Morning Memo: Democrats claim momentum from local wins

Posted by John Frank on November 6, 2013 

Fresh off big wins in key municipal races Tuesday, N.C. Democrats are trying to spin the results as a reflection on the Republican legislature. In Greensboro, Councilwoman Nancy Vaughan, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Mayor Robbie Perkins by double digits, and in Charlotte, Democrat Patrick Cannon bested Edwin Peacock for mayor by 6 points. The Charlotte City Council has a 9-2 Democratic majority and the party won easily in Durham, Boone and recently Raleigh.

"Tonight was a referendum on the toxic Republican agenda that has rendered public education unrecognizable, rejected healthcare for thousands of North Carolinians and overreached on local control of municipal assets,” N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller said in a statement.

The spin is likely a bit of a stretch. Even though the state political parties pumped money into local races that held larger statewide themes, in most cases the final days of the campaigns focused on what matters at the local level.

Republicans claimed victory in the Fayetteville mayor's race by the narrowest of margins, where the Democratic candidate is refusing to concede.

"Congratulations to mayor-elect Nat Robertson for running an outstanding campaign and becoming the first Republican mayor of Fayetteville in decades," state GOP chairman Claude Pope said in a statement. "Despite an overwhelming party registration advantage for Democrats, Nat’s plans to reduce crime, increase economic development and improve infrastructure clearly resonated with Fayetteville voters across the political spectrum.”

***Get more election results and analysis below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the opening of the state's first veterans court in Harnett County at 2 p.m. The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance meets at 10 a.m. in room 544 of the legislative office building. The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association is holding its annual conference in downtown Raleigh.

ELECTION RESULTS --- DOME'S 5 RACES TO WATCH

GREENSBORO -- Another new mayor: From the News & Record -- Councilwoman Nancy Vaughan knocked off Mayor Robbie Perkins in Tuesday’s election, posting a 19 percentage- point margin of victory. The lopsided victory marked the third time in a row that Greensboro voters ushered an incumbent mayor out the door after just one term — something all the more unusual because it didn’t happen at all until 2009. Perkins did it two years ago to Bill Knight. Knight did it to Yvonne Johnson in 2009. Read more here.

CHARLOTTE -- Democrats prove too tough for moderate Republican: Democrat Patrick Cannon, who rose from public housing to successful careers in business and politics, won his “life goal” Tuesday night, defeating Republican Edwin Peacock to become Charlotte’s next mayor.

Riding solid support in east, west and north Charlotte, Cannon won 53.02 percent to 46.78 percent. Countywide turnout was just under 18 percent. Read more here.

Related: A map showing how Cannon won. Democrats take big majority on council.

VIRGINIA GOVERNOR'S RACE -- Closer than expected: From the Washington Post -- Democrat Terry McAuliffe narrowly won the Virginia governor’s race Tuesday, defeating Republican Ken Cuccinelli II by piling up votes in parts of the state hit hard by last month’s federal government shutdown. Read more here.

ALABAMA GOP PRIMARY -- Tea party defeated by big money: From te New York Times -- It took a flood of campaign donations from the business community and the backing of a large part of the Republican establishment, but Bradley Byrne, a lawyer and former state senator, successfully fought off a Tea Party-supported rival on Tuesday to become the Republican candidate for a House special election here in coastal Alabama. Read more here.

OTHER MUNICIPAL RACES: In Sanford, Democrats swept the city's first partisan election and attorney Chas Post won despite nasty attacks from his Republican opponent. Read more here. In Princeville, the indicted mayor and two commissioners were unseated. See results here.

WHAT IT ALL MEANS: AP -- Taken together, the results in individual states and cities yielded no broad judgments on how the American public feels about today's two biggest national political debates — government spending and health care — which are more likely to shape next fall's midterm elections. Even so, Tuesday's voting had local impact, and it mattered in ways big and small. Read more here.

MORE RESULTS ---

AN UPSET IN MORRISVILLE: Mark Stohlman beat incumbent Jackie Holcombe in the mayoral race Tuesday.

“I think people wanted leaders to be focused on local issues particularly transportation and keeping taxes low,” Stohlman said. “(Holcombe) had other issues she was promoting and it was taking away her focus on Morrisville.”

Holcombe has drawn the ire of both the National Rifle Association and Grassroots NC for asking Gander Mountain to stop selling semi-automatic rifles at its local store and for joining the Mayors Against Illegal Guns lobbying group. Read more here.

A CLOSE RACE IN FAYETTEVILLE: The Fayetteville Observer reports that Republican Nat Robertson's edge against Democrat Val Applewhite in Fayetteville is slim --Robertson, a former four-term councilman, received 11,571 votes, or 50.52 percent, according to returns. Applewhite, a city councilwoman since 2007, garnered 11,301 votes, or 49.34 percent. Read more here.

WILL NATIONAL REPUBLICANS TAKE SIDES IN SENATE PRIMARY? The National Republican Senatorial Committee said is prepared to spend money to help its favorite candidate win in a competitive Republican primary. As Roll Call reports, it’s a shift from previous years. It’s unclear if North Carolina is one of the states the NRSC is eying -- a four-way Republican primary here may prove messy.

From the story: While briefing reporters Tuesday morning on the GOP’s path to winning control of the Senate, Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the NRSC will “do what we think gets us to a majority.”

“Would we spend money in primaries? Yes, if that’s the right move at the right time,” Collins said. “There’s no rules — I treat every state differently. The path to getting a general election candidate who can win is the only thing we care about.”

In a cycle where the GOP hopes to win back the Senate majority, the concern is that a flawed candidate could be nominated in an otherwise top pickup opportunity or a preferred candidate could be damaged for the general. Read more here.

PRO-HAGAN BUY IS $400K: The Senate Majority PAC boosting Kay Hagan with television ads in North Carolina is reportedly spending $400,000 on the campaign. It’s a response to the attack ads from Americans for Prosperity hitting the Democratic incumbent on the federal health care law. Read more here.

MORE #NCSEN: All three Republican candidates challenging Hagan are expected to attend a dinner next month in Asheville. The 21st annual Charles Taylor Holiday Dinner is scheduled for Dec. 7. Thom Tillis, Greg Brannon and Mark Harris are expected to speak at the event, whic his considered the largest sit-down political dinner in the state. Read more here.

RICHARD BURR ON ENDA -- crickets ... The Senate voted late Monday to allow debate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Noticeably absent: Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. The measure would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Ahead of the vote, advocates targeted Burr and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman to vote for it. Portman did, along with seven other Republican senators, to help give it a 61-30 edge that will allow debate in coming days.

Burr did not vote, one of eight lawmakers who missed it. His office did not return a message seeking comment about why he missed the vote or how he would have sided if he voted. U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan — along with all Senate Democrats — voted “yea.”

JIM GARDNER ON THE LATE JACK HAWKE'S LEGACY: “I think if you looked at where the Republican Party is today in the state of North Carolina, the architect of that was Jack Hawke,” said former Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner of Rocky Mount. “He had a brilliant mind. He had a vision that North Carolina could be a competitive two-party state. He never wavered from that.

“If you look around today and see a Republican governor and Republican legislature, we can all thank Jack Hawke.”

McCRORY ON THE LOSS OF HIS CLOSE ADVISOR: On Tuesday morning, GOP Gov. Pat McCrory had difficulty talking about Hawke, who was the chief strategist for his two gubernatorial campaigns. It was Hawke who tutored the former Charlotte mayor on state politics. And some think McCrory’s first year in office would have gone smoother if Hawke had not been battling brain cancer.

"He was not just an adviser,” McCrory said. “He was a mentor and a friend. He was like an uncle-father figure for me. He was a man with an extremely positive outlook on life. He had a big impact on my life in the last six years. I am going to miss his laugh, and I am going to miss my arguments with him. We always challenged each other. I loved him a great deal.” Read more here.

NEW DRUG COCKTAIL FOR EXECUTIONS DELAYS CASE: The N.C. Secretary of Public Safety changed the lethal injection protocol for death row inmates weeks before the state Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear legal arguments in a long-standing case.

Prisoners sued the N.C. Department of Correction in 2007, challenging the lethal injection protocol as cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Read more here.

ONCE RELUCTANT, COBLE DONATES HIS SHUTDOWN PAY: From the News & Record -- U.S. Rep. Howard Coble said Tuesday that he will donate the money he made during the recent federal government shutdown to seven area charities. ... He made $5,150.40 during the 16-day shutdown, which ended Oct. 17. He said he will donate $5,200 to charities that he has selected from his 6th Congressional District. Read more here.

McCRORY LOOKS FOR MIDDLE GROUND, SOLUTIONS IN EDUCATION DEBATE: Gov. Pat McCrory launched a teacher advisory group Tuesday that he charged with making recommendations on issues such as teacher pay, testing and technology. At a meeting at the SAS campus in Cary, he asked the group to keep in mind the needs of businesses looking for educated workers.“This is an issue that’s going to determine the future of our state and the future of our jobs,” he said.

McCrory said improving education was “not a Democratic or Republican issue,” but public education has become a flashpoint for McCrory and the Republican legislature. Read more here.

... BUT DEMOCRATS AREN'T BUYING IT: Sen. Martin Nesbitt reacting to McCrory's statement that he needs more time to develop proposals to help teachers: "Meanwhile, Governor McCrory claimed that 10 months wasn’t enough time to improve education. Well, it was enough time for him to eliminate class size requirements, cut teachers’ assistants, permanently reduce teaching positions, kill the teaching fellows scholarship program, abolish the fair dismissal and employment act, divert funding to a misguided vouchers program, and give massive tax breaks to the wealthiest 1% with taxpayer funds that should have provided a cost-of-living increase for teachers.

"Begging the Governor’s pardon, but we’ve seen exactly how much can be done in 10 months – that’s why they’re protesting."

REPORT PREDICTS LOW HEALTH INSURANCE SIGN-UP RATE: About 75 percent of North Carolinians who are eligible for insurance subsidies could end up not enrolling for subsidized health coverage next year, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Kaiser Family Foundation said that about 17 million Americans, including 684,000 North Carolinians, will qualify for federal subsidies on insurance premiums next year.

Kaiser’s estimate is significantly lower than a recent projection by Families USA, a national nonprofit, which said about 869,000 in North Carolina would be eligible for subsidized insurance. Read more here.

APPEALS COURT TO HEAR MERGER CASE: Eleven months after state officials signed off on the utility merger between Duke Energy and Progress Energy, the merits of the $32 billion deal will be revisited Wednesday before the N.C. Court of Appeals.

NC WARN, a Durham advocacy organization, is continuing its opposition to the merger that turned Duke Energy into the nation’s largest electric utility company, even though at this point it’s inconceivable that the deal could be unwound.

Wednesday’s arguments in Raleigh, expected to take about an hour, will be the first of two merger challenges that NC WARN has taken to the appeals court. The other case, several months behind in the queue, has not been scheduled. Read more here.

McINTYRE ON MOST VULNERABLE LIST: From Roll Call -- McIntyre won this district by less than 700 votes last year, defying Republicans — and his previous appearances on this list — yet again. Next year, McIntyre faces a rematch with David Rouzer in this district that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried by 19 points last cycle.

Republicans say that off-year turnout, which normally favors the party not in the White House, will be enough to knock out the longtime Democrat. But McIntyre could get a boost from Sen. Kay Hagan’s re-election effort. In any case, McIntyre is on track for another rough re-election race. Read more here.

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