Under the Dome

Dome: Tillis supporters form super PAC

May 25, 2013 

NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis


Supporters of Thom Tillis have filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to create a super PAC – a first step toward a possible U.S. Senate campaign for the Republican House speaker.

Called Grow NC Strong, the super PAC is led by Champ Mitchell, who was most recently CEO of Network Solutions. His résumé includes being a partner with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Winston-Salem and the executive team at RJR Nabisco.

Others behind the PAC include Doyle Parrish, CEO of Summit Hospitality Group, and Cindy Marrelli-Watko, who is a former board member of the N.C. Values Coalition and whose career included corporate stints at IBM and Accenture.

As an independent expenditure committee, Grow NC Strong is required to be independent from Tillis and any campaign he might have, but it will be able to raise and spend unlimited funds to support his run.

Tillis could face a crowded primary if he decides to run. Others named as possible contenders include U.S. Reps. Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk and Renee Ellmers of Dunn; state Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry; state Sen. Phil Berger; and former ambassador Jim Cain. So far, however, Greg Bannon, a Cary OB-GYN, is the only Republican Senate candidate who has announced.

Martin to run for chief justice

Justice Mark Martin has announced that he will run for chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court next year, replacing Sarah Parker, who is expected to retire.

Martin, who is the senior associate justice, sent out a letter last week announcing plans to run for chief justice in 2014. Parker, who will turn 72 next year, will not be eligible to run for another term because of age requirements in the law. A House bill sponsored by Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Smithfield Republican, would have increased the retirement age for judges to 75. But House Bill 12 never made it out of committee.

Although justices run in nonpartisan races, Martin is a Republican, and Parker is a Democrat. The legislature is strongly considering making judicial elections partisan again as they were before 2002.

In a letter announcing he would run, Martin wrote: “We know there will be a hard fight for the open seat created by the impending retirement of the current Chief Justice. However, with your help I believe we can give voters the clear choice that they deserve.”

Martin noted that he has served 20 years on the bench on the Superior Court, N.C. Court of Appeals and the N.C. Supreme Court. He has been on the high court since 1999.

He said he had been endorsed by all five living former chief justices: Republicans I. Beverly Jr. and Rhoda Billings and Democrats Henry Frye, Jim Exum and Burley Mitchell.

The letter includes a fundraising appeal from former Republican Gov. Jim Martin, who appointed Martin to the bench.

Democrats get new director

State Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller on Friday night announced his selection of Robert Dempsey as the party’s new executive director.

Dempsey comes with experience as the Vermont Democratic Party’s executive director and previously worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Voller will present his choice to the state party’s executive council Tuesday, he said in an email to party leaders.

With the announcement, Voller said he is relinquishing his role as interim executive director. He acknowledged the rocky tenor of his first 100 days, with questions plaguing his spending after a trip to Las Vegas and the firing of party staffers.

“During the first 100 days, we have made great strides, but there have been challenges and misunderstandings, too. I ran on the ideals of reform and accountability, but I realize we haven’t fully achieved these goals yet,” he wrote. “There have been some errors and missteps. We continue to take measures to correct these mistakes. But, ultimately I am the Chair and I take full responsibility.”

Voller said among the setbacks, “we are also making great progress.” He touted the $200,000 raised since he became chairman in February, though Democrats will need to raise significant funds to keep operations robust, let alone challenge Republicans in 2014.

Dempsey, a Buffalo, N.Y., native, was selected by a search committee that included Vice Chairwoman Nina Szlosberg-Landis, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Sen. Floyd McKissick and others. Dempsey also worked as a political director for a congresswoman and the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Staff writers Mary Cornatzer, Rob Christensen and John Frank

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