Under the Dome

Dome: NCAE opts to remain neutral in Democratic governor’s primary

March 14, 2012 

The N.C. Association of Educators plan to remain neutral in the Democratic primary for governor, said Scott Anderson, the executive director of the teachers group.

Anderson said the decision was based on a shortage of time to go through an endorsement process, which requires ratification by its full membership, and the fact that several of the Democrats are acceptable to the teachers group.

The three major candidates are former Congressman Bob Etheridge, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and state Rep. Bill Faison.

“Especially with Dalton and Etheridge you have two people who are well known and have a long history on our issues, and to some extent Faison does as well, although he is lesser known to our members,” Anderson said.

“Ultimately, we are focused on making sure we have a strong pro-education governor in November,” Anderson said.

The non-endorsement is likely to be especially disappointing to Etheridge, who is a former state superintendent of public instruction.

It is the second major employee/labor group to announce that it will sit out the primary. The State Employees Association of North Carolina is also not endorsing.

Anderson said the NCAE screening committee would like to talk with former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the likely Republican nominee. But McCrory has some selling to do before he can get the endorsement of the 60,000-member organization that leans Democratic.

“Our concern with Pat McCrory is that publicly he has aligned himself with the cuts that have become commonplace over the last couple of years in public education,” Anderson said. “He really hasn’t shown an understanding of the impact it has made or spoken out to protect the classroom.”

Honors for Basnight

Gov. Bev Perdue will pay tribute to her old boss and mentor, former Senate leader Marc Basnight, today at a luncheon held at the annual meeting of the N.C. Chamber of Commerce at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel

Basnight, who stepped down last year, is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was the most powerful figure in the legislature for two decades, until the Republicans won control in the 2010 elections.

Also being honored at the meeting is U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, a Republican from Greensboro.

Perdue tours fracking rigs

Perdue and top administration officials flew to Pennsylvania last week to examine drilling rigs used for shale gas extraction, a controversial practice known as fracking.

The March 5 trip occurred without public notice from the governor’s office and included meetings with oil company representatives and local government officials who support fracking. (Perdue’s office does not release a regular schedule like other state chief executives.) The governor did not visit with local environmental groups on the trip but a spokesman said she has met with Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund officials in North Carolina.

The governor’s office did not provide an itinerary for the trip but said Perdue and the N.C. delegation received a briefing from Shell Oil and a tour of Shell’s operations. The delegation – which flew on the state plane in an up-and-back trip – included Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Dee Freeman; Kari Barsness, the DENR legislative liaison; Jon Williams, assistant secretary for energy at the state Commerce Department; and Nina Szlosberg-Landis, the chairwoman of the Department of Transportation board and a major Democratic donor.

A spokesman said Perdue “is trying to learn more about this process and the impact it would have on the state.” Perdue has said she supports fracking if done safely. But she vetoed a GOP-backed energy bill to pave the way for fracking in North Carolina on narrow constitutional powers grounds.

Staff writers Rob Christensen and John Frank

Christensen: 919-829-4532 or rchristensen@newsobserver.com

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