Andy Taylor, the sheriff of fictional Mayberry, has been implicated in what five U.S. senators called a scheme to use taxpayer money to benefit Democrats in Washington.
The incident, which Dome dubs "May berrygate," began when Andy Griffith, actor and Manteo resident, appeared in an ad hailing the benefits of the health care law passed by Democrats.
Five Republican senators, including Sen. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem, objected. The senators wrote a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asking the department to pull the ad and repay the government for any taxpayers' dollars spent on the effort.
The senators cited a White House blog post in which a staffer wrote that the ad was meant to correct "a major misinformation campaign that was designed to scare and confuse older Americans about the real impact of reform."
Sens. Burr, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Barrasso of Wyoming, John McCain of Arizona and John Thune of South Dakota rejected that argument.
"Co-opting public funds during a recession, to make a political, poll-tested argument about the new law, is wrong," they wrote.
Marshall team gets manager
Secretary of State Elaine Marshall has brought in a veteran political operative to manage her U.S. Senate campaign.
Tim Phillips of Alexandria, Va., has started work for Marshall. He has managed the winning Georgia Senate campaigns of Max Cleland and Zell Miller and both the winning and losing gubernatorial campaigns of Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, among others.
He said his arrival is an effort to beef up for the fall election and not a staff shake-up.
"We are augmenting, we not replacing," Phillips said. "We are trying to build up for the fight ahead."
A.J. Carrillo, the campaign manager during the primary, will shift over to the role of deputy campaign manager with a particular emphasis on using the Internet. Thomas Mills will remain as the campaign's general consultant.
Phillips said he was attracted to Marshall's underdog status both in the Democratic primary and in the general election against Republican Sen. Richard Burr.
"The national powers I think have miscalculated her strength as a candidate and her strength as a human being," Phillips said.
Senate race tightens
Burr maintains a slight lead over Marshall, according to a new poll. Allowing for the margin of error, the race is a dead heat.
Burr leads Marshall by a 39 percent to 37 percent, according to a new survey released by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm based in Raleigh. Libertarian candidate Michael Beitler has the support of 7percent of the voters surveyed.
The race has tightened up since the last PPP survey showed Burr ahead by five points.
The survey of 524 North Carolina voters was conducted July 27-31 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
The race is closer at this point than the 2008 Senate race, when Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole was leading her Democratic challenger Kay Hagan by a 49-to-40 percent margin.
The survey found that the race is closing up because the public perception of Burr has declined, with 32 percent approving of his job performance and 44 percent disapproving.
The poll was taken after the airing of an extensive TV campaign paid for by labor and environmental groups tying Burr to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and oil companies.
Burr now has the second-lowest approval rating among Republican senators up for re-election after Arizona's John McCain, according to the polling firm.
Marshall is still largely unknown across the state, with 58 percent saying they have no opinion of her.
By staff writers Benjamin Niolet and Rob Christensen.
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