Under the Dome

Morning Memo: In 2014 Senate salvo, Kay Hagan hits back at Phil Berger

KAY HAGAN CAMPAIGN HITS BACK: It seems like the 2014 U.S. Senate race is underway. Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan is responding to GOP Senate leader Phil Berger's new TV ad on voter ID. Berger is not an announced candidate but his TV ad sure makes it look like he is running -- hitting Hagan in the opening lines.

The Hagan campaign will release a point-by-point counter to the Berger ad Monday to highlight her opposition to voter ID and try to put focus on the other voting law changes deeper in the bill. “Kay is standing up for access to the ballot box for all voters because she believes this fundamental right shouldn’t be a political football,” said Preston Elliott, Hagan’s campaign manager, in a statement. “Phil Berger can self-promote all he wants, but at the end of the day, his disastrous record in the General Assembly and attempts to open up elections to corporate influence will speak for themselves. North Carolinians need leaders focused on jobs and rebooting the economy for middle class families, not politicians willing to mislead voters just to throw political potshots.”

VALERIE FOUSHEE TO REPLACE KINNAIRD: A Democratic Party committee chose first-term state Rep. Valerie Foushee of Chapel Hill on Sunday to fill former state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird’s vacant District 23 seat. Foushee thanked Democratic Party members and voters. The first thing the party needs to do is take back the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, she said to thunderous applause. “We have a lot of work to do,” said Foushee. “It’s already been expressed by every candidate. All of you read the papers, all of you are engaged, you know what we’re facing. I promise you I will continue to fight as I have fought. I will fight every day. You will hear from me. I will be present.” Read more here.

***Read more from the U.S. Senate campaign news and a look at political stories ahead this week below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

MORE FROM THE HAGAN CAMP: The Hill -- "Sen. Kay Hagan’s campaign said the North Carolina Democrat doesn’t support a carbon tax, despite a new advertising push that suggests she does.
“She opposes it (as evidenced by the act she voted against it),” Sadie Weiner, a spokeswoman for Hagan’s 2014 reelection effort, told The Hill in an email. The statement comes after conservative energy group American Energy Alliance (AEA) began running radio ads across North Carolina slamming Hagan on the carbon tax issue. Read more here.

AHEAD THIS WEEK IN POLITICS: A private nonprofit tied to Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to his the airwaves to help boost the Republican's sinking ratings. The Renew North Carolina Foundation is run by John Lassiter, who McCrory appointed to lead the state's economic development board. Also, look for more details on Senate leader Phil Berger's new TV ad, which just happened to hit the Greensboro airwaves as Public Policy Polling went into the field to weigh the U.S. Senate race and get the latest approval ratings for the legislature and governor. It's the first poll since Virginia Foxx, the top-polling potential GOP candidate, announced she wouldn't run. Look for PPP numbers later this week.

CHRISTENSEN -- 10 MYTHS ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA: Myth No. 1: North Carolina’s public schools are failing its children. Myth No. 2: North Carolina’s state government was in a financial mess until the recent change in party control. Myth No. 3: Until recently, state government was on a spending spree. Myth No. 4: N.C. spending on public education is at an all-time high. Myth No. 5: North Carolina was a high-tax state before the recent tax cuts. Myth No. 6: North Carolina high schools have a dropout problem. Myth No. 7: North Carolina was no longer an attractive state because of high taxes. Myth No. 8: North Carolina is in hard times. Myth No. 9: N.C. teachers were never well paid. Myth No. 10: North Carolina has an anti-business climate. Read more about each here.

WHAT VOTERS THINK ABOUT THE 2013 LEGISLATIVE SESSION: Republicans controlled the entire lawmaking process for the first time in a century this legislative session and enacted major changes. Republican lawmakers said they pushed the change voters demanded in the 2012 elections. Democrats argued they overstepped their bounds and would see electoral retribution in the next election.

To test the competing theories, The News & Observer spent weeks talking to voters after the legislative session concluded in July. The reporting focused on three swing legislative districts: one each in Pitt and Wake counties, and one that straddles Watauga and Ashe counties. The House seats represent those that Republicans won to gain their supermajority and the ones Democrats would need to take back to regain power.

The findings: In interviews with dozens of voters in three legislative swing districts, it’s clear the upheaval left moderate voters wavering, even as the GOP agenda energized the polar ends of the political spectrum. From Greenville in the east to Boone in the west, the message is consistent: The economy is improving too slowly. The uncertain effects from major legislative changes to education, voting, economic development and taxes are worrisome. And large pay raises in the McCrory administration at the same time teachers receive no help are upsetting.

The mood – which is reinforced by statewide polls – may make a dozen competitive state House districts vulnerable in the next election a year from now. The new district maps make a Democratic takeover in both legislative chambers unlikely, but the minority party is vying to slow the GOP agenda by winning a few swing seats and establishing a foothold ahead of the 2016 governor’s race. At the same time, the conversations indicate that Democrats, a party weakened by a lack of leadership, money and energy, will face a difficult challenge to win the support of voters – many of whom aren’t paying close attention. Read it here.

REP. ELLMERS, CONGRESSIONAL GOP QUESTIONS OBAMACARE NAVIGATORS: With enrollment for subsidized insurance set to begin in several weeks, Triangle organizations are responding to a voluminous data request from congressional Republicans who want to know how the groups will spend federal grant money to train health care assistants called “navigators.”

Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including Rep. Renee Ellmers of Harnett County, last month wrote dozens of groups around the country that received grants to train navigators who will enroll the public under the Affordable Care Act. The congressional letters advise navigator grant recipients they have until Friday to respond in writing to the data request and to schedule briefings with congressional staff. If the organization’s responses raise further questions and concerns, Republicans could hold public hearings, Ellmers said. Read more here.

McCRORY SCHEDULE: Gov. Pat McCrory attended the Southern Governors' Association annual meeting Saturday in Louisville, Ky., before returning to Charlotte for the Carolina Panther's game Sunday, his office reported. McCrory did not release a public schedule for Monday (yet).

WOS DEFENDS EXPENSIVE CONTRACT: The state Health and Human Services secretary sent an email to key legislators Friday explaining why she hired under a state contract a vice president from her husband’s company. Dr. Aldona Wos wrote that she wanted to tell legislators about the contract in “light of recent media reports.” She said he was integral to the proper functioning of a department in disarray when she took over in January. Read more here.

SALARY-GATE DISTRACTS FROM EDUCATION ANNOUNCEMENT: Gov. Pat McCrory went to Wilmington on Friday to talk education. Here's the two headlines from the local ABC affiliate WWAY-TV: "While in Wilmington, DHHS Secretary Wos refuses to answer questions about paying consultant $228,000; sends email to lawmakers"; "Governor defends staffing choices"

CATAWBA CHIEF CONFIRMS CASINO PLANS, AFTER TRIBE'S INITIAL DENIALS: A spokeswoman for the Catawba Indian nation told The News & Observer in August it wasn't moving forward with a casino in the initial report breaking the news. But now the tribe is confirming it and pushing back against state lawmakers. From the Shelby Star: ""We're able to come in with this partnership with Cleveland County and North Carolina and provide 4,000 jobs. How can you stand in opposition to that?" Bill Harris, elected chief of the Catawba Indian Nation in 2011, is speaking about legislators in Raleigh who have been vocal in their opposition to the Catawbas operating a resort and casino just off I-85, outside the city limits of Kings Mountain.

"Some detractors say the Catawbas should not have the opportunity to build in Cleveland County because they are based in South Carolina, specifically about an hour south in Rock Hill. "We are a federally recognized tribe with land in North Carolina and South Carolina," he said. "So to call us a South Carolina tribe is somewhat inaccurate. The name is quite familiar in North Carolina. From a historical point of view, Catawba has aboriginal land in North Carolina." Read more here.

GOP STATE LAWMAKERS REPRESENTING CATAWBA TRIBE'S PUSH FOR A CASINO: After not returning messages about the casino to the N&O, state Rep. Tim Moore, a Republican who leads the powerful House Rules Committee, is now also confirming his involvement. From The Star: When a letter speaking in opposition of the proposed resort casino was passed around to legislators in Raleigh this past week, Rep. Tim Moore (R-111th district), had to recuse himself from the conversation to avoid a conflict of interest. After all, Moore, a Kings Mountain attorney, represents the project developers. "I've assisted them with a lot of local legal issues and have been a longtime attorney for a number of the parties involved in the deal, which is why I was brought in anyway," he told The Star  Friday. Read more here.

SCENE-SETTER CATAWBA CASINO: AP -- For years, the Catawba Indian Nation has been wrestling with South Carolina officials over its bid to build a gambling casino that could generate millions in revenue and create thousands of jobs. Now the South Carolina-based tribe is looking at building a casino along a busy interstate highway just across the state line in North Carolina. Read more here.

U.S ATTORNEY'S OFFICE SHAKEUP: In May, U.S. Court of Appeals judges were so upset with federal prosecutors from North Carolina’s Eastern District for persistently hiding or mishandling criminal case evidence that a tongue-lashing, perhaps never heard before in the stately wood-paneled 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals courtroom in Richmond, Va., was delivered from the bench.
"…That has led to a shakeup at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the North Carolina Eastern District. Thomas Walker, the appointed U.S. attorney since 2011, confirmed changes to the top ranks of his staff and said in an interview that he has adopted new rules for handling evidence in criminal cases. Read more here.

McCRORY BEGINS RETOOLING COMMUNITY COLLEGE FUNDING: AP -- Tinkering with how to calculate state money North Carolina's community colleges receive has left many campuses this fall with fewer instructors, larger classes and reduced services for students seeking skills to build careers.

Gov. Pat McCrory signed the state budget bill that contained a provision changing the base funding formula for the 58 colleges have used since 1999. McCrory recommended such a change in his own budget proposal, and legislative leaders essentially went along with it. Legislators and the governor say the adjustment more accurately reflects true enrollment figures of schools as statewide community college enrollment ramps down from the height of the Great Recession, when the unemployed flooded classrooms. McCrory ultimately wants to determine community college funding more on the programs each campus has that create good-paying jobs and less on student numbers. Those efforts already have started. Read more here.

MOONEYHAM ON VETOES: There is no way around it: For governors to have vetoes overridden is not a good thing; to have them overridden by a legislature of the same political party is even worse. Read his column here.

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER HEADLINE: How Pat McCrory can save his political career A rebranded piece from N&O editorial writer Jim Jenkins. Read it here.

IN WAKE OF VETO OVERRIDE, McCRORY STATEMENTS, CONFUSION ABOUNDS ON DRUG-TESTING: Winston-Salem Journal reports -- "The state legislature voted this week to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of a bill requiring drug testing of some Work First recipients, leaving local social workers with more questions than answers. McCrory said in a statement Wednesday that his office would not take any action on the law’s implementation “until sufficient funds with this unfunded mandate are provided.”

And the law itself has left workers with questions: Will counties all follow a uniform method to determine that someone should be drug tested? What type of drug test will people have to take – standard urinalysis or a blood test? Who pays for the first test, and where will the money come from? “We’ve got some practical questions about how it will be handled,” said Matt Faircloth, Work First employment program manager for Forsyth County. Forsyth County workers will wait for policy directives from the state, which could take months, according to Joe Raymond, director of the Forsyth County Department of Social Services. Read more here.

ONE MORE NC STORY: The Washington Post's love-affair with North Carolina politics continues with this headline: "27 other things the North Carolina voting law changes." All of it will sound familiar from recent coverage. But read it here.

TERRY SANFORD'S HISTORIC SHOUT-OUT: As the nation marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, few North Carolinians were aware of a footnote in history from that August day in 1963. As governors across the South were fighting to preserve segregation, the NAACP’s Roy Wilkins gave a shout-out to North Carolina Gov. Terry Sanford. Read more here.

JAMIE HAHN FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES EVENTS: A new foundation formed to honor the memory of the late Jamie Hahn, a Democratic fundraiser and operative, is announcing its first events. On Oct. 26, the foundation will host a day of service at Interfaith Food Shuttle and then hold a Birthday Bash at Lincoln Theater. She would have turned 30 on Oct. 25. Find more details here.


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