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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.***

THE MONEY QUOTE: “I am not a career politician,” Harris said at a news conference at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, one of six he held across the state, beginning in Wilmington and ending with a reception in his hometown of Charlotte. “I support a strong, strong conservative domestic policy that is built around honoring the Constitution, that is built around shrinking government, and allowing the free market to drive progress in our country."

WHAT HARRIS MEANS TO THE RACE: The entry by Harris suggests that the North Carolina GOP will undergo the sort of establishment vs. grassroots fight that has been seen in states across the country in recent years, particularly with the rise of the tea party movement. It is not just Harris. Dr. Greg Brannon, a Cary Obstetrician & Gynecologist , with strong tea party connections, who recently hired a staffer away from Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to manage his campaign, has been running for months.

While the Republicans battle it out, Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan will be able to build her political campaign kitty for the fall election. Read more here. Read the Charlotte Observer story here.

FOLLOW UP: So who flew Harris across the state Wednesday? Former state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes. Hayes piloted and owns the plane, he said.

SHUTDOWN DAY THREE: AP -- President Barack Obama brought congressional leaders to the White House on Wednesday for the first time since a partial government shutdown began, but there was no sign of progress toward ending an impasse that has idled 800,000 federal workers and curbed services around the country.

The standoff continued after a White House summit with chief executives as financial leaders and Wall street urged a resolution before serious damage is done to the U.S. and world economy. Read more here.

GROUP SAYS N.C. REPUBLICANS FLIP-FLOPPED: Protect Your Care NC, an advocacy group promoting the federal health care law, questioned Wednesday whether three North Carolina congressional Republicans switched positions on a government shutdown.

The group pointed to statements Reps. Renee Ellmers, Robert Pittenger and Patrick McHenry made in the days before the partial shutdown took effect. A spokeswoman for the group said they bowed under pressure from the tea party. See more on where McHenry, Ellmers and Pittenger stand on the shutdown.

GOP FOCUSES SIGHTS ON COOPER: Attorney General Roy Cooper is running for governor in 2016 and the N.C. Republican Party is noticing. The party is focusing its barbs on the Democratic candidate -- as well we Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan -- with more urgency now. It's a treatment he didn't get as attorney general. Dubbing him "rollover" Roy Cooper, the N.C. GOP sent this statement Wednesday about Cooper's take on the voter ID lawsuit:

“When it’s time to show some independent leadership, ‘rollover’ Roy Cooper instead uses his own office to do President Obama’s political bidding and fill his campaign coffers,” state party Chairman Claude Pope said in a statement. “For Roy Cooper, there is no distinction between him playing the part of candidate for Governor and playing the part of Attorney General. Every statement and every action Roy Cooper has taken on the voter ID bill has been politically motivated and calculated, and there is absolutely no reason that North Carolinians should trust him to faithfully defend the law against the Obama administration’s blatant overreach."

COOPER MAKES HIS INTENTIONS CLEAR: Cooper began testing campaign lines at the Burke County Democratic Party's annual fundraiser last weekend. He said he was concerned about what's happening in Raleigh, talked education and touted his role as the state's chief prosecutor.

And then he dropped this, according to the local paper: “The good news is that people are paying attention. They are coming alive, are ready to move, are hungry for change and in need of leaders who can help them,” said Cooper. “We have a lot of work to do in 2013 and 2014. I plan to be running in 2016, and not as Attorney General.” Read more here.

STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO MEET: AP -- North Carolina's State Board of Education is on a road trip as it discusses increased class sizes and a new requirement that every child know how to read before the fourth grade. The state school board holds its monthly meeting Thursday in Cullowhee.

The agenda includes changing school rules in line with decisions this year by the General Assembly to drop class size limits in grades 4 through 12 and eliminate the state school board's ability to add teaching positions to packed schools.

The school board also may act on the Legislature eliminating social promotions for children who can't meet the reading standard. The exceptions are for students who don't perform well on a single test but show they can read a little at a time over several months.

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory lists one event on his public calendar: visiting the Ipreo office grand opening in downtown Raleigh at 10 a.m. At the legislature, a joint legislative committee on the economy will begin its work at 10 a.m. in room 643 LOB. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker will speak at 9:30 a.m. at the Hunt Library on the N.C. State Centennial Campus about manufacturing in the state's economy. And House Speaker Thom Tillis attends an event with Crossroads GPS, a Karl Rove-affiliated group, as part of his U.S. Senate campaign.

WAKE BONDS CAMPAIGN: Business v. Tea Party The campaign in Wake County for a new school construction bond is not a high-profile campaign. But an analysis of the campaign finance reports show it is a referendum on business Republicans verse the tea partiers. The local chamber and major business groups are donating freely to boost the bonds campaign while limited government groups oppose it. Read more here.

MONTHS BEFORE SESSION, ADVOCACY EFFORT BEGINS: The Southern Environmental Law Center is already pushing its case for the 2014 legislative session. In web ads that appeared in Raleigh it writes: "The Senate tried to Dump Out-of-State Trash on North Carolinians with Senate Bill 328. The Bill did not become law, but could in the next legislative session. Don’t let our Legislature try this again next session!" The ad sends viewers to this website.


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