Under the Dome

Ellmers pulls ahead in recent fundraising

October 20, 2010 

As the midterm campaigns turn toward the home stretch, Republican challenger Renee Ellmers is out raising incumbent U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District.

Etheridge's campaign maintains a big lead in contributions for the election cycle, reporting $1.16 million to Ellmers' $452,000. It also has a huge advantage in cash on hand, $448,788 to Ellmers' $99,461.

But in the three months ended Sept. 30, Ellmers' campaign raised $264,000 to Etheridge's $250,000. Given the advantages of incumbency, Ellmers said, that edge is a measure of voters' unhappiness with the way business is done in Washington.

In a news release, her campaign boasted that it had outraised Etheridge by a margin of 2-to-1 among individuals ($260,000 to $109,000). The rest of Etheridge's money, it said, came from Washington special interests and political action committees.

The news release doesn't mention another kind of campaign spending that could help Ellmers: Her campaign has benefited from $365,000 in attack ads against Etheridge paid for by two independent groups that don't have to identify the sources of their money.

The groups, Americans for Job Security and the 60 Plus Association, are widely believed to get funding from conservative business interests.

15% scenario for DHHS

Even if the state Department of Health and Human Services laid off all of its office workers and eliminated all administrative costs, the savings wouldn't meet a budget-cut target of 15 percent, secretary Lanier Cansler told legislators Tuesday.

Last month, the state's chief budget officer sent a memo to state agencies, community colleges and universities asking for plans on how they would cut their budgets by 5 percent, 10 percent and 15percent.

The state is facing a shortfall of about $3.5 billion next year.

The state DHHS annual budget is about $17.3 billion, with about $3.9 billion coming from the state.

Nearly 60 percent of the state money going to the department pays for Medicaid services. Overall, 86 percent of state money for the department is spent on patient services.

This year, the federal government puts up $3 for every $1 the state spends on Medicaid, but that will drop to $2 next year.

"We can't just cut administration," to get to 15 percent, Cansler said.

"We're going to have to get rid of programs and reduce services."

Marshall narrows gap

The U.S. Senate race has tightened a bit, according to a new poll.

Democratic Senate candidate Elaine Marshall has begun to close the gap against Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who leads by eight points, according to a new survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm.

Burr leads Marshall 48-40. Three weeks ago, Marshall was at a 13-point deficit against Burr.

Marshall's standing has improved in her party. She has the support of 73 percent of Democrats, compared with 65 percent in the firm's last poll.

Burr's support among likely voters is steady at 48 percent, and he holds a 52-24 advantage with independents. If that continues, the firm suggested, it's difficult to imagine a scenario in which Marshall would win.

The polling firm surveyed 597 likely North Carolina voters Oct. 15-17. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

By staff writers Jay Price, Jane Stancill and Lynn Bonner

jay.price@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4526

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