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Morning Memo: Cooper's unofficial debut; peek inside GOP voters' minds

ROY COOPER'S DEBUT: Attorney General Roy Cooper is the featured speaker Saturday morning at the N.C. Democratic Party's Western Gala. The speech at the women's breakfast will serve as his unofficial debut in the 2016 governor's race. In recent weeks, Cooper has made his intentions to run clear and the event will give him a platform to begin gathering Democratic support as other party challengers emerge. Later in the evening, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and R.T. Rybak, the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, will speak at the party fundraiser.

***A must-read analysis of Republicans and its potential impact on the N.C. Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Democrats hit GOP on education in new ad campaign

SEE IT HERE FIRST: N.C. Democrats launch ad campaign hitting GOP on education: The headline "Republican leadership has failed teachers in North Carolina" is hitting newspapers across the state this week in full-page advertisements paid for by the N.C. Democratic Party. The ads target 17 legislative districts (eight Senate, nine House) and criticize Republicans for not increasing teacher pay, forcing class size increases, eliminating some teacher assistants, ending the back-to-school tax holiday, cutting money for textbooks and supplies, taking away the graduate school bonus for (future) teachers and allowing private school vouchers.

"We’re putting Gov. McCrory and Republican legislators on notice that their assault on public education is not going unnoticed," said Robert Dempsey, the party's executive director.

***See the ad and get a list of the targeted lawmakers below in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

Document(s):
AD.pdf

Morning Memo: Another DHHS hire raises questions; FEC chides Tillis camp

ANOTHER HIRE RAISES QUESTIONS AT DHHS -- Unadvertised job goes to former tea party member: The state Department of Health and Human Services has filled a newly created $95,000 senior planner position with a Greenville woman who was a medical school lecturer for three years but who has been absent from the health care labor force since 2002.

Margaret "Mardy" Peal, 42, has been hired as part of the "Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina," Gov. Pat McCrory’s initiative to allow private insurance companies to run the government’s health care program for the poor in North Carolina.

Peal gave $1,250 to the McCrory campaign in 2012. She helped organize the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party in 2010. The job was not posted, which prevented others from applying. Department officials declined to provide a job description or list Peal’s duties. Read more here.

***More on Peal and news from the U.S. Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Amid controversy, political hire further fans DHHS flames

ANOTHER POLITICAL HIRE IN AGENCY UNDER FIRE: Former McCrory campaign filmmaker will work on DHHS 'brand' A lobbyist and filmmaker who made an election-night video for Gov. Pat McCrory is the new brand and marketing manager at the state Department of Health and Human Services. Aaron Mullins, 38, started the job Sept. 4. He makes $68,000 a year.

Mullins is one of several new staff members at state agencies with political connections. Ricky Diaz, who worked on McCrory’s campaign, is a spokesman at DHHS making $85,000. Heather Jeffreys, finance director for McCrory’s campaign, has a communications job at the N.C. Department of Transportation making $58,879. Read more here.

***Get a statewide political news roundup below in the Dome Morning Memo -- and look for more polling numbers on the govenror later today.***

Morning Memo: Two more headlines raise heat on McCrory administration

MORE HUGE SALARIES AT DHHS -- Secretary hired staffer from husband’s firm; McCrory’s office says he does a “helluva” good job: An adviser to state Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos has been paid more than $228,000 by the state for eight months of work.

The state Department of Health and Human Services signed a personal services contract with Joe Hauck to serve as “senior adviser” at the agency. The initial contract was extended at least four times between March 1 and Aug. 1, and was modified at least once to pay him more “due to increased hours of work per day,” according to a state Department of Health and Human Services contracts website. According to DHHS, Hauck started under contract in January to work in Wos’ office. The contract is now set to expire Nov. 30, and it is capped at $310,000.

TIMING OF SHANAHAN’S DEPARTURE RAISES MORE QUESTIONS: Kieran Shanahan’s unexpected resignation as head of the state’s public safety agency in July came as he appeared to be making long-term plans to remain in the job. Three days before he resigned, efforts were underway to complete his clearance for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security so that he could be designated as the state official eligible to receive sensitive information in North Carolina about terrorist and other threats.

Also, the Office of State Budget and Management planned to have a “strategic” budget meeting with Shanahan on the day before he departed, which Shanahan indicated he would attend.

***Read more details on the latest two stories to sidetrack the McCrory administration below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: The recasting of Gov. McCrory? Unraveling his shifts

PAT McCRORY LINKS MEDICAID REFORMS TO TEACHER PAY HIKES -- Governor pledges big announcement in coming months: Speaking at the Cary Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet Wednesday evening, Gov. Pat McCrory promised "controversial" proposals to change the state's Medicaid system. Overruns in Medicaid costs are a huge burden on the state and have drained funding for education, he said.

Citing issues with federal regulations, "a lack of waivers from the feds, and frankly, some of the politics within Raleigh here," McCrory said he wanted to change the state's implementation of the federal health program for people with low income.

"I'm going to have to bring up some fairly controversial proposals to change Medicaid, or we're going to continue to have some very, very serious issues here in North Carolina," McCrory told the crowd. "That's coming in the next three, four months. I'll probably introduce them while the legislature's out of town, between now and May," he said, drawing laughs. Changes to Medicaid, he said are " the way we're going to get raises to the teachers."

***McCrory appears to be charting a new course, but the administration is backtracking on a different education announcement. Read it all below in today's Dome Morning Memo***

Morning Memo: GOP faces messy veto politics, with Tillis in spotlight

UPDATED: THE POLITICS OF THE VETO: In pushing to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s of an immigration bill in coming days, Republicans find themselves in the middle of a political mess. The bill won near unanimous approval in the state Senate (43-1) but a solid block of conservative House Republicans voted against it (85-28). Now that McCrory has framed the bill as an anti-immigration conservative test, will that change? A leading Republican -- who voted no -- says the vote isn’t likely to change. And another no vote, GOP Rep. Frank Iller, issued a statement Tuesday saying the bill "opens up too many loopholes in the eVerify system."

EYES ON TILLIS: But what will Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis do? Political analyst John Davis said the race is too "fragile" for Tillis to upset the conservatives in his party. "Tillis cannot make any mistakes especially with the right," David said. "By rushing back into the arena and trying to override McCrory’s veto on the immigration bill, he does risk alienating some members of the Republican Party who are very, very sensitive about this issue."

***More on the 2014 U.S. Senate race -- and the potential Republican field -- below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: 'Moral Mondays' grow; McCrory defends pay hikes

’MORAL MONDAY’ PROTESTS EXPAND: Moral Monday, the North Carolina protest movement that comes to Charlotte on Monday afternoon, was organized to counter the policies of the Republican-controlled General Assembly.The protests, which have received national attention, are not only grounded in religion but expanding their reach into churches. Organizers say they seek to reclaim the language of political morality.

Protesters from the Charlotte area are to gather in Marshall Park at 5 p.m. Elsewhere in the state, similar protests are scheduled Monday in the Yancey County town of Burnsville and in coastal Manteo. Read more here.

GOV. HUNT TELLS DEMOCRATS TO DO MORE: Former Gov. Jim Hunt delivered a pep talk to grassroots leaders of the state’s beleaguered Democratic Party on Saturday night, where he emphasized the basics of winning elections. Hunt told the crowd at a reception named partly in his honor to appeal to independent voters, run good candidates and raise money. "We’re not exactly the party of money," Hunt said, "but we can do more than we’ve done."

***Hear more from the Democratic Party meeting and get the latest N.C. political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: National Republicans launch billboards targeting Hagan

REPUBLICANS LAUNCH BILLBOARDS HITTING KAY HAGAN: The National Republican Senatorial Committee is debuting seven billboards across the state targeting U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's support for the federal health care law. Republicans are trying to make the case that Hagan, a Democrat facing re-election in 2014, accomplished nothing besides supporting Obamacare in the first five years of her term. (See a copy of the billboard here.)

"Kay Hagan promised North Carolinians that she would govern as a centrist, but instead has been a Democratic partisan, supporting the President's signature initiatives lock, stock and barrel," said Brook Hougesen, a NRSC spokeswoman.

The effort is designed to put the one-term incumbent -- who polls show is vulnerable -- on the defensive while the GOP struggles to find a dominant candidate. House Speaker Thom Tillis is the most prominent name in the race but other major Republicans are still considering whether to run. Cary physician Greg Brannon, a tea party candidate, is also making a bid. The billboards are located in Greensboro, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and the Raleigh-Durham area.

***More North Carolina political news -- including U.S. Senate campaign updates -- below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Tillis dodges shutdown questions; McHenry pressed on Obamacare

TILLIS DODGES GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN QUESTION: Republican Thom Tillis is emphasizing his opposition to the federal health care law in his campaign for the U.S. Senate but at the same time he's avoiding answering some questions on the issue. A Democratic Party operative recently asked the Republican House speaker about whether he agrees with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and others who suggested shutting down government to defund the federal health care law.

While walking to a recent D.C. fundraiser, Tillis didn't offer a direct answer -- even though if elected he may face similar circumstance. "It's not my decision to make but anything we could do to slow down or eliminate Obamacare would be good for the nation," he said in a video posted online. (Watch above.)

Does Tillis agree with North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr that a shutdown is the "dumbest idea" ever? Again no answer. "I'm going to leave that to the duly elected senators but i think we can do to stop Sen. Hagan and President Obama from creating all the uncertainty and cost that comes with Obamacare it would be a good thing," he said. Expect both questions to return soon.

***See the Tillis video below in the Dome Morning Memo, along with another video from Republicans punking people at the "Moral Monday" rally.

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