Politico: North Carolina’s choice
But Tillis, a 53-year-old former IBM executive who has the strong backing of the GOP establishment but is by no means the prohibitive front-runner, is betting that Southern Democrats who once thrived here are dying breeds because of the liberal policies coming out of Washington. He is defiant about North Carolina’s hard-right turn, calling it a “reform agenda unlike any other state in the United States.” “I think for the most part, what I see from the folks who are opposing our agenda is whining coming from losers,” he said in an interview in his Raleigh office. “They lost, they don’t like it, and they are going to try to do everything they can to, I think, cast doubt on things that I think are wise and that the average citizen when they know what we’re doing, I think, like it.” With a slate of Republicans representing every corner of the party duking it out for the GOP nomination, Hagan and her party are hoping she’ll be spared despite the problems with Obamacare. Some 473,000 state residents have recently been told their health policies would be canceled after the president and Hagan pledged that people who liked their plans could keep them.
Biz Journals: NC House Speaker Thom Tillis calls GOP’s opponents ‘losers’
N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis described opponents of the Republican agenda in the General Assembly as “losers” in an interview with Politico that appeared on the political news website Thursday. Tillis, a Mecklenburg lawmaker, is one of five GOP candidates vying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat. The Senate race in North Carolina is one of the most anticipated in the mid-term elections next year and has already attracted millions of dollars in national advertising for and against Hagan. “I think for the most part, what I see from the folks who are opposing our agenda is whining coming from losers,” Tillis told Politico when asked about the current political environment. “They lost, they don’t like it, and they are going to try to do everything they can to, I think, cast doubt on things that I think are wise and that the average citizen when they know what we’re doing, I think, like it.”
WRAL: Wake to keep Sunday voting in 2014 election
Wake County voters will be able to cast their ballots on at least one Sunday during the early voting period for the 2014 general election. The Wake County Board of Elections voted 2-1 Tuesday to keep Sunday voting for the 2014 cycle. At eight early voting locations, which the board will choose next year, polls will be open for four hours on Saturday and Sunday. The decision is subject to a possible appeal by the board’s dissenting member. The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a sweeping elections law this year that shortened the number of days over which early voting can take place. But the law also required counties keep polls open for the same number of total hours as in prior elections. County boards of elections have a great deal of discretion in how to set those hours. Republican majorities control all 100 county boards of elections due to a state law that shifts control based on the party of the sitting governor.
Politics NC: Another 47% moment
You would think that after Mitt Romney’s 47% remark defined him as an elitist with disdain for half of the country that Republican candidates would be vigilant about not making generalities about the electorate. But you would be wrong. And here in North Carolina, it’s especially bad. For most of his term, Pat McCrory has blamed criticism of his misstatements and missteps on nefarious outside groups. In fact, these outside groups are people like teachers who got no pay raise, parents who watch their kids go to understaffed classrooms, African-Americans who believe Republicans are trying to suppress their vote, college students who think the same thing and also bemoan the cuts in higher education, women who are being denied access to health care, unemployed victims of the recession who lost their benefits despite the lack of jobs and the working poor who will pay more taxes because of the elimination the Earned Income Tax Credit.
WNCN: Candidates gear up for NC congressional race
With U.S. Rep. Mel Watt’s confirmation as the nation’s top housing regulator, candidates looking to succeed him in his North Carolina congressional district can move forward with their plans. In May, President Barack Obama picked the veteran Democrat to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages. But until Tuesday, the nomination had languished because of Republican complaints that Watt is unqualified. Democrats say that is untrue. At least seven people said they’d run for Watt’s 12th Congressional district seat if he was confirmed. Gov. Pat McCrory can call a special election to fill out Watt’s two-year term. But first, Watt must resign from his congressional seat.
Politics NC: Changing the conversation
Political campaigns are rarely won or lost on issues alone. Instead, issues are used to illustrate and support broader themes and arguments. They provide substance to more general feelings that voters have toward candidates or parties. In North Carolina, Kay Hagan is already starting to change the conversation. She is pushing for an extension of long-term unemployment benefits, the same ones that Republicans in the General Assembly (think Thom Tillis) cut. In addition, Senate Democrats are pushing for an increase in the minimum wage. Together, these issues are about fairness and priorities. The wealthy generally escaped the recession unscathed. They’ve recovered any losses they had in the stock market and their incomes are growing steadily. In contrast, working class Americans are still struggling to get back on their feet and they are aware of growing inequalities.
WITN: House approves budget bill, NC Congressman Jones votes against it
The House has given sweeping bipartisan approval to a budget bill backed by both President Barack Obama, his Democratic allies and a big majority of the chamber’s Republicans.The 332-94 vote sends the measure to the Senate, where Republicans are more skeptical. But the Democratic-led chamber appears sure to adopt the measure next week and send it to Obama for his signature. Congressman Walter B. Jones announced his opposition Thursday. He says the bill purports to trim the deficit by a small margin over the next 10 years but enacts immediate increases in federal spending.
Real Clear Politics: Senate Seats That Could Flip Parties in 2014
A lot of the commentary about the 2014 elections has focused on the limited opportunities for either party to gain in the House of Representatives. This is true even in the context of a 2010-like wave. In such a circumstance, it is difficult to envision Republican gains topping 20 seats, because there are so few Democrats representing vulnerable districts. The Senate, however, is a different beast entirely. In a 2010-style environment, Republicans would almost certainly exceed their gain of seven seats that year (counting Scott Brown’s special election victory in January). The reason is simple: Democrats dodged a bullet in 2010 in terms of their playing field. Because 2004 had been a very good Republican year, where the GOP had won most of the competitive seats — early analysis in 2009 suggested Democrats might actually expand on their filibuster-proof majority — there just wasn’t much exposure for the president’s party. But 2014 is different. The Democrats up for re-election this year won their seats in 2008, which was a Democratic wave year. Because of this, there is quite a lot of exposure for Obama’s party.
Indy Week: Tallying Gov. McCrory’s many fibs and their toll on jobs
Following the first meeting of the McCrory administration’s Medicaid Reform Advisory Group last week, one thing became clear. Medicaid in North Carolina is not "broken," despite the governor’s frequent statements to the contrary. Indeed, the Medicaid program is in good enough shape that the "reform" group had trouble figuring out what it was supposed to reform. McCrory hammered Medicaid from the moment he took office in January, alleging runaway costs and excessive administrative overhead. Neither charge was accurate, but as we’re now all well aware about our governor, facts are not central to his narratives. I don’t know if he makes things up, or if he just hears what he wants to hear for purposes of Republican soundbites. Either way, 2013 will go down as the year of McCrory’s falsehoods, when citizens realized they’d elected a governor who didn’t care whether what he said was true or not. On subjects big and small, if McCrory was talking, mendacity followed. He said he waded into the Moral Monday protests "all the time" to engage his critics. No, he didn’t. He denied ducking petitioners at his Capitol office so he could throw a baseball. Yes, he did.
Buzzfeed: North Carolina’s Hilariously Incompetent Governor In 15 Quotes
Since his election in 2012 Pat McCrory has proven one thing in his first year as Governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory is his own one-man PR machine. These 15 quotes will show you why so many North Carolinians regret voting for this guy.
Dome: McCrory’s numbers rebounding, disapproval still high
A new Public Policy Polling survey finds Gov. Pat McCrory’s poll numbers are rebounding. His approval rating in the Democratic firm’s December poll is 42 percent. But his overall job performance is still negative with 47 percent disapproving. Another 11 percent are unsure. It’s an improvement from September when the Republican governor’s approval rating hit a low 35 percent with 53 percent disapproving. The upward trend comes after a private nonprofit spent about $800,000 on TV ads promoting McCrory and the dust settled from the contentious legislative session. McCrory’s approval rating has returned to near where he started in January (45 percent) but his disapproval rating remains 28 points higher. PPP pollster Tom Jensen attributes the shift to independents rekindling their affection, split now at 44 percent to 43 percent, and Republican sentiment improving, giving him a 6-point bump compared to September.
WRAL: Feds question NC’s mental health funding
The federal government is raising questions about how North Carolina pays managed care companies that provide services to mentally ill and developmentally disabled people at the same time the state is looking at making broader use of managed care to control Medicaid costs. State officials say they were "surprised" by the missive and seem unsure what to make of the federal government questioning a system that the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS, has reviewed and approved numerous times. At the very least, the letter roils the bureaucratic waters at a time when state lawmakers and the McCrory administration are trying to push forward with a remake of the state’s Medicaid system.
ABC 11: McCrory says Raleigh buildings are ‘ugly as the dickens’
"Ugly as the dickens" is how Governor Pat McCrory describes some state government buildings and parking lots in the capital city. McCrory made those comments to a group of business leaders representing the North Hills area, and he warned them he was being very blunt. "It’s amazing when I step out of my house and I see buildings with blank walls and they look like they were built in Dunkirk or in D-Day Normandy," McCrory said. "We have two buildings with no windows and just blank walls." Right across the street from the Executive Mansion is the State Archives Office and the Department of Health and Human Services. They and other government buildings sprinkled around the city were mostly built in the 1960s and 70s. "We built our buildings as though they were bunkers in WWII," McCrory said.Parking lots with large cement block barricades don’t give off the user-friendly feel the city or the state is looking for. "We have to look at things and what our role as state government is making our property more viable and consumer friendly," McCrory said.
Dome: Morning Memo: Law and Order in North Carolina politics
Welcome to the Law & Order edition. The North Carolina political battle continues to enter the courtroom, with critics of the Republican legislature using lawsuits to challenge an agenda they can’t stop. The newest lawsuit fights the private school voucher law. The “Moral Monday” trials continue. And attorneys are in federal court today pressing their case to block the state’s new election law. On the other side, a Democratic lawmaker is arrested on felony tax charges and resigns. And the hearing for a Republican lawmaker convicted on federal charges is postponed.
WRAL: NC residents find new withholding form taxing
As a result of the tax reform bill state lawmakers passed this years, North Carolinians who earn any kind of taxable income in the state have to fill out a new NC-4 state withholding form. Lawmakers say the changes simplify the tax code, but it’s leaving a lot of taxpayers scratching their heads. The old NC-4 was a two-page form. The new one is five pages long, and even the EZ version doesn’t look all that easy. People who don’t provide their employers with a new form will have taxes withheld from their paychecks at the highest level possible – a single taxpayer with no allowances. "We have established a new call line specifically for the NC-4. It’s received about 4,000 calls in the first month," said Trevor Johnson, spokesman for the Department of Revenue. People can call toll-free 1-877-252-4487 through Feb. 28 to get help from the agency on the NC-4. One reason the form is more complicated is because the state no longer goes along with some federal deductions, so someone’s state taxable income might be higher than their federal figure.
NC Policy Watch: Taxpayer funds may be funneled to home schools through school vouchers
Families in North Carolina will be able to participate in the Opportunity Scholarships program beginning with the 2014-15 academic school year. The new school voucher system that the General Assembly passed into law last July will provide low-income students currently enrolled in public schools with up to $4,200 annually to use at state-recognized private schools (the list of endorsed schools is viewable here). Lawmakers pushed for school vouchers, arguing that North Carolina’s public schools are failing its low-income and minority students and that families should have the choice—at the expense of taxpayers— to send their students to private schools as an alternative. The voucher program will siphon $10 million dollars away from the public school system in its first year, and is expected to expand in the future.
ABC News: Republicans and Tea Party Activists in ‘Full Scale Civil War’ (VIDEO)
Years of growing friction between the Republican Party leaders and its Tea Party faction has erupted into what one conservative said today was "full-scale civil war." House Speaker John Boehner, whose strategies have been repeatedly thwarted by Tea Party revolts in recent years, was blunt today when asked whether he thought the ultra-conservatives should get in line. "I don’t care what they do," Boehner replied. The speaker lashed out at Tea Party activists. "Well, frankly, I think they’re misleading their followers," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters today. "I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be." "And frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility," Boehner said. Boehner’s frustration is perhaps matched by the fury among tea party conservatives who believe they have been betrayed by conservative leaders in Washington. "It’s just another example of D.C. elitism. They think they know what’s best for the rest of the country and they want us to just sit down and shut up," Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, told ABC News today.
CNN: Pro-Hillary super PAC picks up pace, opens doors to D.C.
Ready for Hillary, a super PAC aimed at urging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016, has increased the number and scope of fundraisers and informational meetings it is organizing, according to representatives from the group. In the past four days, the super PAC has organized events in California and Arkansas and on Thursday, Ready for Hillary kicked off its Washington-area push with a low-dollar fundraiser at a swanky lounge on K Street, the hub of D.C. lobbying. This is just the start, said Ready for Hillary organizers, who have planned "low-dollar, grassroots" events in California, North Carolina, New York and Pennsylvania, in addition to "organizational meetings and volunteer training" in Texas, Ohio, Maine, Arizona and Oregon. They will also hold a "high-dollar" fundraiser in Scarsdale, New York. "There has been exponential growth" in the group’s efforts, said Tracy Sefl, an adviser to the super PAC and a former campaign adviser for Clinton’s 2008 presidential run.
The New York Times: Huckabee, Looking to 2016 Race, Speaks of ‘a Real Opportunity for Me’
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas has not been among the Republicans frequently named as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, but he would like that to change. “I’m keeping the door open,” Mr. Huckabee said in an interview here Thursday night about the possibility of seeking his party’s nomination again. “I think right now the focus needs to be on 2014, but I’m mindful of the fact that there’s a real opportunity for me.” Mr. Huckabee, a Christian conservative who made a splash by winning the 2008 Iowa caucuses before seeing his cash-short bid overwhelmed in subsequent states, said he would not run this time unless he could finance a durable campaign.
Reuters: North Carolina voting changes to go on trial in 2015
Challenges to North Carolina’s new voter regulations that limit early voting and require voters to show photo identification at the polls will not go to trial until after the 2014 mid-term elections, a federal judge ruled on Thursday. The groups protesting the state’s new law will have a chance, however, to argue for some of its provisions to be blocked before the full case is heard, Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake said at a hearing in Winston-Salem. The law’s opponents had sought a quicker resolution to the legal battle. A trial ahead of next November’s elections would help prevent "irreparable loss" for some voters, said an attorney for the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "It’s going to determine whether people actually have the right to vote," said NAACP lawyer Daniel Donovan. "The clock is ticking."
News & Observer: Christensen: NC’s kids are doing better than you think
Never mind South Carolina. North Carolina’s public school students are outperforming students in Israel and Sweden. That’s according to a new U.S. Department of Education study that recently landed in my inbox. During a talk at a Chapel Hill retirement community here recently, I was asked this question: Given the failure of North Carolina’s public schools, what did I think about charter schools, or words to that effect. That North Carolina’s schools are failing is a widely shared assumption in certain circles. It is repeated in the echo chamber of talk radio. It is confirmed every time you come across some store clerk who can’t make change, or you hear from an employer who can’t find somebody to operate some piece of technology.
WNCN: NC public university graduates facing record debt
Ellen Mathis graduated from East Carolina University in 2010 with more than $40,000 in debt. She said, like many of her classmates, she just wanted any job she could get and took on a part-time gig at a local news station to make ends meet. But it wasn’t enough money to cover the basics. "When you sit there and write that check and you have 25 years to pay it off, it’s a little daunting," said Mathis. Money, or the lack thereof, is consuming every aspect of life for many recent graduates."You can buy a house with all the interest you pay on these loans," said Mathis. She said she’ll be 45 before all her debts are paid.
WRAL: State teachers’ group files lawsuit challenging voucher programs
The North Carolina Association of Educators filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court on Wednesday, challenging the state’s new private school voucher program. The advocacy group wants the court to declare unconstitutional the Opportunity Scholarships Act, which was passed by the General Assembly earlier this year, and stop the state from issuing the vouchers. Under the program, state lawmakers set aside $10 million in the budget to help pay private school tuition for about 2,500 students, starting in the 2014-15 school year. Legislative leaders said they plan to ratchet the fund up to $50 million a year after that. The vouchers would provide $4,200 per year to assist in private tuition, and supporters say it offers options for low-income students at under-performing schools. In the lawsuit, the NCAE contends the state constitution requires public money that is earmarked for education be spent “exclusively” on public schools. They also argue that the state shouldn’t be giving money to private schools when the public school system ranks among the lowest in the nation.
StarNews Online: NC school board starts studying virtual charters
North Carolina’s statewide school board is getting to work on whether to allow charter schools that operate with fewer rules to offer online-only classes. The State Board of Education on Friday starts work on figuring out the best rules and needed changes to state law to allow virtual charter schools. The task was assigned by state lawmakers, and recommendations are due before the General Assembly opens its next session in the spring. The study group hears from a Chapel Hill education research firm about what’s happening with virtual charter schools across the country and what people in North Carolina think.
WRAL: Number of charter schools hoping to open in 2015 narrows
Of the 176 groups that submitted letters of intent to open new charter schools in 2015, only 71 have followed up with formal applications. Charter schools are public schools funded with tax dollars but run by nonprofit boards. There are currently 126 charter schools operating in North Carolina, with 26 more slated to open in the fall of 2014. More than half of the schools to file formal applications for 2015 are in the state’s four largest counties, with 19 applications coming from Mecklenburg County, eight each from Durham and Wake counties and five from Guilford County.
MSNBC: Americans pretty sick of tea party
A pair of polls show Americans are largely unhappy with both the GOP and the tea party wing of the party. Tea party favorability has fallen to an all-time low according a Gallup poll released Wednesday, which found a slight majority (51%) of Americans have an unfavorable view of the tea party. The poll finds 30% of Americans feel positively about the tea party, down from a high of 39% in 2011. Republicans are most likely to support the movement, with 58% seeing it favorably, and unsurprisingly Democrats overwhelmingly dislike the tea party – 74% to 10%. Moderates aren’t too keen on the movement either. While the split is not as stark as with Democrats, moderates are more likely than even the general public to say they don’t favor the tea party (54%) and only 23% say they do favor it.
Micah Beasley, Press Secretary
North Carolina Democratic Party
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