Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Hundreds furloughed; U.S. Senate candidates make moves

HUNDREDS OF STATE WORKERS FURLOUGHED: The federal government shutdown caused the furlough of hundreds of state government workers whose jobs are fully or partially federally funded Tuesday, and state officials said several thousand more jobs could be be affected.

The state Department of Health and Human Services told 337 employees not to show up for work Wednesday morning. Officials said as many 4,500 DHHS workers could be furloughed or see their hours reduced. There was also a smaller furlough in the Department of Transportation, and a small group of workers at the state Labor Department saw their hours slashed in half.

#NCSEN DAY: The Republican challengers in the U.S. Senate race are all making moves this week to position themselves. Charlotte Pastor Mark Harris enters the race today, Thom Tillis is hiring staff and Greg Brannon is touting fundraising numbers.

***Read all the U.S. Senate race news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: The governor's task force looking at drinking and drugs on college campuses will meet at 10 a.m. with law enforcement and Alcohol Beverage Control officials. More info here.

Two joint legislative oversight committees will look at unemployment insurance (10 a.m.) and elections (1 p.m.). The GOP-led legislature made big changes in these areas earlier this year.

Organizing for America (OFA) and other groups supporting the federal health care law will hold a 11:45 a.m. rally at the Raleigh Vets Centers on Old Louisburg Road to condemn House Republicans for the federal budget impasse.

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR MARK HARRIS: Mark Harris launches his U.S. Senate campaign today, flying around the state in a six-city tour that will take him to every major media market. But the first-time candidate faces more than a few questions as he enters the race. Among them:

1. Can Harris raise enough money to be competitive? His main rival Thom Tillis has a four-month head start and set a $6 million goal for the primary. If he can't raise a good sum, Harris may find himself struggling to get out his message.

2. Where do you stand, reverend? As with any first-time candidate, it's a blank slate and every position he takes on an issue will earn him or cost him votes. Let's start with the normal hot-button political issues: global warming, abortion, gay marriage, voter ID, government spending, Obama's birth certificate, etc.

3. Will the flock heed the call? Harris’ campaign will rely on religious conservatives for the base of its support. But will they show up at the polls in droves? And will they be enough to push him to victory? Will Greg Brannon peel away those with tea party leanings?

4. In a related question, can Harris expand his base beyond the church? Tillis appeals to the chamber-of-commerce Republicans, though he is emphasizing staunch conservative views to attract the more social conservatives. Can Harris win away these votes to neutralize Tillis?

5. Who's paying for your airplane? Harris is flying across the state. It's standard for the big-wig candidates but not an up-and-comer starting without any campaign cash in his bank account. And what special interest does the plane owner have?

THOM TILLIS HIRES CAMPAIGN MANAGER: U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis announced Tuesday he hired Jordan Shaw as his campaign manager and spokesman. Shaw serves as Tillis' communications director in the House speaker's office and he previously worked in the same role for the N.C. Republican Party. "Jordan and I have developed a solid working relationship that will be critical for me throughout this campaign," Tillis wrote in an email to supporters.

This new gig will elevate his role and he'll work with the campaign's general consultant Paul Shumaker. Shaw will take a leave of absence from the N.C. General Assembly in early October to make the transition, Tillis said.

MORE FUNDRAISING: Tillis continues to focus on raising money. His next fundraisers include an event at Billy Sewell's house in Jacksonville and Harry and Tammy Smith's place in Greenville.

BRANNON TRIES TO CHANNEL TED CRUZ: In his words, Cary Republican Greg Brannon is fits the Ted Cruz mold. And recently his campaign hired a Cruz staffer to serve as the campaign’s political director. Nick Dyer worked at a youth outreach director for the Cruz campaign and then worked in the Texas senator’s Washington office before joining the Brannon campaign.

BRANNON ANNOUNCES 3rd QUARTER FUNDRAISING TOTALS: Brannon is touting his latest fundraising haul, though it’s a paltry sum to his rivals. Brannon raised about $150,000 from July 1 to Sept. 30. He has about $100,000 cash-on-hand going into the end of the year -- barely enough to pay for travel and his small staff.

But Brannon, a mostly unknown first-time candidate, says it’s more than double his previous quarter and demonstrates the “campaign’s surging strength and support.” Brannon says his average contribution is less than $70 and he's received 3,000 contributions.

HAGAN's TOUGH POLL NUMBERS: From The News & Record -- Fewer than 1 in 5 North Carolina residents think Sen. Kay Hagan should get a second term in the U.S. Senate. A High Point University Poll released today found that only 19 percent of those polled said Hagan deserves to be re-elected. Fifty-six percent said it's time for someone new in Washington. Another 26 percent declined to answer. Hagan's job approval rating has slipped over the past two weeks, from 40 percent in a poll released Sept. 16 to 32 percent in Tuesday's poll. Read more here.

SHUTDOWN CENTRAL -- The lead story: The political stare-down on Capitol Hill shows no signs of easing, leaving federal government functions — from informational websites, to national parks, to processing veterans' claims — in limbo from coast to coast. Lawmakers in both parties ominously suggested the partial shutdown might last for weeks. A funding cutoff for much of the government began Tuesday as a Republican effort to kill or delay the nation's health care law stalled action on a short-term, traditionally routine spending bill. Republicans pivoted to a strategy to try to reopen the government piecemeal but were unable to immediately advance the idea in the House. Read more here.

McCRORY ON THE SHUTDOWN: “We have to make sure the functions that are critical remain open,” Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday at a meeting of the Council of State. “But at the same time, we are not spending money that the state does not have that the federal government has responsibility for because this could have an impact on our state budget.”

There are an estimated 6,000 state government workers whose jobs are fully or partially federally funded, North Carolina officials said Tuesday. Read more here.

The political positioning continues. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr is quoted in the New York Times saying he doesn't get the House GOP's position. "I can’t blame them for anything other than being sold a line that wouldn’t work, seeing the outside support and saying ‘maybe, maybe, maybe,’ ” Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, said of House conservatives. “Well, you know that train only in a children’s story actually gets to the top of the hill.” Read more here.

HAGAN TARGETED IN ONLINE ADS: A conservative group called Heritage Action American is targeting Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina. The group is promoting online advertisements that say: "Tell Senator Kay Hagan: Don’t Shutdown the Government to Save Obamacare." The ad campaign began quietly last week and is expected to last through this week. But a Heritage Action spokesman said it could continue if the shutdown goes longer. The North Carolina ads are part of a $50,000 campaign that includes Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska -- four states where Democratic senators face tough re-election fights in 2014.

SHUTDOWN STAR: U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a second-term House Republican from Dunn, is getting plenty of face time during the partial government shutdown. Turn on any cable news channel, wait 10 minutes and you're likely to see the North Carolina lawmaker. She appears on Fox Business News at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday morning. Her other recent credits include CNBC, MSNBC, and Fox News.

IN OTHER MAJOR BUT OVERSHADOWED NEWS -- Mixed reactions to new healthcare exchanges in North Carolina: One customer said she was so upset she couldn’t talk and had to step outside to have a cry. Another rejoiced, saying she had been waiting for this moment for 35 years. Still another declared the Affordable Care Act a wash. These are some of the early reactions in the Triangle to the provision of the health care law that helps people buy insurance. The law requires most Americans to buy insurance but provides federal subsidies to those whose incomes qualify.

The uninsured, as well as those who buy their own policies, were able to see for the first time Tuesday how much the plans would cost them and whether federal subsidies would offset those costs. ... North Carolina residents are shopping in an online insurance marketplace managed by the federal government because the state chose not to set up its own health care exchange. Read more here.

GOVERNOR'S OFFICE DISMISSES CONCERNS ABOUT ATTORNEY: Gov. Pat McCrory hired Karl “Butch” Bowers Jr., a South Carolina lawyer with strong GOP ties to defend the state against federal lawsuit, which claims the voting law — including the much-debated voter ID provision — will intentionally discriminate against minorities. It is one of four lawsuits against the law, which McCrory signed in August.

Bowers, who recently left the Womble Carlye law firm in Columbia, S.C., to start his own practice, will make $360 an hour. He is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association and represented South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on ethics charges. He also served as a special counsel on election law in U.S. Justice Department under President George W. Bush.

Bob Stephens, McCrory's general counsel, said he is not concerned about Bowers’ partisan record or potential conflicts with his other clients, saying he was vetted before being hired. He also said the state is getting a reduced rate for Bowers’ time. “These lawsuits are incredibly important to the people of North Carolina,” Stephens said. “We are going to win. I’m confident we are going to win. I don’t want us to risk not winning because we don’t have the right legal team.” Read more here.

NO. 2 AT DOT TO DEPART: The state Department of Transportation will lose one of its military stars when Jim Trogdon, who doubles as a two-star general in the state National Guard, retires at the end of October from his job as DOT's chief operating officer. Trogdon, 51, who started work at DOT as a pavement engineer in 1985, is going to work for Atkins, a UK-based engineering and project management firm, as a Raleigh-based vice president with responsibilities in four mid-Atlantic states. He'll continue his part-time duty as deputy adjutant general, second-in-command, for the National Guard.

He is the top-ranking Democrat in a state agency reporting to a Republican governor, but there was no indication Tuesday that Trogdon's superiors wanted to see him go. "He has played an integral role in this organization and served as an invaluable colleague and advisor to me during my time here, and he will be greatly missed by us all," Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said Tuesday in an email to DOT employees. Read more here.

McCRORY MAKES 1,300 STATE JOBS PATRONAGE POSITIONS: AP -- North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is providing more information about workers in his administration not subject to the same job protections as most state government employees.

McCrory's office announced Tuesday there are just over 1,300 employees now in exempt positions within Cabinet-level agencies. These managerial and policymaking workers serve at the will of the governor or his lieutenants while carrying out his policies. The legislature this summer gave McCrory another 500 exempt positions to use, raising the maximum to 1,500. McCrory's office said state law required him to notify officials Tuesday about those positions.

McCrory's office said three-fourths of the workers in exempt positions have been in state government long enough to receive some protections to land another state job should they be fired through no fault of their own. Read more here.

PELLET PLANS ADVANCE: With the approval Tuesday of plans for a new export terminal at Morehead City, North Carolina now has two manufacturers cranking up plans to start shipping wood pellets from both state ports to serve electric utilities in Europe.

The Council of State approved a 20-year contract for Raleigh-based WoodFuels North Carolina to build a $25 million terminal that will export 600,000 tons of pellets a year from Morehead City, starting in late 2014. Read more here.

CHARLOTTE COMPANIES FEEL BOOST OF FILM INDUSTRY: Major movie and TV show producers are drawn to North Carolina for the state’s film industry tax incentives, which have provided film and series producers with millions in cash payments in recent years. Critics of the film subsidies say movie projects don’t create enough long-term jobs to make them worth the state’s investment. Backers say productions can make a big impact on local economies.

“Charlotte has the right stuff for filmmakers,” said Aaron Syrett, director of the N.C. Film Office, a division of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce. Read more here.

GUNS IN BARS: Columnist Mark Washburn -- "I’m not feeling it. I had expected to feel safer today, now that it is legal to take your gun into a bar. That’s one of the new laws that take effect this month in North Carolina. Unofficially known as the “Secure Saloon Act,” it allows people who have concealed-weapon permits to accompany their firearms into taverns. Read more here.

A CHARLOTTE HEADLINE: Count U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s Twitter account as one more victim of the federal government shutdown. Read more here.

AFP LAUNCHES WEBSITE PRESSURING HAGAN: Americans for Prosperity, a limited-government, tea-party aligned group, is pushing Democrat Kay Hagan on carbon emissions. The group opposes a "carbon tax" on polluters. It launched a website, to highlight what it calls Hagan's "confusing" position on the issue.

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