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Morning Memo: Harris stakes his ground; GOP lawmaker presses McCrory

HARRIS DECLARES HE'S THE SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE IN THE RACE: The Rev. Mark Harris, a leading social conservative, entered the North Carolina Senate race Wednesday, setting up a potential insider/outsider GOP primary showdown next May with House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Harris, the outgoing president of the state Baptist Convention, said he would campaign as a staunch advocate for lowering taxes, reducing government, ending Obamacare and protecting gun rights, that he would back measures that he believes would improve “traditional moral values.” Read more here.

GOP SENATOR SAYS McCRORY ADMINISTRATION IS BREAKING THE LAW: A high-ranking Republican state senator said Wednesday that Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration is flouting the law. Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, complained that McCrory hasn’t named an independent Unemployment Review Board to review decisions on unemployment benefits made by the state Division of Employment Security. Rucho’s remarks came during a legislative committee meeting where lawmakers were questioning Dale Folwell, the agency’s head. Read more here.

***Read more on the Harris announcement and a North Carolina political roundup below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Ellmers receives award from American Conservative Union

The American Conservative Union has named U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn one of its 2012 ACU Conservatives.

A whopping 91 percent of Ellmers' votes made the ACU happy, but she still fell short of its Defender of Liberty title which requires every vote on certain bills picked by ACU to match the organization's desires. ACU looks at votes on bills that "serve as a clear litmus test separating those representatives who defend liberty and liberal members who have turned their backs on our founding principles."

The ACU argues for limited government, individual liberty, free markets, a strong national defense and traditional values.

Other N.C. representatives who scored above 80 percent included Howard Coble of Greensboro, Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk, Patrick McHenry of Cherryville and Sue Myrick of Charlotte, who is now retired.

The ACU award comes the day after the Club for Growth — which supports limited growth and low taxes — tagged Ellmers as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) and put her on a a list of Republicans that scored below 70 percent on the club's scorecard.

Hagan leads prospective GOP opponents in 2014 race

North Carolina voters are divided about Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, but she leads any of prospective Republican opponents, according to a new poll.

Only 34 percent of voters approve of the job that Hagan is doing, while 36 percent disapprove, and 31 percent have no opinion, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic leaning firm based in Raleigh.

But Hagan leads all potential opponents. She leads GOP Congresswoman Renee Ellmers by a 46-40 percent margin, Congressman Patrick McHenry by a 45-39 percent margin, and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx by a 47-40 percent margin.

She also leads Congressman George Holding by a 45-37 percent margin, Congressman Robert Pittenger by a 46-38 percent margin, state Senate leader Phil Berger by a 47-38 percent margin, and state House Speaker Thom Tillis by a 47-37 percent margin.

PPP: Foxx an early GOP favorite to challenge Hagan

While conservative groups are starting to drop money in an effort to push Sen. Kay Hagan out of office in 2014, the liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling on Tuesday released a poll that gives an early look at who the GOP is most likely to line up against the first-term Democrat.

Rep. Virginia Foxx tops Republicans' wish list at 17 percent. 14 percent prefer Sue Myrick, 13 percent want Patrick McHenry and 11 percent Renee Ellmers.

NC Catholics for Romney Committee named

Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy will chair North Carolina Catholics for Romney, the campaign has announced. Luddy, a businessman and civic leader, has founded several private schools including St. Thomas More Academy in Raleigh.

“Religious freedom is a principle this great country was founded on and it is at the heart and soul of America,” Luddy said in a statement. “I am confident Governor Romney will fully protect our traditional and natural right of religious liberty.”

The honorary state chairs are Congress members Renee Ellmers, Virginia Foxx and Patrick McHenry. Other members of the Catholics leadership team include House Speaker Thom Tillis, state Sen. Kathy Harrington, Rep. Ric Killian, and Rep. Pat McElraft.

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