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Morning Memo: National Republicans launch billboards targeting Hagan

REPUBLICANS LAUNCH BILLBOARDS HITTING KAY HAGAN: The National Republican Senatorial Committee is debuting seven billboards across the state targeting U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's support for the federal health care law. Republicans are trying to make the case that Hagan, a Democrat facing re-election in 2014, accomplished nothing besides supporting Obamacare in the first five years of her term. (See a copy of the billboard here.)

"Kay Hagan promised North Carolinians that she would govern as a centrist, but instead has been a Democratic partisan, supporting the President's signature initiatives lock, stock and barrel," said Brook Hougesen, a NRSC spokeswoman.

The effort is designed to put the one-term incumbent -- who polls show is vulnerable -- on the defensive while the GOP struggles to find a dominant candidate. House Speaker Thom Tillis is the most prominent name in the race but other major Republicans are still considering whether to run. Cary physician Greg Brannon, a tea party candidate, is also making a bid. The billboards are located in Greensboro, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and the Raleigh-Durham area.

***More North Carolina political news -- including U.S. Senate campaign updates -- below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Bob Etheridge, a former congressman and Democratic state superintendent, will join teachers and others at a 10:30 a.m. press conference outside the capitol as part of the "Get Your Facts Straight" tour, an effort from Progress North Carolina to dispute Republican leaders position on education funding.

Photo credit: News & Record's Jerry Wolford

McCRORY ON GOLF CROWD: 'It sure beats protesters' From the News-Record: "Gov. Pat McCrory was in good spirits Wednesday as he played in the New Breed Logistics Pro-Am, a precursor to the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club. Greeted by political donors, well-wishers and autograph-seekers at nearly every hole, McCrory, a Jamestown native, said it was good to be back home.
“It sure beats the protesters,” McCrory said of the response from the crowd."

MORE FUN: From the N&R: "When the governor accidentally hit pro golfer Zach Johnson with a ball on the last hole, Johnson pretended to keel over onto the ground and McCrory ran to him, comically pretending to revive him with CPR. Fans ate it up, laughing and applauding. …

"Now that he’s governor, McCrory said, a day on the course is a good chance to get away from what he called “the bubble of politics” in Raleigh. It’s also a chance to get feedback that he considers genuine. “This is real feedback, it’s not coordinated,” McCrory said. “I said when I was campaigning I wanted to get out of that bubble and away from the beltway at least two to three days a week. So this is part of that.”

"Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes, a fellow Republican, went to Ragsdale High School with McCrory and his sister Linda. He spoke with the governor a bit Wednesday before the golfing began. “I asked him, ‘Do you get the chance to relax at all now that you’re governor?’” Barnes said. “He told me, ‘Well, sometimes it’s hard to forget that I’m governor. But when I do, it’s a lot more fun.’” Read more here.

CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST CHARLOTTE OBSERVER REPORTER ARRESTED AT PROTESTS: Charges of second-degree trespass and failure to disperse against Charlotte Observer religion reporter Tim Funk have been dropped by the Wake County District Attorney’s Office. Funk, 58, was arrested June 10 at the statehouse in Raleigh. He was interviewing Charlotte clergy who were demonstrating at a “Moral Monday” protest after Jeff Weaver, chief of the N.C. General Assembly Police, warned demonstrators to move away or risk arrest.

“This is clearly the right result, and we congratulate the district attorney for making the right decision,” said Rick Thames, editor of the Observer. “Tim Funk was working as a journalist inside the most obvious public building in our state.

“The videotape of Tim’s arrest demonstrates clearly that his only purpose in being there was to provide our readers a vivid firsthand account. He was clearly not obstructing the police. It’s hard to understand why he was arrested in the first place.” Read more here.

GREG BRANNON CELEBRATES BIRTHDAY WITH FUNDRAISER: In what is now a standard fundraising tactic, Greg Brannon is using his birthday this week to help raise money for his U.S. Senate campaign. The Cary obstetrician is soliciting tickets to a "Bluegrass & BBQ Birthday Bash" at North Hills Club in Raleigh on Sunday. A ticket to the event costs $53 (his age) and hosts can make a $530 contribution and get four tickets.

SPEAKING OF 2014 -- Mark Harris "draft" campaign preparing next stage. Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte is trying to build support for a U.S. Senate campaign through an effort to "draft" him into the race. He's currently conducting a 90-day "listening tour" to gauge interest and now he wants his supporters to donate $20,000 for a comprehensive poll. "We truly could use your help in covering the cost of this vital tool, which not only gives us a clear picture of where Mark stands, but also provides incredible insight for the most effective strategy to move us to victory," his advisors write in an email to supporters. "And if (he) is to run, Mark would officially announce publicly and statewide in early October."

ADVOCACY GROUP WANTS McCRORY TO INTERVENE IN WATAUGA COUNTY: Gov. Pat McCrory's told WUNC radio that partisan politics should stay out of the process of locating polling sites. Now an elections advocacy group wants him to apply it to Watauga County, which just removed polling locations from the campus of Appalachian State University. From a press release: Common Cause executive director Bob Phillips called on Governor McCroy to hold the Watauga County Board of Elections accountable. “This is a decision that reeks of partisan politics and will only make it harder for college students to vote.  If Governor McCroy really means what he says, then he should immediately demand the Watauga County Board of Elections reverse its decision.”

RELATED: NC elections boards move to curtail student voting -- Here's more from AP: Within hours of Gov. Pat McCrory signing a Republican-backed bill this week making sweeping changes to the state's voting laws, local elections boards in two college towns made moves that could make it harder for students to vote.

The Watauga County Board of Elections voted Monday to eliminate an early voting site and election-day polling precinct on the campus of Appalachian State University.

The Pasquotank County Board of Elections on Tuesday barred an Elizabeth City State University senior from running for city council, ruling his on-campus address couldn't be used to establish local residency. Following the decision, the head of the county's Republican Party said he plans to challenge the voter registrations of more students at the historically black university ahead of upcoming elections. Read more here.

PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY DATE GETS MORE ATTENTION: Other early states reacting to new March primary date in elections bill -- From Frontloading, a blog dedicated to the presidential primary calendar: "Instead of falling on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May, the North Carolina presidential primary will now occur on "the Tuesday after the first South Carolina presidential preference primary" if the primary in the Palmetto state is conducted prior to March 15 of any presidential election year.1 Given the protected status South Carolina enjoys as the "first in the South" primary in both national parties, a primary before March 15, 2016 is almost a given.

"That means that North Carolina now joins Missouri on the wrong side of what will likely be the national party rules for 2016 delegate selection. In turn, that means that the 2016 presidential primary calendar takes on a different shape altogether. …

"Regardless, it now brings to two the number of states with laws currently calling for what will be noncompliant presidential primary dates in 2016.3 Two states does not a trend make necessarily, but there is at least one state (North Carolina) now that has very few options for avoiding the RNC super penalty, the penalty now in place for states that violate the national party rules on the timing of primaries or caucuses.

"Without further change to this portion of the law, North Carolina Republicans could get hammered with penalties ... or could end up forced to go the caucus route to comply. Read more here.
Also: a Des Moines Register blog post wonders what North Carolina's new date -- a week after South Carolina in March means for it's Iowa caucuses -- which are likely in mid January at this point. Read more here.

ELLMERS AGAINST GOV'T SHUTDOWN: She didn't use U.S. Sen. Richard Burr's language, but Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, a Dunn Republican, says a government shutdown to block Obamacare is not a good idea. Ellmers told ABC 11 it could create economic chaos. See more here.

N.C. SHERIFF APPEALS TO BOEHNER ON IMMIGRATION: From USA Today: On Wednesday, (six)a sheriffs – three from House Majority Leader John Boehner's home district – joined in a chorus of that mantra, sending what Jones called "a helluva strong message." The six sheriffs jokingly agreed they might be dubbed, "the gang of six," a play on words referring to the "Gang of Eight" lawmakers who put together the comprehensive immigration-reform bill that the sheriffs oppose. The Senate passed that proposal, which the sheriffs say tries to do too much at once, without giving border-security the top priority it deserves.
The six sheriffs also say many more sheriffs across the nation agree with their opinion on the proposal.

"It's a bad piece of legislation," said Sam S. Page, sheriff of Rockingham County, N.C. He serves as co-vice-chairman of the National Sheriffs' Association's immigration committee. That group, in a position paper, says it recommends enforcing current immigration laws, tightening security at the northern and southern U.S. borders and increasing funding for local police to combat crimes that illegal aliens commit. Read more here.

TOP TEN LIST: Roll Call, a D.C. publication, looked at the members of Congress with the most town halls scheduled in August. North Carolina's Mark Meadows, who represents a mountain district made the list tied for 7th. More here.

A FIRST LOOK AT WIND ENERGY OFF N.C. COAST: Eileen Marrone is all for alternative energy, but the prospect of giant offshore wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean is giving her pause after she saw a demonstration of 460-foot-tall turbines off the coast of North Carolina.

A video simulation by the U.S. Department of the Interior shows rows of red lights blinking in unison on the horizon, 11 miles from the coast. The flashing hazard lights are required to warn pilots of the presence of turbine spires equipped with spinning blades over the ocean.

Marrone, who lives in Calabash near the South Carolina border, was one of several dozen area residents who attended the demonstration Wednesday at the South Brunswick Islands Center in Carolina Shores. The visualization study shows how the turbines would appear at night and during the day under a range of conditions. It concludes that the turbines 11 miles out at sea would be visible from shore about 35 percent of the time. “I thought that was deeply disturbing,” Marrone said of the night lights. “I can’t image how people who live on the beach would feel about that – red lights constantly blinking.”

The visualization study is an early stage of the federal process of leasing national waters to wind farm developers. The process for North Carolina has been underway for three years, but it could be a decade before offshore wind farms are developed off the state’s coast. Still, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has thrown his support behind offshore wind power as a boost to local economies and to energy companies in the state that make components for the wind industry. Read more here.

COURT CONSIDERS WHETHER TO ALLOW CONTROVERSIAL CHARTER SCHOOL: Three N.C. Court of Appeals judges had lots of questions Wednesday for lawyers arguing whether a controversial charter school that planned to only offer online classes should have been allowed to open last year.

At issue was whether the N.C. Virtual Academy, a school proposed by N.C. Learns, needed approval from the state Board of Education. N.C. Learns, a nonprofit organization backed by K12 Inc., a for-profit company that has become one of the biggest players in the online education business, used an unusual process to try to open the state’s first virtual charter school. In early 2012, N.C. Learns won approval from the school board in Cabarrus County, near Charlotte, to set up an online charter school that would have drawn students from across the state.

The State Board of Education never voted on the project, opting at the time to take a pass on a proposal that raised vexing issues about online learning, funding formulas and quality control for students being educated with public dollars outside brick-and-mortar classrooms. Read more here.

BURR: Current threats are most worrisome since 9/11 attacks The warnings that closed 19 U.S. embassies and consulates last week represented the most credible terrorist threat since the September 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said Wednesday. And Burr, a Republican from North Carolina who is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the odds are “extremely high” that terrorists behind the threat will attack.

“I can’t say when or where,” Burr told the Observer. “Without the elimination of the individuals, it’s impossible for me to conclude that the threat or the intent has gone. … I’ve never had a threat that worries me as much as this one does.” Read more here.

ELLMERS PART OF PROJECT TO RECRUIT FEMALE CANDIDATES: From YNN-TV: Women make up 51 percent of the U.S. population, but only about 18 percent of the House of Representatives. That number is even lower among House Republicans. “We only have 19 women in the Republican conference right now, which is only eight percent of the Republicans in the House of Representatives. So you can see the number is very, very low. It's obviously not representative of the country and that's what we want to change,” said North Carolina Representative Renee Ellmers.

North Carolina Congresswoman Renee Ellmers is one of the leaders of a new House GOP program called Project Grow, which recruits conservative women to run for office. It's part of a larger, party wide effort. The renewed focus begs the question: Why are there fewer women in Congress? Read more here.

PARTING NOTE: Three days later, this story about State Superintendent June Atkinson's remarks on education is still one of the most read on the News & Observer's website. The likely reason? Not Atkinson but Republican Speaker Pro Tem Paul "Skip" Stam's reaction: “She should stick to her own knitting." Stam said Wednesday that the comment is part of a much broader point he was making about the need for private school scholarships.


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Thank you Kay Hagan

Despite what the do-nothing Republicans in Congress would have you believe, Kay Hagan is working for North Carolina every day. She has supported numerous bills on Jobs, Wall Street Reform, and Supporting our troops. When the government tried to cut tuition assistance for our military, Kay was instrumental in having it reinstated. Let's also not forget the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which she was instrumental in supporting -- which will help reduce the wage gap and ensure that male and female employees get equal pay and benefits for comparable work.

Kay also supported the bipartisan 2012 Farm Bill that passed the Senate with broad support from both parties. That bill, contained important provisions for North Carolina farmers, including an effort to boost textile manufacturing and cotton production, a “plain language” amendment to make crop insurance decisions more streamlined for our farmers, and a provision to improve crop insurance fraud prevention that will help protect taxpayer dollars. Guess who blocked the bill -- Republicans in the House of Representatives. So she's done a lot, but she could do more if the Republicans were voted out of Washington.

"This is real feedback"

....says the Republican at the country club.

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