Under the Dome

Dome: Democratic poll shows McCrory ahead


A new poll released by N.C. Citizens for Progress, a Democratic group, shows Republican Pat McCrory leading Democrat Walter Dalton 45-39 percent.

The same pollster, GarenHartYang Research Group, found McCrory up by 12 points in April. The group said the poll showed McCrory and Dalton tied in the three TV markets where the Democrats have run ads tying him to special interest groups or criticizing him for not releasing tax returns.

“In short, the election for North Carolina governor is extremely competitive, with Walter Dalton now in position to overtake Pat McCrory provided he has the resources to wage a strong fall campaign,” according to a memo prepared by pollster Fred Yang.

The poll was conducted July 10-13 among 812 likely voters, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

A survey conduced July 16-18 for The Civitas Institute found McCrory with a 10 point lead, 47-37. A Public Policy Poll taken July 5-8 found McCrory leading 47-40 percent.

Report on mental health office

Last week, we wrote about a local mental health office that covers western North Carolina counties losing $3 million since switching to managed care in January.

A consultant’s report issued this week describes problems at Western Highlands Network, one of the first local mental heath offices to convert to a managed care system.

Among other things, the report says that the information Western Highlands leaders receive about services, use and costs is inadequate, and that it is not keeping good track of Medicaid claims.

The report goes on for nine pages. In short, it says Western Highlands needs lots of improvements, and the consultant recommends close monitoring by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Under managed care, the local mental health office gets a set amount of money to treat mentally ill patients who rely on Medicaid or state funds.

Western Highlands Network became a managed care organization in January. By next January, managed care organizations for government-paid mental health services will cover the entire state.

Tillis’ staff shifting

There has been some chair-shuffling in House Speaker Thom Tillis’ office lately.

Dodie Renfer, his operations director, has left to join state Sen. David Rouzer’s campaign for Congress as political director. She is a former political director for the state Republican Party and a seasoned campaigner.

Advancing from executive assistant to operations director is Joe Nolan. They’re looking to hire a new executive assistant, which is one of those jobs that includes a little of everything: juggling the calendar, researching, working well with constituents and officials, and, on occasion, driving the speaker to and from events.

(Drivers aren’t uncommon, by the way. Senate Leader Phil Berger’s assistant is occasionally called on to do it, and past legislative leaders have also relied on drivers.)

The staff changes began this past spring when Tillis’ chief of staff and a policy adviser resigned after admitting they each had intimate relationships with lobbyists. Chris Hayes moved into the chief of staff spot.

Town hall meetings kick off

Three Republican senators will visit Fayetteville on Monday to decry looming defense cuts that are scheduled to take place under budget sequestration next year.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire will launch a series of “Preserving America’s Strength” town hall meetings with a meeting at Fayetteville Technical Community college.

The town hall meetings are scheduled to be held in key primary states – Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and New Hampshire.

President Barack Obama this week claimed congressional Republicans were willing to slash defense spending to balance the federal budget while extending tax cuts to the country’s highest earners.

“People in Congress ought to be able to come together and agree on a plan, a balanced approach that reduces the deficit and keeps our military strong,” Obama told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized Obama for not being more active in the discussions, saying the defense cuts will “severely shrink our force structure, and impair our ability to meet and deter threats.’’

Staff writers Rob Christensen, Lynn Bonner and Craig Jarvis

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