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Morning Memo: Redistricting in the courts, education in the legislature

THE MOST IMPORTANT POLITICAL STORY IN N.C.: The legal fight about the new political boundaries drawn by Republicans in the redistricting process is headed to court this week. A three-judge panelwill hear the arguments Monday and Tuesday after Democrats and groups fighting the maps filed suit contending they were unlawful. The new boundaries seal Republican power in the state legislature for the next decade and Democrats need a judicial reversal to regain strength.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House will focus on education this week, with local school superintendents from across the state invited to meet with lawmakers. House Speaker Thom Tillis will hold a 3 p.m. press conference to discuss "education week." The House and Senate convene Monday evening for skeleton sessions. No votes are expected.

***Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Find more political news and a weekend headline wrap below. And find out more information about the N&O's new iPad app, available for download now. (Programming note: Dome is not available on the app at the moment. Look for an upgrade later.)***

NC congress members buck party leaders on House Vote

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones was one of nine Republicans who bucked party leadership and voted for other GOP members instead of House Speaker Rep. John Boehner. The Farmville Republican instead voted for David Walker, former head of the Government Accountability Office.

Boehner, R-Ohio, was reelected Speaker of the House for the 113th Congress with 220 votes over Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who received 192 votes.

The vote against Boehner was likely part backlash after Boehner pulled Jones off the prestigious Financial Services Committee.

Jones was not the only N.C. member to buck his party. Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton voted for fellow Blue Dog Jim Cooper, D-Tenn, instead of Pelosi.

Boehner needed 218 votes to win reelection. Fourteen members voted for other candidates or present.

Rep. Jones' opponent elaborates on George Soros connection

Frank Palombo’s congressional campaign takes exception with Dome’s recent characterization of his criticism of Rep. Walter Jones’ connection to a task force that recommended big cuts in military spending. Dome had to laugh that Palombo was tying Jones to liberal financier George Soros, who had connections to many of the task force members.

“Frank Palombo has never claimed George Soros and Congressman Walter Jones are friends,” campaign operations manager Ingrid Johansen said today. “We are simply pointing out the facts.”

The task force recommendations were not acted on, and Jones said he didn’t support its findings. “Congressman Jones’ attempts now to disassociate himself from the Sustainable Defense Task Force are too little too late,” Johansen said in an email.

 Still, does that connect the Republican congressman with the liberal Soros? The voters will decide, she said.

Jones asks for more cargo security

Republican Rep. Walter Jones has urged Congress to act on the Air Cargo Security Act of 2010 after the bomb packages from Yemen were uncovered.

“In light of (Friday's) security threat involving cargo planes, the importance of this bill becomes very apparent,” Jones said in a statement. “We must be proactive when it comes to homeland security and I urge Speaker Pelosi to move forward with this imperative piece of legislation.”

The bill would require all airports that serve passengers to operate federal air cargo screening centers for the screening of cargo on passenger aircraft.

Jones is one of two co-sponsors of the bill that was introduced in September by Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts.

The bill is now in committee.

Ask Dome: Running for Congress

"Does North Carolina have a law where Congressmen are required to live in the districts they represent?" — Dome reader mdougyr

No. No state does.

The U.S. Constitution is the sole arbiter of qualifications for U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and president, said Don Wright, general counsel for the State Board of Elections. That means no state laws can further limit who can run.

Article I, Section 2 lays out the qualifications:

No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.

As Wright notes, that does not say anything about districts.

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones of Farmville was elected in 1994 while living outside the Third District, although the boundary was later redrawn to include his home.

Vernon Robinson of Winston-Salem and Rory Blake of Charlotte both ran unsuccessfully outside their districts in 2006. As with other candidates, they were criticized for not living in the district, but they were not barred from running.

The same is not true for state lawmakers, however.

Under Article II, Sections 6 and 7, state senators and representatives must reside in their districts for at least one year before being elected. 

Got a question? E-mail or post it in the comments below. 

Norquist campaigns against Jones

Walter JonesAnti-tax activist Grover Norquist campaigned across the 3rd Congressional district Monday, saying that Republican Congressman Walter Jones had broken his anti-tax pledge.

Norquist said Jones had violated an anti-tax pledge by voting last year for major farm and energy bills, Rob Christensen reports.

Norquist said he had known Jones for years, and had sent letters and talked to him by telephone urging him to avoid voting for a tax hike.

"There were flares up in the sky that were tax increases," Norquist said.

Glen Downs, Jones' chief of staff, said in both cases the farm bill and the energy bill were major pieces of legislation, and only a small portion involved increasing revenues — involving renegotiating oil company leases in the energy bill.

"There has never been a straight up tax increase that Walter has voted for," Downs said.

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