WRAL: USDA issues more warnings to state health agency
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has again criticized the state’s health agency for what it says are serious problems with the implementation of North Carolina’s new food stamps delivery system. In the latest response in a months-long back and forth between the federal agency and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, USDA administrators say the state is still at risk of losing federal funding for the food stamps program. If the state doesn’t fix the massive backlog of cases, that could happen as soon as mid-March. The USDA also questioned the state’s claim that implementation of the Affordable Care Act was to blame for many of the difficulties. "It should be noted that many other States have implemented ACA without the dramatic impacts on SNAP that have occurred in North Carolina," USDA Regional Administrator Robin Bailey wrote to DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos Thursday.
Charlotte Observer: Stam shows rocky road ahead on teacher pay
Only days after Gov. Pat McCrory’s pledge to get N.C. teachers a needed pay increase, one Republican legislative leader was showing how difficult that might be to get through the state legislature. On Thursday, House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam’s office sent a press release explaining how N.C. teachers had the “opportunity” for salary increases in the current year’s budget. All it would take is school districts taking advantage of “flexibility” lawmakers have given them to use state money designated for one purpose – gifted students or career technical education, for instance – and use it for another – like paying teachers more. Or, school districts could use money they get from their local governments to boost teacher pay. Got that? Problem solved. There’s really no need for the governor and legislature to carve out a plan to commit resources to increase teacher pay.
Dome: Morning Memo: McCrory faces Republican blowback for ultrasound stance
Gov. Pat McCrory’s opposition to appealing a federal ruling striking the state’s ultrasound requirements for abortions is not sitting well with his fellow Republicans. Republican U.S. Senate candidate is the latest to hit McCrory. In a statement, the Baptist minister asks the governor to “strongly reconsider his stance on a court challenge.”
Real Clear Politics: Bombing Survivors Among First Lady’s Guests
Two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, a fire chief, a gay former NBA player, a technology intern, and a public school teacher will be among Michelle Obama’s guests at Tuesday’s State of the Union address, the White House has announced. Boston Marathon bombing survivors Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman will join the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, and presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett in Mrs. Obama’s viewing box. The blast survivors were subjects of an iconic image showing a cowboy hat-wearing Arrendondo helping Bauman, who lost both of his legs, after the attack.
MSNBC: Four out of five Americans don’t trust GOP
Just 19% of Americans have confidence in Republicans, while a whopping 80% do not.
A new poll that found Americans with serious doubts about all their elected officials, but Republicans scored particularly badly—even with their own voters. Just 36% of self-identified Republican voters say they have faith that their lawmakers will make good decisions. They’re damning numbers for a party that’s hoping to retake the Senate in 2014, hold onto the House of Representatives, and locate a promising candidate capable of beating the Democratic matriarch Hillary Clinton.
Washington Post: Poll: Republicans seen as more extreme, Democrats as more bipartisan
Democrats hold a sizable advantage on Republicans on several key perceptions of the United States’s two major political parties, according to a new poll. The Pew Research Center poll show Americans perceive Democrats as more willing to work with the other party than Republicans, by a margin of 52 percent to 27 percent. Democrats also hold a 20-point advantage when it comes to which party "is more concerned with the needs of people like me" and a 10-point edge when it comes to governing in a more ethical and honest way. The GOP, meanwhile, is viewed as much more "extreme" in its issue positions (54-35) and more influenced by lobbyists (47-30).
The Atlantic: How Republicans Lost the Farm
On a recent Monday in San Antonio, Texas, Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture, got up to speak to an auditorium full of farmers. Vilsack, a doughy, wavy-haired former governor of Iowa, wore a grim expression as he gripped the lectern. "My mom used to caution me to have patience. She’d say, ‘Patience, Tommy, patience,’" Vilsack said. "My mother never met the 2013 Congress." The group Vilsack was addressing, the American Farm Bureau Federation, is the nation’s largest farmers’ organization, with more than 6 million member families from all 50 states. It is perhaps the most influential player in the American agriculture lobby, which spends more than $100 million each year to influence Congress. Through its state chapters and their political-action committees, the bureau also wields influence in state capitols and elections up and down the ballot. In San Antonio, 7,000 members had gathered for their annual meeting to hear from Vilsack and discuss what they wanted out of Washington.
Politico: Trey Radel to resign House seat
Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) will resign from Congress on Monday, according to multiple sources. Radel, 37, was caught buying cocaine last year from an undercover federal agent in Washington and spent nearly a month in a rehabilitation facility. He returned to Congress after the winter recess. The first-term Republican plans to send a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) Monday, sources said. It’s up to Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott to schedule a special election for Radel’s seat. His southwest Florida district is solidly Republican — Mitt Romney won the district with 61 percent of the vote.
Dome: Democratic polling memo shows House races remain toss ups
Republican grip on a handful of key state House districts is weakening, according to a new Democratic polling memo, though many voters remain unsure on the best candidate in 2014. The N.C. House Democratic Caucus says the numbers look good to challenge Republican incumbents Susan Martin of Wilson (House District 8), Brian Brown of Greenville (HD 9), Nelson Dollar of Cary (HD 36) John Szoka of Fayetteville (HD 45) and Michele Presnell of Burnsville (HD 118).
Dome: Tillis trails Hagan in fourth-quarter fundraising
U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis is apparently trailing Sen. Kay Hagan in fundraising. Tillis’ campaign sent out word on Friday that he had raised more than $700,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013, pushing his total fundraising since May to more than $1.7 million. Sounds like a lot, and it is. But Hagan earlier this week reported raising more than $2 million in the fourth quarter. She says she has $6.8 million on hand.
The Hill: Tillis continues mediocre fundraising pace
North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) continued his mediocre fundraising pace in the fourth quarter, hauling in $700,000 in the last three months despite help from a number of top Republican donors. Tillis has raised $1.7 million since he got in the race against Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) in early June, and has $1.3 million in the bank for the race. The GOP front-runner promised to be a fundraising powerhouse when he jumped into the race. So far, Tillis has been consistent, but not dominant in that department.
Dome: Rumor confirmed: Clay Aiken considering run for Congress
Pop singer Clay Aiken is seriously considering running in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers in the 2nd Congressional District. Gary Pearce, a longtime Democratic Party consultant, said Friday that Aiken has discussed the prospect with him and others. Pearce said he has had two or three conversations with Aiken over the past month. “He’s a smart guy,” Pearce said. “He’s serious. He’s approaching it the right way. I think a fresh face, someone who has not been been in politics, is exactly what the Democratic Party needs in this environment.”
Politico: 2014 or 2012? Déjà vu for the GOP
After the 2012 election, establishment Republicans promised things would be different next time. They’d stop turning off women. They’d tamp down on rogue outside groups. And they’d get the tea party movement in line.
But now that 2014 is here, those goals seem as elusive as ever and even insiders admit the party’s got a long way to go — if it really wants to change.
National Journal: Republicans Don’t Have a Single Woman Running a Battleground Senate Campaign
The position of campaign manager is the top job in any run for office, the person who — besides the candidate — is responsible for all the campaigns’ activities. Yet a National Journal survey of the key Senate races of 2014 found that only two out of 33 GOP campaigns had female campaign managers. In states expected to feature the most competitive general-election races, the disparity is even worse: Republicans have zero women running campaigns.
The Hill: Divided GOP preaches unity
Republicans were preaching unity at their annual winter conference in Washington this week, but there were still visible cracks where the GOP has a ways to go in addressing the problems diagnosed after the 2012 election. The party did unite to pass rules to shorten and strengthen its primary process but that was still met with loud objections from the party’s more libertarian wing. And familiar ill-timed remarks from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on women and birth control were met with public and private grumbling that Republicans need to focus on economic issues if they want to be successful in 2014 and beyond.
Washington Post: Hillary Clinton supporters get a head start organizing for 2016 Iowa caucuses
Hillary Rodham Clinton is not officially running for anything. But here in the first-in-the-nation caucus state that bedeviled her in 2008, Democrats are busy laying the groundwork for what they see as Clinton’s near-certain 2016 presidential campaign. Over a marathon day of strategy sessions, the Democratic Party’s patchwork coalition was fully represented: labor leaders, elected officials, statewide and local candidates, liberal activists, women, gays, seniors and 20-somethings. State party chairman Scott Brannen was here, too, as were strategists and foot soldiers who helped President Obama’s 2008 Iowa triumph.
WRAL: Ads lure NC teachers to Virginia
Low morale and no pay increases within the past five years have contributed to an increase in teachers leaving North Carolina schools. But Virginia wants them. The Western Virginia Public Education Consortium is advertising an upcoming two-day teacher recruitment fair in community newspapers across North Carolina. The classified ad announces vacancies in 17 Virginia school districts. The ads come as Gov. Pat McCrory recently announced increasing teacher pay as part of his 2014 agenda, vowing to push the issue during the upcoming legislative session. Pay raises have already been authorized for employees in high-demand professions such as medicine, accounting, auditing and information technology. About 1,200 nurses and 600 law enforcement employees will receive increases ranging from 4 to 10 percent.
Fayetteville Observer: Pitts: Nationwide marriage equality is on the way
Gay marriage will one day be legal in all 50 states. I used to believe this would happen well down the road. But the federal government is now fully on board in support of gay marriage, and federal courts have recently overturned several states’ laws against such unions. I think we’re looking more at the near term for this next big step in civil rights. Although there are still legal battles to fight and details to hash out, the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually find that some peoples’ interpretation of religion is not enough to justify denying consenting adults the right to marry in a free country. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I don’t think the vote among the justices is going to be close, despite the court’s conservative bent. All we’re really deciding at this point and in this hour is which side of history we choose to be on. Virginia made its choice Thursday, when newly elected Attorney General Mark Herring announced his office would no longer defend challenges against Virginia’s law banning gay unions. "Too many times in our history, our citizens have had to lead the way on civil rights while their leaders stood against them," Herring said at a press conference Thursday. "This will not be another instance. It’s time for the Commonwealth to be on the right side of history and the right side of the law."
News and Observer: A sound ruling against NC’s abortion ultrasound law
It was, from the beginning, all about right-wing ideology and not at all about women’s health, as proponents of the law designed to limit abortion rights had claimed. The legislation pushed by Republicans in the General Assembly was an infringement on the doctor-patient relationship. Lawmakers, many of them “small government” types who screamed against “Obamacare” as government interference, wanted to take the state right into the examining room to stand over a doctor’s shoulder. The law required physicians who were going to perform abortions to show women ultrasound images and describe them in detail before the procedure. How lawmakers could be so presumptuous, to actually make law designed to codify their ideology, was no mystery. Republicans wanted to show everybody they were in charge in Raleigh and could do whatever they wanted. So they did.
Huffington Post: What Century Are You Living In?
An Open Letter to House Republicans With all of the incredible challenges facing our nation — the need to rebuild our infrastructure, create jobs, improve education and address the threat of climate change — one would expect that these pressing issues would be at the top of your agenda. But last week I watched in disbelief as Republicans instead chose to ratchet up the War on Women. First, there was Republican Congressman Steve Pearce’s memoir that argued that wives should "voluntarily submit" to their husbands. Then, former GOP Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee joined in, suggesting that American women could "control their libido" rather than receive contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. And now one of your very first votes of the year in the House is a disingenuous and dangerous attack on women’s health. My question to you is this: What century are you living in?
Cam Harris: Where’s Thom? Speaker Tillis Misses Third Candidate Forum
The Forsyth County GOP held a candidate forum Tuesday night for all of the Republican candidates in the race to replace Kay Hagan. Dr. Greg Brannon was there. Bill Flynn was there. So were Heather Grant and Mark Harris. Even Ted Alexander, who entered the race on Monday afternoon, was present. Thom Tillis was represented by a single lonesome chair reserved specifically for him.
Micah Beasley, Communications Director
North Carolina Democratic Party
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