Thursday, December 19, 2013

Two 12th District hopefuls get boost

We're still waiting for an announcement of U.S. Rep. Mel Watt's official resignation from Congress, but that hasn't stopped those running for his seat from trying to get a jump on their competitors.

State Rep. Alma Adams of Greensboro has picked up two big endorsements.

One is from Emily's List, a national organization that helps fill the coffers of pro-abortion rights, Democratic women. And the retired teacher also is backed by the North Carolina Association of Educators.

And Rep. Marcus Brandon of High Point has won the endorsement of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. The group could supply Brandon, who already led his rivals in fundraising at the end of September, with a national fundraising base.

Brandon, the only openly gay N.C. legislator, would be the first gay Congressman from a Southern state and the first gay African-American.

Six Democrats have announced for Watt's 12th District seat. Watt's resignation will trigger the scheduling of a special election by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

GOP Senate hopefuls not crazy about budget deal

Most of North Carolina's Republican U.S. Senate candidates oppose the budget deal hammered out between leaders of the GOP-controlled House and Senate Democratic leaders.

Not even House Speaker Thom Tillis, who's gotten money from the PACs from House leaders including Speaker John Boehner.

The House was voting late Thursday on the bill,  which would reverse some of last year's sequestration cuts. The New York Times reported that spending on defense and domestic programs would rise from $967 billion this fiscal year to over $1 trillion. However over 10 years deficits would go down, due in part to higher fees on air travel.

The bi-partisan compromise would forestall a second government shutdown next year.

Tillis wasn't available, but spokesman Jordan Shaw said he opposes it. "A trillion dollars in spending and debt is not the way to fix Washington's problems," Shaw said.

Other candidates panned the budget compromise.

"This budget deal is terrible," Cary physician Greg Brannon said in a statement. "It's yet another example of the lack of leadership in Washington. This deal won't reduce our $17 trillion debt by one cent, instead it continues to mortgage our children's future by replacing previously agreed to spending cuts with fairy tale cuts in the future."

Bill Flynn, a Forsyth County broadcaster, called his representative, Republican Virginia Foxx, and urged her to oppose the deal.

"Raising the deficit now only to cut it years down the road doesn't really address the issue of overspending  and federal growth that is hurting taxpayers now," he said.

Mark Harris, a Charlotte pastor, said before he can support the deal he wants to know if the defense cuts called for in the sequester would hurt the nation's national security.

"This bill currently being touted as a compromise shouldn't be viewed as a potential victory," he said in a statement, "rather the first of many steps that are desperately needed to fix the out-of-control spending that is pushing our debt and deficit through the roof."

Update 5:20: Heather Grant of Wilkes County said the deal doesn't go far enough.

"All the cuts come from projected spending in years 9 and 10. It does increase the DOD budget, but at the same time cuts military pay for 2014," she said in an email. "To me, this in and of itself is unacceptable. We cannot continue to punish those who volunteer to defend our way of life while refusing to reign in parts of government that are not even authorized under our Constitution."

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Pro-Kay Hagan PAC attacks Thom Tillis

A PAC aligned with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is attacking Republican Thom Tillis in a new ad -- and Tillis is making the most of it.

The Senate Majority PAC is spending a reported $750,000 on an ad defending Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan on health care while attacking Tillis, one of five announced GOP candidates for her seat.

The PAC is run by former staffers of the Nevada senator. It's the second pro-Hagan ad they've run in North Carolina.

In it they defend Hagan's support of the Affordable Care Act, without ever referring to the act or to the name its commonly known by, Obamacare. Instead they tout her support of legislation that "forced insurance companies to cover cancer and other pre-existing conditions."

 Tillis, it says, "sides with insurance companies."

Tillis tweeted that "It is a badge of honor to be attacked by Harry Reid -- I'll work night and day to beat Kay Hagan and overthrow Reid's majority."

He also emailed a fundraising message to supporters.

"Clearly, North Carolina is ground zero in the effort to get rid of the liberal Reid majority that is keeping Obamacare in place and keeping our country on a path to fiscal disaster," he wrote.

Friday, November 22, 2013

'Nuclear' vote may clear obstacles for Watt

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mel Watt is confident he’ll be confirmed to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency now that Senate Democrats changed the chamber’s filibuster rule.

“I would say that certainly substantially improves the chances,” he says.

President Barack Obama nominated Watt last spring to head the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Last month Senate Republicans blocked his confirmation.

But Thursday Senate Democrats triggered the so-called nuclear option. They changed the rules so that most judicial and executive-office appointments can move to confirmation votes with support from a simple majority of senators, not the 60-vote super-majority that had been in effect.

The Senate could vote on Watt’s nomination when it returns to session in early December.

Watt continues to be optimistic.

“I’ve known it’s not been about me,” he says. “Every once in a while they'll make some noises about qualifications. But no one felt they were saying that with a straight face. This has been about politics, and a lot of it has been directed at this president.

“I’ve never taken this personally I’ve been patient ... And I'm still patient.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

GOP spotlight turns to ... Gastonia

Gastonia will be ground zero this week on North Carolina's U.S. Senate race and the Republican fight against Obamacare.

Thursday night, four of the five announced Republican candidates vying for Democrat Kay Hagan's U.S. Senate seat will take part in a town hall forum sponsored by The Tea party of Greater Gaston County.

It will likely mark the first time the four -- Cary physician Greg Brannon, Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, Wilkes County nurse Heather Grant and Forsyth County broadcaster Bill Flynn will be at the same event. It's unclear whether House Speaker Thom Tillis was invited.

Earlier that day Tillis will be at a Charlotte fundraiser with Karl Rove, former advisor to President George W. Bush. The two will headline a noon fundraiser at Bank of America Stadium. There's no love lost between Rove and the tea party.

Earlier this year he created a group called the Conservative Victory Project to try to ensure the party nominate candidates who can win the general election. Rove and other Republicans are trying to avoid situations like those in Missouri and Indiana last year where tea party-backed candidates lost.

And Friday, the House Oversight Committee, with Chairman Darrell Issa will hold a field hearing at the Gaston County Courthouse. The hearing will be the committee's first anywhere on Obamacare, The title of the hearing: "Obamacare Implementation: Sticker Shock of Increased Premiums for Healthcare Coverage."

UPDATE 3:30. A Tillis spokesman said he was invited to the tea party gathering but was unable to make it.  

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Tea Party suicide mission in N.C.?

The tea party has named its top 2014 target in North Carolina: U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger.

This week the conservative Charlotte Republican got a letter from the Virginia-based Tea Party Leadership Fund PAC expressing its dismay over his vote last month to end the government shutdown.

Pittenger was one of 87 House Republicans (including two others from North Carolina) who joined House Democrats in voting for the measure that ended the shutdown. Tea party allies in Congress opposed the measure, holding out for changes in Obamacare and concessions in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

"You have failed to honor your commitment to your constituents and the values they entrusted you to uphold," wrote Dan Backer, the group's treasurer and general counsel. "All leaders must face and accept accountability for their choices. You chose to disregard your pledge to these American voters and now must be held accountable."
Pittenger included the message in a fund-raising letter to supporters.
"I understand and appreciate their concerns regarding Obamacare, I voted against it 15 times," Pittenger told the Observer. "The Democrats just didn't want to cooperate. I just didn't feel like what they (the tea party) were pursuing made sense. I'm fully committed to dismantling Obamacare ...
"What I think they didn't understand, maybe still don't, is the political process. They only had 14 votes in the Senate. There's no way it would pass."
But Pittenger said he's still concerned about a tea party challenge in an election when turnout is generally down. "Any off-year election is volatile," he said.
Though Pittenger is a first-term incumbent, any challenger would face an uphill battle. In 2012, Pittenger, a real estate investor, spent $2.3 million of his own money.
 Barker said his organization could muster a national fund-raising base for the right candidate. But he said the election's not about money.
"At the end of the day, (Pittenger) voted to continue funding the government at these unsustainable current levels, to increase the debt limit without a single concession, and to fund Obamacare," Barker said. 
"Pittenger and the surrender caucus folded like a cheap deck of cards."


Monday, November 04, 2013

Early votes are in and the winner is....

Democrat Patrick Cannon is likely to have a sizable head start heading into Tuesday's mayoral election in Charlotte.

In Mecklenburg County, 22,319 people cast early ballots through Saturday, more than in 2011 but fewer than 2009.

The vast majority of voters were from Charlotte. Of those, 12,528 were Democrats, according to the board of elections. There were 5,556 Republicans and 4,217 Unaffiliated voters who cast ballots.

Russell Peck, campaign manager for Republican mayoral candidate Edwin Peacock, said a GOP analysis of city voters showed the party's share was up 2.5 percent from 2011 while Democrats' share was down 4.8 percent. But that doesn't diminish Democrats' lead going into Election Day.

Since North Carolina started early voting a decade ago, Democrats have outperformed Republicans. That has been true in state races and in Charlotte’s last two city races.

While Democrats won the early vote in state races – including the last two presidential elections – Republicans won the Election Day vote. However that hasn’t been the case in Charlotte, where Foxx won both the early vote and Election Day vote.

Peck knows Cannon will have an edge going into Tuesday. How does he plan to overcome it?

"Have a great turnout tomorrow," he said.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

N.C. shutdown costs: Not as much as Democrats claimed

It was a screeching headline on the press release Tuesday from The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Tuesday: "Thom Tillis, Mark Harris, Greg Brannon & Heather Grant’s Reckless & Irresponsible Government Shutdown Cost North Carolina’s Economy Up To $340 Million."

Like its Republican counterpart, the DSCC takes every opportunity to put its opponents in a bad light. And it's true that Tillis, Harris, Brannon and Grant -- the announced GOP Senate candidates -- have said they supported efforts that led to a shutdown. And most if not all opposed this month's compromise that ended it.

But $340 million? According to John Mousseau of Moody's Analytics, the real figure is $95 million.

Why the discrepancy?

According to DSCC spokesman Matt Canter, the larger figure was based on national information provided by Moody's, based on  figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and used by Pew researchers and published by outlets such as USA Today.

But when I called Moody's, Mousseau said the shutdown cost North Carolina $95 million. Still a lot of money, certainly, but not $340 million. Apparently that state information wasn't available to the DSCC at the time it sent its release, which was reported on at least one N.C. media site.

The DSCC used the best information it had at the time.

"What both numbers show is that the GOP shutdown caused unnecessary damage to North Carolina's economy and should never have happened," Canter said.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Another roadblock for Mel Watt?

It was way back in May that President Obama nominated U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The nomination has been  in limbo ever since, and now may be delayed even further.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on Fox News Monday that he plans to hold up all Senate appointments until the administration answers more questions about the Benghazi attack in September 2012.

"I'm going to block every appointment in the United States Senate until the survivors (of the attack in Benghazi)  are being made available to the Congress," Graham told Fox. "I'm tired of hearing from people on TV and reading about stuff in books."

Speculation is that Watt, first elected in 1992, won't run for re-election even if he doesn't get the housing post. He only raised $10 last quarter. Several Democrats are already campaigning for the seat.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest calls Charlotte mayor's race an 'uphill battle'

North Carolina Lt. Gov.  Dan Forest acknowledged Monday that fellow Republican Edwin Peacock faces an uphill battle for mayor of Charlotte. But, he added, so did his mother a quarter-century ago.

Forest was in Charlotte to rally the troops at GOP headquarters, where he was joined by Peacock and state party chairman Claude Pope.

"Some of our races are uphill battles," he told about two dozen party officials and campaign volunteers, a clear reference to the mayoral race in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.

But Forest said his mother, Sue Myrick, also faced an uphill battle when she ran for mayor in 1987. On the eve of the election, a poll showed her trailing incumbent Democrat Harvey Gantt by nine percentage points. She won the first of two terms, and later went to Congress.

Forest urged Republicans to put in the same grassroots effort that helped his mother win.

"She had no chance but she pulled it out," he said. "I think that's a template that really works."

With two weeks to go, Peacock plans to ramp up his campaign against Democrat Patrick Cannon. His TV ads start Wednesday. And in that night's Observer debate, he plans to draw some clear distinctions with Cannon.

Peacock chose not to draw distinctions with Forest. The state Democratic Party Monday issued a release calling Forest North Carolina's "most far-right statewide office holder." Forest, a favorite of many tea-partiers, has taken conservative positions. For example, he even broke with fellow Republican, Gov. Pat McCrory, by opposing Common Core education standards.

Peacock has prided himself on being a moderate Republican. He said he agrees with Forest on the basics, like limited government and the need for jobs. But, he added, "Dan and I don't agree on everything."


Forest, by the way, wasn't the only second-generation Charlotte Republican at Monday's GOP mini-rally. Peacock's father Ed was on the city council and ran for mayor in 1983, the same year Myrick was first elected to council. And Mindy Moorman, a GOP field organizer in Charlotte, is the daughter of former council member and county commissioner Rod Autry.

Friday, October 18, 2013

GOP Senate candidates against budget deal

It looks like North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senate primary will be fought on the right -- and set up an even clearer contrast to Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.

The three major GOP Senate candidates all would have voted 'no' on last week’s Congressional measure to end the federal shutdown and avert a deadline to raise the debt limit.

The Senate passed the measure 81-18 on Wednesday. Both N.C. senators -- Republican Richard Burr and Hagan -- voted in the majority. (Only three of the state's nine GOP House members, Robert Pittenger, Howard Coble and Patrick McHenry, voted for the bill, which passed the House on the strength of Democratic votes.) 

But three Republicans vying for Hagan’s seat opposed the bill.

“Kicking the can down the road does not solve any problems, it only creates a bigger mess,” House Speaker Thom Tillis said in a statement. “The President and Congress owe the American people a fiscally responsible budget focused on ensuring a sound economy and a safe America ... I could not have supported this legislation.”

Greg Brannon, a Cary physician, was endorsed by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on the day of the vote. Paul was a vocal opponent of the compromise.

“The deal ... gives President Obama carte blanche authority to increase our national debt and does nothing to address out-of-control federal spending,” Brannon said. “If elected, I will not support a debt ceiling increase unless it includes real spending reform such as the elimination of our economy's biggest threat, Obamacare.”

And Charlotte pastor Mark Harris blamed Democrats for what he called the “Obama/Reid” shutdown, a reference to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

“I could not support a bill to increase the debt limit without a plan to reduce government spending, and lower taxes,” Harris said. “We need real leadership in D.C. and it’s time North Carolina elected a senator that isn't so beholden to the president and the national Democrats.”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ten dollars explains the 12th District money race

At least four Democrats are already running hard for the Congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte, whose nomination to head the federal Housing Finance Agency still awaits Senate confirmation.

But there's a growing sense that Watt, first elected in 19992, won't run even if he doesn't get the federal post.

New reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission show Watt raised just $10 in the 3rd quarter. That's not even lunch money in Washington.

By contrast, four people who want his seat have been busy raising money. Leading the field: two-term state Rep. Marcus Brandon of High Point. He raised $90,500 during the quarter and more than $143,000 for the campaign.

Brandon, the legislature's only openly gay member, appears to have a national fundraising base with contributions from New York to California.

Behind him was George Battle III, general counsel for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board. He's raised a total of $109,620.

State Rep. Alma Adams, an 11-term House member from Greensboro, has raised $89,493. And state Sen. Malcolm Graham of Charlotte has raised $57,150.

The 12th District stretches from Charlotte to Greensboro.

Other Democrats who have talked about running for the seat, including Reps. Beverly Earle and Rodney Moore of Charlotte, have yet to file reports.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Santorum on debt ceiling and N.C. Senate race

Former -- and possible future -- Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is glad he's not in Washington these days. But he's still taking a hardline position on the debt ceiling.

The former Pennsylvania senator was in Charlotte Tuesday to promote a new film and headline a fundraiser for Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. That was a day before today's apparent last-minute deal to raise the ceiling and avoid Thursday's deadline.

In an interview, Santorum joined the ranks of Republicans like Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina who say fears of default are overblown.

This month Burr told Slate that "The federal government still has about 85 percent of the revenues we spend coming in, and all they have to do is prioritize that they're gonna pay debt service first."

"There's no reason to default," Santorum told us. "There's plenty of money to pay our debt service....The idea that we're going to default is ridiculous." 

He also dismissed the damage caused by the weeks-old government shutdown. "I don't know to many people facing cataclysmic changes in their lives," he said.


We asked Santorum is he planned to make an endorsement in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race. We haven't been the only people wondering.

He said he got a call from House Speaker Thom Tillis this month asking if he was endorsing one of Tillis' opponents. Santorum has spoken at Charlotte's First Baptist Church at the invitation of pastor Mark Harris. Harris, like Tillis, is now running for the Senate.

"My general inclination is not to get involved with what a appears to be a good field of candidates," Santorum said.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rielle Hunter: 'I'm sorry ... I was selfish'

Eight years after the affair that sunk the reputation and political career of John Edwards, Rielle Hunter has finally apologized.

Her apology, which happens to coincide with release of a new book, comes in an article in the Huffington Post.

"I am very sorry for my wrong, selfish behavior," she wrote. "Back in 2006, I did not think about the scope of my actions, how my falling in love with John Edwards, and acting on that love, could hurt so many people. I hurt Elizabeth and her kids. I hurt her family. I hurt John's family. I hurt people that knew Elizabeth."

 Her new book adds two words to the title of her last: "In Hindsight, What Really Happened: The Revised Edition: John Edwards, My Daughter, and Me." As she describes it, it's sort of the corrected version of her first book.

"... (I)nstead of apologizing when I should have, I went on to hurt more people by writing a book," she wrote in the Post. "I truly did not realize at that time how damaged I was and because of that, when I wrote my book I made more mistakes, ones I feel horrible about."

Hunter apparently lives in Charlotte with the daughter she had with Edwards, a former U.S. senator and presidential candidate. Edwards and his daughter Quinn were seen this month shopping in the Cotswold Harris-Teeter.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Birthday party boos for Pat McCrory

Bill Diehl doesn't go small. For his 69th birthday party, the Charlotte attorney rented out The Fillmore at the N.C. Music Factory, hired rockers Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and invited around 400 of his closest friends. Among them: Gov. Pat McCrory.

When the band took a break, Diehl grabbed a mic and introduced McCrory, who was greeted with a loud smattering of boos.

It wasn't the first time the former Charlotte mayor -- elected and re-elected seven times -- has heard boo birds in his hometown. In Charlotte, at least, the popular mayor has been a less popular governor.

This summer he appeared at a concert at the Bechtler Museum. When he was formally  introduced, many in the audience booed.

Some thought Friday's birthday booing was rude.

"I thought it was in poor taste, but it happened," said attorney Ed Hinson. "I sure heard it."

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Airport paradox?

For months Charlotte's public officials repeated their mantra about the city's airport: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Republican legislators ignored that in transferring airport control from the city first to an authority and then to a commission. The matter is currently in court.

The city has argued all along that the airport has thrived under its control.

So City Manager Ron Carlee couldn't help taking a swipe at comments made in Saturday's Observer by former aviation director Jerry Orr and former Mayor Richard Vinroot, now attorney for the proposed commission. 

"Good Morning!" Carlee said in an email to council members. "Mr. Orr's comments in today's Observer are priceless regarding the audits and studies that we are doing -- if contradiction doesn't get you, paradox will."

The story, which dealt with the city's current audits of the airport, quoted Orr saying, "It seems to me that Charlotte is a model, not one in need of being fixed."

"It looks like a solution in search of a problem," he said of the audits. "That's what I think."

Carlee also cited a quote from Vinroot. "I wonder if they aren't trying to find something wrong with this spectacular successful airport," he said.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Shutdown shuts down N.C. GOP fundraiser

Chalk up another casualty of the federal government shutdown. And this one will cost the North Carolina Republican Party.

The state party had scheduled an Oct. 9 fundraiser at The Capitol Hill Club, with guests paying up to $2,500. The event was to be headlined by GOP Sen. Richard Burr, the state's nine Republican House members and Gov. Pat McCrory.

Republican national Chairman Reince Priebus was expected to put in an appearance.

But Friday, with the shutdown in its fourth day and no end in sight, GOP leaders decided to postpone the event.

"In light of the government shutdown the North Carolina Republican Party thought it would be best to put our Washington D.C. fundraiser on hold," said Todd Poole, the party's executive director. "In the meantime we hope our Democrat friends on Capitol Hill will come to their senses and join Republicans at the negotiating table and end the shutdown."

One member of the state delegation, by the way, is getting credit, or blame, for initiating the shutdown.

Freshman GOP Rep Mark Meadows of Jackson County got 79 members to sign onto a letter in August urging their colleagues to tie continued government funding to dismantling Obamacare. He's gotten attention in the national media. CNN called him "the architect of the brink."


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Democrats target three N.C. House members in shutdown fight

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting three N.C. congressmen with robo-calls over the government shutdown, including Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte.

The DCCC began the calls Tuesday, hours after the shutdown went into effect.

"While you were sleeping, Congressman Robert Pittenger shut down the government," the calls say. "You heard that right. But even worse – Congressman Pittenger is still getting paid – and he’s not listening to our frustration. All because of his demand to take away your benefits and protect insurance company profits. Call Congressman Pittenger ... to end the shutdown."
The DCCC also is targeting GOP Reps. Richard Hudson of the 8th District and George Holding of the 13th. They're among 63 Republican congressmen across the country whose districts are getting similar calls.

What's unusual about targeting Pittenger is that his 9th District is solidly Republican and has been for 60 years.

Pittenger spokesman Jamie Bowers said their offices haven't reported getting any of the robo-calls.

The DCCC did not target other N.C. members who voted to defund Obamacare, including Rep. Mike McIntyre of the 7th District. He was one of just two Democrats in the country who voted with Republicans.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mark Harris recruits another former NCGOP official

Rev. Mark Harris won't officially enter North Carolina's U.S. Senate race until next week. But he's already snared another former official of the state Republican Party to run his campaign.

Harris announced that Mike Rusher will manage his campaign. Rusher, former chief of staff for the state GOP, joins former state party chairman Robin Hayes, who will co-chair the Harris campaign.

Harris is pastor of Charlotte's First Baptist Church and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. He plans a fly-around announcement tour on Oct. 2, starting in Wilmington and ending in Charlotte.

Rusher headed the national GOP Victory Campaign in North Carolina in 2012. Before that he was an aide to state Senate Leader Phil Berger. The announcement of his position with the Harris campaign comes a day after Berger formally bowed out of the Senate race.

Harris will be the fourth Republican to announce for the seat of Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, joining House Speaker Thom Tillis, Cary physician Greg Brannon and Wilkesboro nurse Heather Grant.

UPDATE: Rusher was victory director from January to August 2012. He left to join the N.C. GOP first as operations director then as chief of staff.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Graham asks Holder to intervene on voting law

Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Graham of Charlotte has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate North Carolina's new voter law.

“It’s a clear attempt at voter suppression, and it will disproportionately impact students, minorities, the poor and senior citizens,” Graham wrote Holder. “I urge you to come to North Carolina now and stop this law from taking our state backward. We should be approving laws that encourage every American to vote – not make it more difficult.”

The law, signed this summer by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, requires voters to show a photo ID starting in 2016. It also ends straight-ticket voting and same-day registration and compresses the period for early voting.

The Justice Department went to court in August to block a new voter ID bill in Texas.

Graham's letter comes a day before she's scheduled to talk about the law at the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro and at a panel at Johnson C. Smith University. Graham is among several candidates interested in running for the 12th Congressional District seat that would become vacant if Rep. Mel Watt is confirmed as head of the Housing Finance Agency. The district runs from Charlotte to Greensboro.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Foxx: 'Everybody got behind' streetcar?

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote a blog this week commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a "Dream" speech. The former Charlotte mayor wrote about the role transportation has played in the Civil Rights movement, including Rosa Park's celebrated bus ride in Montgomery.

He went on to tout the Obama administration's investments in transportation infrastructure.

But in commemorating history, did Foxx rewrite it? Here's part of his blog:
"And when I was Mayor of Charlotte, I fought to bring a streetcar system to our city.  The whole community got behind it. That streetcar is the first effort in Charlotte’s recent history to connect a poor part of the city with modern transit."

The proposed streetcar - dubbed the "Gold Line" - certainly has its proponents. But to say the whole community got behind it seems to forget resistance from some on the city council, and not just the Republicans. Even some Democrats were reluctant to support it. That was one reason Foxx's proposed capital plan didn't pass the first time around.

After some initial bumps, the streetcar is on track.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Black Caucus endorses Patrick Cannon

Democrat Patrick Cannon has gotten a big boost in his mayoral campaign, winning the endorsement of the Black Political Caucus.

Caucus endorsements are usually important, especially in a Democratic primary. They're distributed at polls and at sites for early voting, which starts Thursday for the Sept. 10 primary.

And in Charlotte, 63 percent of registered Democrats are African American.

The caucus tapped Cannon over James Mitchell, a fellow city council member and fellow African American. They're the leaders in a field that also includes Lucille Puckett and Gary Dunn.

The caucus also endorsed other Democrats:

-- At-large: Vi Alexander Lyles, David Howard, Michael Barnes and Beth Pickering.
-- District 1: Patsy Kinsey.
-- District 2: Al Austin.
-- District 4: Wil Russell.
-- District 5: John Autry.

UPDATE 1:45 pm: An earlier posting noted that incumbent Democrat LaWana Mayfield wasn't endorsed. The caucus lists only primary endorsements. She's the only incumbent without a primary.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

A chance for airport diplomacy?

On Monday, former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx will be in Atlanta for one of his first public speeches since becoming U.S. Transportation Secretary. There he'll speak to a transportation "summit" sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Among the 40 lawmakers from around the country at the summit will be state Rep. Bill Brawley, a Matthews Republican who co-chairs the N.C. House Transportation Committee. He also shepherded Gov. Pat McCrory's transportation initiative, the Strategic Mobility Forumula, through the General Assembly.

Brawley and Foxx have been on opposite sides of the Charlotte airport battle. Brawley introduced a bill to create an airport authority. When Republican leaders switched course at the 11th hour and passed a bill for an airport commission, he voted for that. Before going to Washington, Foxx fought hard to keep the airport in city hands.

Now the matter is in the hands of the FAA, which will decide whether a commission can operate the airport. The FAA is part of the transportation department.

So will Brawley hold a summit of his own with Foxx?

"If the opportunity presents itself, I'd certainly want to discuss issues with the secretary," Brawley says.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A congressional district - and campaigns - in limbo

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt is spending the August recess doing what he does every year: "Trading Places" with constituents in his 12th Congressional District. On Wednesday he worked as a postal carrier, pharmacy technician and quality control inspector in the Triad.

But the job he really wants is in Washington. The Charlotte Democrat is waiting for Senate confirmation as head of the Housing Finance Agency.

But Watt's confirmation appears to be in limbo, as do the campaigns of several would be successors.

Politico ran a story today that says some Capitol Hill Democrats worry about Watt's confirmation. He made it out of the Senate Banking Committee on a party line vote. But Senate Democratic leaders didn't push hard for hhis confirmation before the month-long recess started last week. He needs 60 votes to overcome any Republican filibuster.

While Watt waits, so do at least a half-dozen people interested in his seat. Several already have filed papers with the Federal Election Commission.

“The only thing you can do is run your campaign and be ready when it's time to be ready,” says state Rep. Marcus Brandon, a two-term Democrat from High Point.

Sen. Malcolm Graham is in the same boat. He's already lined up a shadow team of consultants.

"Obviously we’ve got a team that's ready in the dugout, ready to come out and play if there's a resignation," he says.

If Watt were to be confirmed when Congress returns in September, it's unclear when a special election would be held. The longer it takes to actually have a vacancy, the more difficult it will be to prepare ballots by November.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bill Brawley gets choice post

In the crunch of legislation, and legislative wrangling, at the end of last week, one announcement was overlooked. Rep. Bill Brawley was named a co-chair of the influential House Finance Committee.

House Speaker Thom Tillis named the Matthews Republican to the vacant post on Friday.

It capped a busy session for Brawley. He was a House sponsor of bills to help the Carolina Panthers and to create an authority for Charlotte Douglas International Airport, a bill passed and then repealed late last week. He also shepherded Gov. Pat McCrory's transportation overhaul to passage through the House and Senate.

"(Brawley) has become a very effective legislator in just his second term," Tillis said in a statement. "He handles complex issues in truthful and honorable ways, and his ability to build consensus around legislation is continually impressive."

Said Brawley: "I'm honored. I think it's an expression of confidence in my ability to get good legislation done.”

Brawley replaces another Brawley. GOP Rep. Robert Brawley of Mooresville held the Finance Post until turning in his gavel in May after publicly criticizing Tillis.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sen. Bob Rucho: 'I'm back'

A few weeks after going into a sort of self-imposed exile, Sen. Bob Rucho returned to the gavel this week as chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

"I think we've got the issue resolved," he said this morning.

Last month the Matthews Republican, frustrated when Senate leaders backed off his ambitious tax overhaul plan, offered his resignation as committee chair -- which wasn't accepted -- and fired off a letter criticizing Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis, both Mecklenburg County Republicans.

"It is a huge disappointment that the governor and the speaker ... did not provide the leadership or have the political backbone to fight the special interest groups," he wrote.

This week the governor, speaker and Senate president all agreed on a tax plan that cuts personal and corporate income tax rates. Rucho said he's come to terms with the plan, even though it doesn't go as far as he'd like. He wanted to eliminate the personal income in favor of a much broader sales, or as he calls it, consumption, tax.

"This was the first step toward accomplishing something," he said.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Surprises not surprising near session's end

Surprises keep on coming in the waning days of North Carolina's legislative session.

Last week it was the N.C. Senate which, in a hastily called committee meeting, inserted controversial new abortion proposals into a bill on Sharia law.

Wednesday it was the House. Committee members meeting to debate a bill on motorcycle safety found the bill had picked up a new sidecar: the abortion proposals. They were similar to the Senate's, but revised at the urging of Gov. Pat McCrory's administration.

They caught some lawmakers by surprise. But Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican handling the abortion provisions, told reporters, "We’re nearing the end of session. Things move quickly."

Then came more surprises.

They came in a regulatory reform bill, or as critics call it, the "Billboards Forever" bill.

Inserted into a bill involving various regulations were several seen publicly for the first time. Among them: provisions to allow more clearing of trees and other vegetation around billboards and to essentially prevent cities and towns from regulating existing billboards.

"The bottom line for us is that this legislation says, in effect, that billboards are forever," says Ben Hitchings, president of the N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association. "The fact that this hasn't been vetted in any substantive way is a real concern."

The bill, SB 112, has other provisions that concern local officials.

It prohibits local governments from enacting environmental or other regulations more stringent than state or federal regulations. And it repeals zoning protest petitions, which give citizens more say in nearby development.

Paul Meyer of the N.C. League of Municipalities says the bill essentially puts city ordinances "in the hands of various state environmental agencies."

"Municipalities enact these environmental ordinances to respond to environmental threats, protect life and property, and streamline local development procedures," he said in a statement.

The bill is on Thursday's House calendar. If passed, and if the Senate concurs with its changes, the bill could present a dilemma for McCrory.

Last year, as a candidate for governor, he said he opposed GOP legislation that would curb local governments' ability to regulate billboards.

Read more here:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

12th District race is off and running

Nevermind that U.S. Rep. Mel Watt is still in the 12th District congressional seat he's had since 1993. The race to succeed him is on.

Watt, a Democrat, is President Obama's choice to become director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Though he has yet to be confirmed by the Senate -- and faced some harsh questions at his confirmation hearing last month -- candidates are already lining up for an expected special election.

Charlotte lawyer George Battle III on Wednesday becomes the first candidate to formally announce for Watt's seat. He has events planned in Greensboro and Charlotte.

Other expected candidates include state Sen. Malcolm Graham and Rep. Rodney Moore, both Charlotte Democrats. Several other legislators are also exploring the race.

On Tuesday, Public Policy Polling came out with a new poll on the prospective race. It showed Graham leading several challengers with 31 percent of the vote. Rep. Alma Adams from Greensboro had 22 percent.

Battle had 8 percent.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

One Republican goes rogue on abortion bills

The battle lines among spectators were pretty clear at today's House hearing on a Senate abortion bill. They were even colorful: Pink-clad abortion rights activists on one side of the hearing room and blue-shirted abortion opponents on the other.

The lines between legislators were pretty clear as well. Republicans for the bill. Democrats against.

With at least one exception.

Freshman GOP Rep. Charles Jeter of Huntersville said he's inclined to not support, or concur, with the Senate bill. Abortion supporters say would limit women's rights; abortion opponents say it would ensure abortion facilities are safe. Both sides say if the bill passes, and is signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, only one abortion clinic in the state would meet the requirements.

Jeter said he thinks the proposed new standards for abortion clinics -- to match those of ambulatory surgery centers -- should apply to all places that do surgery, including dental offices. As for cutting the number of abortion clinics from 16 to 1: "I don't know how that makes women's health safer," he says.

Last week Jeter was one of only two Republicans to vote against a bill to include in school curriculums the belief that abortions could contribute to pre-term births in pregnancies.

"I didn't come up here to vote on social issues," he says. I came up here to get jobs back."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

From pulpit to politics? Mark Harris hires staffer

The effort to draft Rev. Mark Harris is beginning to look more like a campaign.

The committee to draft the Charlotte Republican for the U.S. Senate Wednesday announced the hiring of a new political director. Tracy Bengston of Davidson worked as scheduler for Republican Dan Forest's 2012 campaign for lieutenant governor. This month she managed Joyce Krawiec's campaign for vice chair of the state GOP.

Rev. Harris is pastor of Charlotte's 1st Baptist church and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Last month his supporters filed papers for an exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission. He's on a "listening" tour of the state and is expected to make a decision later this summer.

House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius and Cary physician Greg Brannon are the only announced GOP  candidates for the seat held by Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Rucho tries to set record straight against Watt

The 12th Congressional District, once the nation's most litigated, was back in court this week -- and sparked a war of words between two of Mecklenburg County's most influential politicians.

In a Raleigh courtroom, a special three-judge panel heard arguments in a case challenging the state's 2011 redistricting.

Testifying Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, recounted a conversation with Republican Sen. Bob Rucho of Matthews, who chaired the Senate Redistricting Committee.

According to the Associated Press, Watt said Rucho told him that Republican leaders "had told him that they were going to ramp the 12th Congressional District up to over 50 percent black" and "had given him the task of going out and selling this to the black community as being in their interest."

“He was telling me that he was going to have to sell this to the African-American community,” Watt recalled Tuesday, adding that Rucho asked for his help.

Watt said he was later upset to hear that Rucho had been telling people that Watt had helped influence the shape of the redrawn district. Watt said he wanted to let the public know the new district was not his idea.

Read more here:

“I don’t lie to people,” Watt said. “I don’t expect them to lie about me either.”

Rucho, Watt's former dentist, didn't get a chance to testify until Wednesday. On Thursday he sat down again to set the record straight.

First a little about the district. Half its registered voters are African American, an increase from 43 percent under the old plan. Sixty-four percent of voters are Democrats. That an increase from 58 percent. By putting more Democrats in the 12th District, Republicans effectively made some neighboring districts -- particularly the 8th -- friendlier to Republicans.

Rucho said he and GOP leaders wanted to put more Democrats in the 12th, not African Americans. He said he never told Watt GOP leaders had asked him to put more minority voters in the district.

"When he said we were drawing majority-minority districts as if we were using race, that's totally erroneous," Rucho said Thursday.

He said he never implied that Watt had endorsed the redrawn district. And Rucho added, "I didn't like being called a liar."

"I didn't like it when he misrepresented the facts of the case and I'm wondering for what reason? Especially under oath."

Watt could not be reached.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Rep. Cotham resting after weekend scare

Rep. Tricia Cotham and her family were enjoying a weekend day at Tweetsie Railroad when she suddenly collapsed. Her mother, Mecklenburg commissioners Chair Pat Cotham, called for help. An ambulance took Tricia to Watauga Medical Center in Boone.
There she underwent heart tests and Sunday returned home to Matthews, where she was admitted to Novant Health Matthews for more tests. Cotham, nearly six months pregnant, was released and told to stay in bed and rest. She's also scheduled to see more specialists.
"I am very grateful for the outpouring of support and prayers from the community, constituents and other elected officials.
Her 2 1/2-year-old son Elliot, who was with her at Tweetsie, got more excitement than he expected at the mountain amusement park. 
"He has asked every day, '(Will) Mommy go in an ambulance today'," Cotham says.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sheriff expects to hang up badge

Democrat Chipp Bailey, Mecklenburg County's sheriff since 2008, doesn't expect to run again when his term expires next year.

"I'm not going to make a definite decision until February," Bailey said Monday. "But I'll just say this. ... I'll have 41 years at the end of this term in law enforcement in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. And there's probably a lot of people tired of looking at me....

"It's been a good run but sooner or later somebody else has to do it."

Baily, 64, will be 66 at the end of his term. He won election in 2010 but was appointed in 2008 to succeed his friend, longtime Sheriff Jim Pendergraph.

The appointment that February followed weeks of controversy that saw Democratic Party officials pick Nick Mackey in a disputed election.
After weeks of political and legal challenges, county commissioners chose the low-key Bailey.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

A hairy end to the legislative session?

General Assembly sessions have a tendency to drag out. Month to month. Winter to summer and sometimes beyond. Here's a clue for anybody wanting to know when this session will end. Watch the beard.

That would be the beard of House Speaker Thom Tillis. He plans to stop shaving the second week of June. Specifically, June 7.

The Cornelius Republican says it will be his own silent statement that a session that runs longer is too long. He wants the state budget, one of the legislature's final tasks, wrapped up in time for local governments to know where they stand by the time they do their own budgets in June.


Monday, May 06, 2013

Another name thrown out for 12th District race

Add another name for the potential vacancy in the 12th Congressional District.

George Battle III says he's considering a run for the seat that could be vacated by Democratic Rep. Mel Watt. Watt is President Obama's choice to lead the Housing Finance Agency.

"I'm listening to people," Battle says. "I'm flattered folks think enough of me to even mention my name.”

Battle, 40, is the son of Bishop George Battle Jr., a former school board chairman. He's general counsel for Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.

Among other potential candidates in the overwhelmingly Democratic district: state Sen. Malcom Graham of Charlotte and Reps. Rodney Moore of Charlotte, Alma Adams of Greensboro, Marcus Brandon of High Point and Ed Hanes of Winston-Salem.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Republican apologizes for criticizing Tillis

Rep. Larry Pittman of Concord has apologized to House Speaker Thom Tillis for remarks he said damaged Tillis's reputation as well as their friendship.

The conservative Republican was videotaped talking to a tea party group recently.

"I was proud to vote for Thom Tillis to be the speaker again, when we got back up there this year," he told them. "Because last session, he was great. ... But, now he's running for U.S. Senate, or planning to. Things have changed. They tell us all the time about how bad it was when they were in the minority and the Democrat leadership wouldn't let them get their bills moved or anything. Well now the constitutional conservatives, the Republican part of the House, knows what that's like."
Wednesday Pittman apologized in a letter distributed to reporters.

"While we do still have some disagreement about process, I have done damage to his reputation in a manner in which I did not consider at the time. I regret that this has damaged our friendship, and I ask for his forgiveness, not for the disagreement, but for the manner in which I handled it."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Roberts rules out mayor's race, not mayor's job

Former Mecklenburg County commissioners' chair Jennifer Roberts says she's ruled out running for mayor of Charlotte. But not being mayor of Charlotte.

The job was coming open at the end of the year after Mayor Anthony Foxx's decision not to seek a third term. It could come open even earlier after Foxx's nomination Monday to be U.S. transportation secretary. If and when he resigns, council is expected to appoint an interim mayor to fill out his term. 

"I have not made a firm decision on the appointed part," Roberts, a Democrat, said Tuesday. "I've been asked to consider it."

Roberts declined to say who asked her to. Council members are obligated to appoint a Democrat, like Foxx. But they won't name any one who actually intends to run for the job. That includes at least two incumbent council members, Patrick Cannon and David Howard.

State Sen. Dan Clodfelter said Tuesday he's "favorably inclined" to run. Rep. Becky Carney is also thinking about it.

If Clodfelter were to run, and win, Roberts -- who lives four doors away -- might run for his Senate seat.

"That's something I would consider," she says.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wheeler's trial balloon gives Democrats a target

When former Charlotte City Council member Lynn Wheeler told the Charlotte Business Journal she's considering a run for the U.S. Senate next year, she gave state Democrats a ripe target.

Wheeler, a Republican, told the Journal that people “are urging me to run, and I’ve told them I will think about it.” That got picked up by the News & Observer of Raleigh.

That was enough for Ben Ray, the state Democratic party's new Director of Rapid Response. His press release:
RALEIGH--Former Charlotte Mayor Pro Tempore Lynn Wheeler is considering running for Senate, reinforcing the weak and unsettled nature of the field of potential candidates against Senator Kay Hagan. Washington, D.C. Republicans have already seen two of their favored candidates, U. S. Representatives George Holding and Patrick McHenry, pass on the race.
Wheeler’s trial balloon makes an expensive and politically damaging primary campaign that much more likely. Each remaining potential candidate is deeply flawed, and will face substantial challenges to even emerge from a primary campaign...

Wheeler could not be reached.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A 3rd party in the Palmetto State?

Jim Rex was South Carolina's last Democratic state official. Oscar Lovelace ran for governor as a Republican.

Now the two are trying to bring another voice to politics in South Carolina and maybe eventually, to the rest of the country.

They're touting a new "American Party" as an alternative to the two main parties. They've been pushing the idea around the state and on Wednesday plan to hold an informational meeting at 5:30 p.m. at Rock Hill's York Tech.

Their platform: Term limits, fiscal accountability and a "non-partisan problem-solving agenda." The point, says Rex, a former state superintendent of education, is to "give moderates a choice."

"What we're trying to do is change the game, not advantage or disadvantage one team or another," says Rex.

"If we're ever to going to change the system you've got to have a disruptive force from outside .... I've learned by being a candidate, and also by being an incumbent, the limitations of incumbency and candidacy in the duopoly we have in this country. The system persists and perseveres. Good people come and go."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Clodfelter eyes mayoral bid

A few weeks ago longtime Democratic Sen. Dan Clodfelter raised eyebrows when he said he might run for the Charlotte City Council. Now he might run for mayor.

"I'm very seriously considering it," he said Tuesday. "I've been getting a great deal of encouragement."

Clodfelter isn't the only one -- or only legislator -- looking at the race since incumbent Democrat Anthony Foxx said this month he won't run for a third term. Democratic Reps. Becky Carney and state Sen. Malcolm Graham have said they're considering it.

Clodfelter said he could make a decision by the end of the month.

"When people reach out to you," he said, "
you want to think seriously about what they're asking you to do."

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Political family growing

Rep. Tricia Cotham will have a new agenda after the legislative session ends this summer.

Cotham is pregnant with her second child. The baby is due this fall.

It will be the second time the Matthews Democrat will have given birth since joining the legislature in 2007. Her son Elliot was born in 2010. Now, like then, she plans to continue her legislative career.

"I do think it's really important mothers and young women to have a voice in the General Assembly," she says. "I bring lots of different experiences to this body."

Cotham is marrited to Jerry Meek, a former chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Her mother Pat chairs the Mecklenburg County board of commissioners.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New GOP bills would curb early voting, public financing

Two new bills filed Thursday would change the way North Carolinians vote.

The state's early voting period would be shortened and Sunday voting eliminated under one bill. The bill from House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes of Caldwell County also would eliminate straight-ticket voting and same-day registration. And it would make non-partisan judicial elections partisan.

The bill could help Republicans.

It would lop a week off the early voting period, which Democrats have used more successfully than Republicans. It would also stop straight-ticket voting. Democrats cast 300,000 more straight tickets than Republicans in 2012. And by ending Sunday voting, it would stop the heavily Democratic "Souls to the Polls" efforts to get voters out after Sunday church services.

A bill introduced by Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville would eliminate public financing of judicial and other statewide races now eligible for it .

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

GOP chairman fight: Outsider v. outsider?

Jack Brosch, a Charlotte businessman who ran for Congress as a tea party candidate last year, calls himself a "New Republican" in the mold of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Now he wants to bring that outsider mentality to North Carolina's Republican Party.

Brosch hopes to get elected state chairman when the GOP meets for its state convention in Charlotte in June. He was prepared to challenge current Chairman Robin Hayes, before Hayes announced he wouldn't run.

Now he expects to face Claude Pope, a former chair of the Wake County GOP and cousin of conservative financier, and now state budget director, Art Pope. Claude Pope's campaign manager is a former executive director of the state party. His spokesman is Gov. Pat McCrory's nephew.

To Brosch, who lost to 12th District Democrat Mel Watt last fall, the choice is clear.

"These things add up to kind of an establishment candidate," he says.

Says Pope: "I see myself very much as an outsider." If elected, he says he would pull together tea party and other conservatives.

"We want to work with all of those organizations to put together the kind of ground work it takes to build a majority," he said.


North a tea

When North Carolina Republicans meet in Charlotte to pick a new state chairman in June, they'll have a choice of at least two men.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rock Hill Republican co-chairs 'autopsy'

GOP national chairman Reince Priebus unveiled what he called a party  "autopsy" Monday, a report that presented a candid view of the party's problems and challenges.

Interviews and polls of more than 40,000 Americans provided some sobering feedback. "Asked to describe Republicans," the report said, "they said that the Party is 'scary,' 'narrow-minded,' and 'out of touch' and that we were a Party of 'stuffy old men.'"

The report was the result of the party's "Growth and Opportunity Project." Among the co-chairs: Rock Hill's Glenn McCall, the York County GOP chairman and a former Charlotte banker.

"Personally I did not understand how messaging and tone really mattered, especially to people in ethnic communities," he told me. One example: the issue of immigration, and Mitt Romney's call for "self-deportation" of undocumented immigrants.

"Even the Asian community said our tone and the way we addressed the issue really turned off a lot of their folks because we were not compassionate and caring," McCall said.

 McCall said he's doesn't think the report won't lay on a shelf like so many others. Priebus has already committed $10 million on staff who can help appeal to appeal to young and minority voters.

"I'm confident that this will be a long-term significant commitment on the RNC's part," he said. "We have no other choice. This election has changed the paradigm, with minorities by 2050 really becoming the majority in our country. We have to start somewhere.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

First shot of 2014? Tillis fundraiser features McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory returned to Charlotte Friday to help House Speaker Thom Tillis raise campaign cash. For what campaign isn't clear.

McCrory was Tillis's guest at the Myers Park Country Club fundraiser that attracted some blue chip Charlotte hosts, including Tim Belk, Smokey Bissell, Tom Nelson, Allen Tate and Ed McMahan.

Tillis, holding himself to self-imposed term limits, has said he's in his last term in the House. But he's on the list of possible Republican candidates to challenger Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in 2014.

Though Tillis couldn't use the state campaign money on a federal campaign, he could use it to get his name out or help other candidates throughout the state, which could help him indirectly.

One sponsor of Friday's fundraiser was Ned Curran, president of Bissell Companies. He said he was supporting Tillis for whatever he needed.

Said Curran: "I think it's part of him having resources for himself or for others to be effective at what he does."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

If nominated, he will not run ....

A new poll on North Carolina's 2014 U.S. Senate race had a new name at the top.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest led the potential Republican field of candidates who may take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan next year, according to Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling. It was the first time Forest's name had been included in the survey.

The poll put him at 18 percent, U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx at 13% percent, Labor commissioner Cherie Berry at 12 percent and U.S. Renee Ellmers at 10 percent. Senate President Phil Berger was at 8 percent and House Speaker Thom Tillis at 2 percent.

But don't expect Forest to run.   "Never contemplated it, never considered it," said the newly elected lieutenant governor. "I like being lieutenant governor That's not your typical political response is it?"   Forest, the son of former U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, said the poll reflects residual name recognition after last year's statewide campaign.   Along with Berry, he was one of only two of the potential GOP candidates with over 50 percent name recognition. .

Friday, March 08, 2013

Tangle or tango? Foxx and McCrory share a moment

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicGov. Pat McCrory, in Charlotte for the second time this week, called out the Observer for a picture it published after his first visit.

It showed a stern-looking McCrory talking to an equally stern-looking Mayor Anthony Foxx. The two are not best friends.

"Mr. Mayor, let's get a picture of us smiling at each other," the governor said.

Here's the result, as worked up by WCNC's Jeremy Markovich.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A return to city council for Sen. Dan Clodfelter?

Veteran North Carolina Sen. Dan Clodfelter may return to where his political career began -- the Charlotte City Council.

"I've given some thought to it," he said in his legislative office Wednesday. "I think there are some important decisions facing the city and they're of interest and concern to me."

Clodfelter would run for one of four at-large seats, all now held by fellow Democrats. He's said he's been asked to run by "a fairly wide range of people," though he declined to say who.

Clodfelter, who served on council from 1987-1993, was once one of the most influential members of the Senate, even chairing the Finance Committee. Like other Democrats, he's seen that influence wane since Republicans took control after the 2010 elections.

He says that's not the reason he's considering a run for council.

"If I were to decide to (run), it would not be about that," he said.

Filing for the November council election opens in July.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

McCrory and the other airport controversy

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory appeared to feel right at home Tuesday, meeting with a dozen members of the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, a group he helped start when he was mayor of Charlotte.

At a news conference at the executive mansion, the mayors stood on a staircase behind him.  I asked the chairman of the group whether the city leaders had taken position on the effort to take control of Charlotte's airport from the city of Charlotte. No, said Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane.

Then McCrory offered, "I think this is an issue Charlotte needs to resolve among themselves .... I look forward to hearing the conclusion of the discussion."

One of the mayors standing behind the governor was Terry Bellamy, the mayor of Asheville. She felt blindsided last year by legislation transferring control of the airport there from the city to an authority. Before the news conference, she said, she talked to McCrory about it.

"I told him our business community was just as surprised as our council was," she said. "He was like, you all have to fix it at the local level. It's not a local issue. It's a state issue."

McCrory, Bellamy said, "understands the long-term impact" of the airport.

The governor has said the dispute in Charlotte is between "factions." He's urged lawmakers to slow down a bill that has until recently been on the fast track.