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Morning Memo: McCrory opposed to new casino; Hagan still trumps GOP rivals

McCRORY OPPOSES CATAWBA CASINO: The Catawba Nation has filed an application with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in a first step toward gaining permission to build a casino and resort in Cleveland County. But Gov. Pat McCrory declined requests to endorse the application, a spokesman said Monday. In his first comments on the project, the governor's office said McCrory “remains unconvinced that any new casino proposal is in the best interest of North Carolina.” Read more here.

2014 U.S. SENATE POLL: Look for a new Public Policy Polling survey on North Carolina's U.S. Senate race later today. In a preview, Politico reports that Democrat Kay Hagan is still trumping her GOP rivals and Senate leader Phil Berger is slightly edging House Speaker Thom Tillis in a hypothetical GOP primary-- though nearly half of voters are still unsure.

***Get a full N.C. political news roundup below in the Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Michael Chertoff, the former Homeland Security secretary, visits Raleigh to talk immigration reform. Chertoff is a member of a coalition pushing for a compromise on the thorny issue. He will speak at 12:30 p.m. at the N.C. Farm Bureau headquarters.

Gov. Pat McCrory and the state's other top officials will convene the Council of State at 9 a.m. McCrory will later attend the Military Affairs Commission meeting at 1 p.m. in Raleigh before traveling to Mocksville for an economic development announcement.

N.C. NATIONAL GUARD WILL RECOGNIZED SAME-SEX MARRIAGES: The North Carolina National Guard announced Monday that it will begin recognizing same-sex marriages, a policy shift that could have substantial financial help for families not previously eligible for the same federal military benefits awarded to heterosexual couples.

Spokesman Lt. Col. Maury A. Williams said the Guard will abide by U.S. Department of Defense orders extending benefits to the same-sex spouses of uniformed service members. Williams said couples who wed in states where same-sex marriage is legal can begin applying for benefits immediately. "In accordance with all applicable DOD directives, rules and regulations, we will do our best to facilitate effective and efficient assistance for these service members and their partners," Williams said. Read more here.

TOP DEMOCRAT SPENT $28,000 IN CAMPAIGN CASH ON GAS: The campaign of Rep. Michael Wray, the House deputy Democratic leader, racked up $28,737 in fuel charges between July 2011 and June 2013, according to an analysis of his campaign finance reports by the NC Insider, a state government news service owned by The N&O.

Most of the 427 fuel purchases were at gas stations between northeastern North Carolina, where Wray lives in Gaston, and the Triangle. The campaign reported buying enough gas in two years to travel well over 100,000 miles. During those two years, his campaign committee also reported spending for meals and other food purchases at least 177 times, totaling nearly $17,700 – an average of about $100 a meal.

Wray, who is in his fifth term, serves as his own campaign treasurer. He said all of the campaign spending designated as fuel went for gas related to his campaign or his legislative office as allowed under state law. Read more here.

WOS FIRES STATE'S TOP DENTIST AFTER TENSE MEETING: Dr. Rebecca King’s 35-year career with the state ended last week when she was fired from her job as head of oral health at the state Department of Health and Human Services. A tense meeting with DHHS Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos and other top staff over how to implement budget cuts helped usher King to her exit.

King released copies of her supervisor’s letters about her firing, along with her response. King said in an interview that she also believes her lack of cooperation in ferreting out hygienists who took vacation time to lobby legislators against cuts in oral health contributed to her getting fired.

Wos did not respond to a request for an interview. Danny Staley, acting director of the public heath division, directed questions to the department’s public information office. Department spokesman Ricky Diaz said the department was not looking to punish hygienists who went to legislators about oral health. He provided a copy of the dismissal letter King gave reporters, but he said he could not comment further on a personnel matter. Read more here.

ROY COOPER CONTINUES TO STEP INTO LIMELIGHT: Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is considering a possible run for governor in 2016, continues to raise his profile, using the recently approved voting law as a rallying point for Democrats. News14 has more here.

N.C. DOT MOVES FORWARD ON 540 PROJECT: Now that the legislature has lifted its ban on the study of the reviled Red Route through Garner, the state Department of Transportation is resuming work on plans to finish the 540 Outer Loop as a toll road through southern and eastern Wake County. “We’ve got to have 540 completed because of the population explosion that we have here in Wake County and the Triangle area,” Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said in an interview. “To me, it’s a vital project for this region.” Read more here.

CHARLOTTE MAYORAL PRIMARY: A Charlotte Democratic mayoral primary race that would have seemed hard to imagine a year ago ends Tuesday when voters go to the polls and select candidates for the November general election. It’s Primary Election Day in Charlotte, and voters essentially will choose a majority of the City Council members, along with nominees for mayor from the Democratic and Republican parties.The polls opened at 6:30 a.m. across Charlotte and will close at 7:30 p.m. Read more here.

DEMOCRATS, OTHERS BLAST McCRORY AD: With Gov. Pat McCrory’s approval lagging in polls – and being rebuffed by fellow Republicans in the General Assembly – a pro-McCrory group is starting TV ads Tuesday in Charlotte and two other North Carolina cities. The Renew North Carolina Foundation, a group formed to support the governor and his agenda, is making what a spokesman calls a “significant,” six-figure investment in the ads, which will run through Oct. 7.

A statement from Progress North Carolina Action, a liberal group, said the ad shows the governor “in full damage-control mode.” The state Democratic Party questioned the very accomplishments for which McCrory took credit. The General Assembly and the governor rejected federal help for Medicaid recipients and took action that cut benefits for unemployed workers. Read more here.

EMAIL SUBJECT LINE: National Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Berger ad: "GOP TEA PARTY PRIMARY-PALOOZA ALERT: Berger TV Spot Forecasts Potential Brutal Primary Battle In #NCSEN"

PERSONNEL FILE: Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is doubling his staff with three new additions. Forest, a Republican, hired Steven Walker as his general counsel and policy director, Kami Mueller as communications director and Rebekah Bradley as Chief of Staff Hal Weatherman's assistant. Read the bio's provided by Forest's office here.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Inaugural Pints & Politics event next week: The N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation, a business-backed political research firm, is putting a little fun into the state capital’s favorite sport: politics. The inaugural Pints & Politics event will include discussion from Chris Sinclair, a Republican strategist at Cornerstone Solutions, and Tom Jensen, the head pollster at Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, about election outcome predictions. Free event but RSVP requested to jstewart@ncfef.org or 919-614-0520. Details: 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19, Natty Greene’s Brewing, 505 W. Jones St., Raleigh


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