Under the Dome

Chancellor's steel-trap recall fails on Easley job

May 17, 2009 

N.C. State Chancellor James Oblinger says he is "embarrassed" that he has no recollection of a conversation with former trustee McQueen Campbell before then-first lady Mary Easley was hired in 2005.

Perhaps for good reason.

Some might recall that an often-noted trait of N.C. State's 13th chancellor is his steel-trap memory.

It was highlighted in a lengthy profile of Oblinger in The News & Observer when he took the chancellorship in early 2005, noting that he devoured details and that his ability to remember names and faces was "uncanny."

The profile said that he was the kid who memorized which recording belonged to what record label. He was the dad who remembered the odometer reading on his car, much to his sons' dismay because they couldn't drive off and return without his knowing it.

"He will know whether there were crumbs left on the kitchen counter when he walks out in the morning," his wife said at the time. "If there are different crumbs in that spot when he returns, he notices that, too."

Faculty members have also recalled that Oblinger could pick up a conversation weeks or even months after it started, as if there were no gap in time.

But last week, in addressing questions about Campbell and the first lady's hiring, Oblinger said his memory is faulty.

"You've got to realize that I'm getting older," said Oblinger, who is 63. "This was years ago. I find that I'm forgetting things."

'Let the brawl ensue'

The politicos' Twitter feeds and the blogosphere crackled with commentary after the announcement Friday by Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, that he would not run against Republican Sen. Richard Burr for the U.S. Senate next year. Here's a sampling of the reaction:

From Swing State Project: "This is a major bummer, no doubt. Most polls had Cooper running neck and neck with Burr, holding him well under 50% in all cases -- the best numbers any Democrat have yielded in a hypothetical head-to-head."

Politico: "Cooper is the second high-profile Democrat -- after Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) -- to decide not to run against Burr, and puts Democrats back to the drawing board."

The Hill: "Burr could still be vulnerable to the right kind of challenger. Democrats fell back on state Sen. Kay Hagan (D) in the 2008 race against Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and still unseated the incumbent with relative ease."

The Fix: "A big recruiting setback for Senate Dems in NC."

N.C. GOP spokesman Brent Woodcox: "Wrote a press release, issues memo, sent out a news update, got Roy Cooper to not run for Senate. That's what I do before lunch."

N.C. Democratic Party staffer Jerimee Richir: "Roy Cooper out of NC Senate race. Let the brawl ensue."

Refusing judges slammed

The State Employees Association of North Carolina is not happy with a handful of judges.

In its latest legislative newsletter, the association criticized judges who declined to voluntarily take a 0.5 percent pay cut. Most of the state's judges went along with the request by Gov. Beverly Perdue, who ordered such a cut for other state employees.

But Perdue does not have the authority, under the state constitution, to cut the pay of other elected officials.

Nearly 20 North Carolina judges had not agreed to volunteer for the cut in pay, although some have said they will donate the amount of the cut to charity or other causes.

That didn't sit well with SEANC.

"Those judges should be ashamed!" the association wrote in its newsletter.

"To refuse to participate along with the working people is elitist and wrong!" the newsletter continued. "Every person on the state payroll should share the burden of balancing the budget. ... [W]hen working families are struggling to put food on the table and gas in the car, it is repugnant that any elected official would not voluntarily comply with the same standard."

By staff writers J. Andrew Curliss and Ryan Teague Beckwith.

acurliss@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4840

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