernatorial candidates sharpened their criticisms Tuesday night, drawing more pointed contrasts with each other’s records in the second in a series of televised debates. 

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge heard his congressional record on trade and his tenure as superintendent of public instruction come under fire. Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton found himself defending his attendance record and his advocacy of Democratic causes in the legislature. Read the story here. And get the pundits' take on the debate.

Other headlines:

-- The calls for Democratic Party chairman David Parker to resign snowballed Tuesday, leaving his tenure short on days. Gov. Bev Perdue, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and former Congressman Bob Etheridge all reversed course to call for his ouster after trying to avoid the controversy for days.

The Charlotte Observer is calling it the "April Surprise" and the paper's cartoonist gets in his take on the candidates' reactions to scandal.

Kathleen Sebelius spokesman: No 'endorsement' of Dalton in governor's race

Kathleen Sebelius, President Barack Obama’s secretary of Health and Human Services, is walking back what appeared to be an endorsement of Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton for N.C. governor during a speech last Saturday night in Charlotte.

And because her remarks at the Human Rights Campaign gala was filled with political comments, the federal government will not pay for Sebelius’ trip to Charlotte, an HHS spokesman said in response to questions from the Observer.

On Saturday, Sebelius started her speech to about 1,400 people at the gay-rights fundraiser in the Charlotte Convention Center by acknowledging state and local politicians in attendance, including U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx.

She also mentioned Democrat Dalton, saying “Your lieutenant governor, Walter Dalton, who needs to be the next governor of North Carolina, is in the house.”

Because Dalton has five Democratic primary opponents – including former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge and state Rep. Bill Faison – Sebelius’ comments made some political observers wonder whether the Obama administration was signaling that it has a favorite in the race.

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