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Morning Memo: Harris to enter Senate race; Black Caucus wants DHHS inquiry

MARK HARRIS TO MAKE U.S. SENATE BID OFFICIAL: Rev. Mark Harris plans to tell supporters Thursday that he’s decided to enter the race for Republican U.S. Senate nomination early next month, party sources told the Charlotte Observer. Harris, pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, has been on a "listening tour" around the state.

He’s expected to announce Oct. 2. Harris would join a list of GOP candidates that include House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius and Dr. Greg Brannon of Cary. The winner would face Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

WHERE CONGRESS STANDS ON SYRIA: An interactive graphic makes it easy to see where North Carolina’s congressional delegation -- and those in other states -- stand on the Syria question. Take a look here.

***Below in the Dome Morning Memo -- the latest on the DHHS salary controversy and state elections inquiry of a lawmaker’s campaign spending.***

Morning Memo: What Pat McCrory and Bev Perdue have in common

SENATE OVERRIDE VOTE EXPECTED: The state House on Tuesday took little more than half an hour to override the governor’s vetoes of two bills, on immigration and drug-testing welfare recipients. The resurrected legislation now passes to the Senate, which will vote Wednesday morning and is expected to easily override. Gov. Pat McCrory lobbied House members to sustain the vetoes to little success -- but he didn't try a similiar effort with lawmakers in the Senate, a chamber that he has been at odds with for most of the legislative session.

HOW PAT McCRORY AND BEV PERDUE ARE ALIKE: From Catawba College political expert Michael Bitzer: "What appears to be constant between the two governors is the distaste by independent voters. While (former Gov. Bev) Perdue faired worse earlier than (Gov. Pat) McCrory has, they both have reached a similar point of nearly 50 percent disapproval among independent voters. While the Perdue-McCrory gap is pretty noticeable among independents expressing their disapproval, the convergence in August, after the dust of the legislative sessions had settled, is pretty striking." See his analysis of polling results and the one chart that tells the McCrory story.

***Read more on the override votes in the House and where the N.C. delegation stands on Syria below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Roundup: A N.C. company touted by President Obama closes abrubtly

A North Carolina furniture company closed abruptly Thursday just one year after it was hailed by President Barack Obama as an example of the recovering U.S. economy. Lincolnton Furniture Company operations stopped indefinitely and only a few people will remain employed moving forward, company financial officer Ben Causey said. Full story here.

More political headlines:

--North Carolina's congressional delegation is now firmly Republican after GOP redistricting redrew the political favor. Here's a look at Raleigh Republican George Holding's outlook as a freshman. He has one priority: cutting spending.

--For Raleigh-based state government workers who endured four years without a pay raise, the free bus pass was a nice benefit while it lasted. The state ended its funding.

Morning Roundup: N.C. congressional delegation splits on fiscal cliff vote

North Carolina's congressional delegation split along unusual lines when it came to the fiscal cliff legislation. U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan voted to approve. In the House, five Democrats and one Republican voted in favor and two Democrats and five Republicans voted against. See the breakdown here and more on the vote here.

More political headlines below.

Morning Roundup: Coble open to tax hikes, Perdue may revoke judicial order

Members of the N.C. congressional delegation say they’re ready to compromise on some hardened positions to reach a deal that would prevent the country from plunging over the “fiscal cliff.” Failing to reach an agreement by the end of the year would trigger tax hikes and massive cuts in spending on federal programs.

N.C. Rep. Howard Coble is the latest Republican who says he’s willing to buck one of the party’s sacrosanct pledges to not raise taxes. Read full story here.

More political headlines:

--N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia A. Timmons-Goodson, the first and only female African-American to serve on the state’s highest court, is resigning her position. Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat who will leave office after next month, is intent on making the replacement even though if it means she rescinds an executive order she signed to do it.

Morning Roundup: Democrats say they remain committed to N.C.

Amid new indications that North Carolinians remained deadlocked on their presidential choice, Democratic chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Friday the Obama campaign is prepared to wage a vigorous campaign through the November election here.

Dismissing suggestions from Republicans that the president’s campaign was looking to reduce its effort in North Carolina, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee said the ticket was not backing off from what many observers have suggested is Obama’s most difficult battleground state. Full story here.

More political headlines below.

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.

Lack of U.S. debt deal could soon hit N.C.

WASHINGTON -- The failure of Congress to slash the national deficit threatens to cascade from Washington straight into North Carolina's schools, stores and doctor's offices.

Automatic spending cuts - triggered by the lack of agreement in Congress over ways to reduce the more than $1.2 trillion deficit - will begin in 2013 and could mean:

  • An estimated 9 percent cut in the $417 million that Duke University gets from the National Institute of Health to research cures for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's, alternative energy and national security.
  • The loss of federal funds for public schools with large populations of low-income students. In Cabarrus County, for example, that means the school system could lose money that pays for a series of federal programs, including $210,000 in Title 1 funding, which helps low-income schools hire teachers and assistants to reduce class sizes, improve computer labs, purchase supplies, and increase teacher training.
  • And the death of mom-and-pop shops in military towns like Fayetteville that could lose $351 million in defense contracts and tens of millions in civilian payroll.

"It's a huge concern," said Ramon Reyes, who owns Da Bootshop, a shoe and boot repair store outside Fort Bragg's gates.

Read more here:

GOP congressional delegation backs McCrory for governor

Pat McCrory's campaign announced today that the entire Republican congressional delegation is supporting the former Charlotte mayor's bid for governor.

Led by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, the delegation's endorsement helps dispel the notion of a GOP challenger. The names of a number of top Republicans have floated through political circles lately, from Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler to state Sen. Pete Brunstetter. Neither is expected to run.

McCrory is expected to make a formal announcement about his rematch bid against Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue in early 2012. But he already is busy raising money, making the rounds with Raleigh supporters and media today.

Was Perdue joking? You decide. Listen here.

UPDATED: Gov. Bev Perdue's off-the-cuff remark about suspending Congressional elections to focus on the economy went viral. Her aides tried to walk it back, calling it "hyperbole" and suggesting she was joking. 

Was she? You decide. Listen to the audio file here.

As background, her remarks came during a Q&A at the Cary Rotary Club meeting. A man in the audience asked Perdue what she can do to turn around the economy. (The question is not included on the tape because I didn't flick my recorder on quickly enough.) 

It led to a rambling 2-minute-and-25 second answer she surely now regrets.

Soon after it was posted, reactions came streaming in. Here's the official line from N.C. Republican Party spokesman Rob Lockwood:


“Listen to the Governor’s words, she wasn’t joking at all. The Congressional Democrats are wildly unpopular in North Carolina, so she may have been trying to invent a solution to save their jobs from public accountability.”

"If it was a joke, what was the set-up? What was the punch-line? Where was the pause for laughter? It took them hours to say it was a ‘joke,’ but when that flopped, it became ‘hyperbole.’ We’ll just call it an unconstitutionally bad-idea.”

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