Under the Dome

Dome: Democrats ready to take on Ellmers

October 23, 2013 

At least two Democrats are ready to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers for her 2nd Congressional District seat.

Houston Barnes, who heads a business law firm in Research Triangle Park, said Tuesday that he was filing the official paperwork for his candidacy this week.

“We need a non-wavering voice in Washington that understands the needs within our communities and businesses,” Barnes said in a statement.

Also on Tuesday, former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco said he was considering a run at the same seat in the Democratic primary next May.

“It would be interesting,” said Crisco, who was commerce secretary for four years under Gov. Bev Perdue. “I’m a middle-of-the-road guy. Randolph County was one of her best supporters last time. I am considering it.”

Crisco spent most of his career as president and chairman of Asheboro Elastics, which makes knitted elastics. At age 70, he recently stepped down from that post but still serves on the company’s board.

A former Asheboro city councilman, he has been active in the textile industry and civic and church affairs. Born and reared on a dairy farm in Stanly County, Crisco has an undergraduate degree from Pfeiffer University and an MBA from Harvard University.

Barnes, 31, is the founder and managing partner of the Barnes Law Firm, which has four attorneys and represents business clients, helping them start companies or expand. The North Carolina native also works as a mentor with the business schools at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and N.C. State University in Raleigh.

He and his wife, Brice, live in Durham, just outside the district line, but he said he plans to move to the district. Brice Barnes, founder of Greenpoint Strategy, and a fundraiser for such Democrats as Sen. Kay Hagan, Rep. Mike McIntyre and Perdue.

Ellmers, a two-term lawmaker from Dunn, has been criticized by both the left and the right for her position on the government shutdown. She at first opposed the strategy, saying it was not an effective tool to fight the president’s health care program but then voted with the Republican majority for the shutdown. She also voted against the legislation that allowed government to restart and avoid a default.

State GOP soliciting black voters

The Republican National Committee is intensifying its outreach efforts to African-American voters in North Carolina. The RNC opened an “engagement office” in Charlotte on Monday in what state GOP Chairman Claude Pope called a “historic moment for our party.”

“We’ve been building a tremendous grassroots network across the state, and it is vital that we increase our base of support by making sure we’re reaching out to all voters and building strong, lasting relationships with every community,” Pope said in a statement.

The move is designed to influence the Charlotte mayor’s race and develop strategies for statewide campaigns. The party is facing criticism for authoring a voter ID law that critics believe is racially motivated. African-Americans are 22 percent of the state’s registered voters. In Mecklenburg County, 32 percent of the voter population is black.

Smoot forms consulting firm

Julianna Smoot, the North Carolina native who was President Barack Obama’s chief fundraiser during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, has formed her own D.C. political consulting firm.

She is joining forces with Paul Tewes, another senior Obama aide, to launch Smoot Tewes Group.

STG starts with 10 political and public policy professionals. The firm has been up and running since June but is making its official launch in October. The group’s portfolio includes health care issues and environmental campaigns, as well as fundraising and strategic counsel.

Smoot, who grew up about 65 miles south of Raleigh in Clinton, is the daughter of a golf pro. She raised money for many Democratic senators before becoming Obama’s chief fundraiser, bringing in more than $1 billion in the 2012 campaign. She was also instrumental in raising money for the Democratic National Convention held in Charlotte last year.

Staff writers Rob Christensen and John Frank

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