Under the Dome

Dome: Sen. Kay Hagan's campaign war chest is filling up

Staff writersJuly 11, 2013 

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s campaign announced Thursday that it raised more than $2 million since April 1, ending June with $4.2 million in the bank.

The Democrat’s war chest gives her a significant advantage in her 2014 re-election bid against Republican challengers who are just now beginning to raise money. The campaign announced the numbers Thursday, but disclosure reports won’t be available for another week.

The most prominent GOP contender is House Speaker Thom Tillis. He announced his campaign at the end of May and raised $300,000 in a month, leaving $250,000 on hand.

Hagan’s average monthly haul more than doubled Tillis, a statistic reflecting her status as an incumbent as much as her fundraising ability. Both candidates will need to raise an average near $700,000 a month through November to hit the $12 million-to-14 million target for the race, which is expected to be one of the most competitive in the nation.

In a statement, Preston Elliott, Hagan’s campaign manager, touted the 9,000 donors in the second quarter (April through June) with more than 80 percent coming from low-dollar donations. He didn’t clarify what qualifies as a small donation.

“Kay’s broad base of support highlights that North Carolinians value her tireless work on issues from supporting a North Carolina-first economic recovery to keeping student loans affordable to standing up for service members and veterans,” Elliott said. ‘It is this grassroots excitement and strong record of results that will take Kay’s campaign across the finish line with a victory in 2014.”

GOP recruiting in Raleigh

An operative with the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been in Raleigh this week talking with Senate leader Phil Berger and U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers – or at least their people – to see if either has an interest in running against Hagan next year.

Berger confirmed to Dome he met with NRSC representatives Tuesday morning.

The scouting trip suggests that the national party is not completely sold on House Speaker Thom Tillis, the most prominent GOP candidate to announce his candidacy.

That was reflected in a blog by former NRSC consultant Jim Ellis who wrote Monday that North Carolina was one of three Senate races that “show some promise for Republicans but are regarded as major candidate recruiting disappointments.”

“Sen. Kay Hagan should be on the top of the vulnerability list, but she’s not,” Ellis writes. “Republicans didn’t draw a top-tier challenge candidate, but we’ll see if state House Speaker Thom Tillis’ campaign can develop. Considering the legislature’s poor approval ratings, Tillis has an even steeper hill to climb to position himself for victory.”

Berger said after talking to NRSC strategists that he is no closer to making a decision but expects to make up his mind by the end of the month. He declined to go into detail about the conversation or his thinking. “I have not made a decision as of yet,” he said.

What the national parties think is important because the N.C. Senate race is likely to get national attention, with tens of millions of dollars poured into the race by the national parties and by third-party groups in the battle for control of the Senate.

Ellmers, a former nurse from Dunn who was re-elected to a second term, has said she will make an announcement shortly.

Most political observers think it unlikely that Berger will give up his position as the most powerful figure in state government for a Senate bid.

The polling numbers suggest Tillis has yet to catch fire. Some tea party Republicans don’t like his more moderate, business-oriented conservatism, and others have been put off by his aggressive fundraising tactics.

Greg Brannon, a Cary physician and tea party activist, is also in the race. Mark Harris, a Charlotte pastor; Jim Cain, a Raleigh attorney and former U.S. ambassador; and former Charlotte City Councilwoman Lynn Wheeler are considering the race.

McCrory responds to NYT

The New York Times editorial entitled The “Decline of North Carolina” is just the latest in a litany of troubling clips about the Tar Heel State, but it was powerful enough to draw a reaction from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office, which released a statement to News 14: “The New York Times editorial is riddled with errors, and maybe if they came to North Carolina, they would understand that Governor McCrory remains 100 percent focused on the economy, education, and government efficiency as he has been for the first six months in office.”

Earlier in the week McCrory responded to the negative publicity by saying: “I think the major issue that businesses have is, ‘Is your state stable financially and do you have a quality workforce?’ I think these other peripheral issues, which are important, aren’t as important to employers,” McCrory said.

The governor added North Carolina lawmakers are not alone in taking on tough causes that incite strong debate or protest, mentioning Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio as states going through their own “difficult legislative process.”

Staff writers John Frank and Rob Christensen

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