Morning Memo: NC’s political eyes look to Coble

Posted by John Frank on November 7, 2013 

What will Howard Coble do? That’s the big question in North Carolina politics today. The 82-year-old, 15-term congressman has scheduled a press conference at 1:30 p.m. in Greensboro to announce his future plans.

The News & Record: “Let the speculation begin.” So said U.S. Rep. Howard Coble’s chief of staff in announcing a press conference where Coble will disclose “his future political plans.” “You know it’s one of two things,” longtime Coble aide Ed McDonald said Wednesday. “It’s run or leave.” ( Story here.)

If it’s leave, Republicans already are lined up to replace him, most notably Phil Berger Jr., the son of the state Senate president pro tem and a Rockingham County District Attorney. And either way, Democrat Laura Fjeld is poised to make a challenge in a district that leans GOP. What she needs most is a contested Republican primary to boost her chances. Check Dome later for updates.

*** More North Carolina politics and big question for Republicans in Charlotte, all below in the Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a World War II veterans send-off event at 7:30 a.m. in Dunn before traveling to Asheville for Billy Graham’s 95th birthday party at 6 p.m. at the Grove Park Inn.

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee of Information Technology meets at 9 a.m. in room 544 of the legislative office building and the Joint Legislative committee on economic development meet at 10 a.m. in room 643.

THE LEDE STORY – A1 Charlotte Observer – Can Republicans ever win the Charlotte mayor’s race again?: For more than 20 years, Charlotte Republicans held the key to the mayor’s office. Now the question is: Will they ever find it again?

Democrat Patrick Cannon’s victory over Republican Edwin Peacock Tuesday continued a trend of Democratic dominance. For the second time in four years, a Democrat beat a well-financed Republican for an open mayoral seat. And for the second straight election, Democrats swept the City Council’s at-large seats on their way to a 9-2 majority.

“The challenge for Republicans in local elections … will be persuading quality candidates to run,” said Eric Heberlig, a political scientist at UNC Charlotte. “(Peacock) was kind of the candidate from central casting. A lot of Republicans would say if he can’t win, how can I?” Read more here.

WELL, I’LL BE DARNED – Mayor’s race ends in a tie: The election for Siler City mayor ended in a tie Tuesday night, and the outcome may hinge on five ballots that have yet to be counted.

John Grimes and Thomas “Chip” Price III each got 288 votes Tuesday. On Friday at 4 p.m., the Chatham County Board of Elections will meet and open the five remaining ballots – three provisional and two late absentee ballots.

The board will publicly certify the election at the Pittsboro office on Tuesday. If the tie remains, the Board of Elections will draw names to determine the new mayor, said Dawn Stumpf, the elections director. Read more here.

DOT ALERT WARNS OF OBAMACARE: And a contractor loses job. Read more here.

N.C. MEDICAL EXAMINER’S OFFICIAL UNDER INVESTIGATION: The State Bureau of Investigation is probing allegations that a top official with the N.C. medical examiner’s office mishandled evidence important to a 2011 homicide investigation.

The review has focused on allegations against Dr. Clay Nichols, the state’s Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, according to state Justice Department spokesperson Noelle Talley. Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said he expects to make a decision about whether to file criminal charges soon.

The SBI investigation is focused on Nichols’ autopsy of Terrell Boykin, a 19-year-old Cumberland County man who was shot to death in 2011. Authorities have yet to charge anyone in Boykin’s death. Read more here.

DEMOCRATS HIT HARRIS ON THE FARM BILL: Citing a N.C. Tea Party TV interview posted to YouTube, the N.C. Democratic Party is highlighting Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Harris’ “hesitation” to support the farm bill. Watch the interview here.

MEANWHILE, Republicans say the landscape for Hagan doesn’t look good: In a memo set for release Thursday, the N.C. Republican Party will argue that a year out from the U.S. Senate election, Democrat Kay Hagan is on shaky ground. It says Tuesday’s results – a GOP win in Fayetteville and what it calls a closer-than-expected loss in Charlotte – only prove the point.

KAY HAGAN, SENATE DEMOCRATS MEET WITH OBAMA: Senators from President Barack Obama’s own party pressed him in person on Wednesday to extend the enrollment deadline for Americans to sign up for health insurance because of the malfunctioning website.

Obama invited Senate Democrats facing re-election next year to the White House to discuss the problem-plagued health care rollout that could affect their races. The White House confirmed Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with 16 senators to describe fixes that are being made to the website. Read more here.

NEWS YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW: The British are still obsessed with John Edwards’ dating life. Read more here.

CONTRACT FOR NEW DRIVER’S LICENSE TANKS: North Carolina is poised to cancel a contract with a company that promised three years ago to create high-tech driver's licenses but officials have said failed to deliver.

The Division of Motor Vehicles wrote a termination letter in September to MorphoTrak, which was awarded in 2010 the job to develop and manage the state’s Next Generation Secure License program, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Read more here.

SOUNDING THE SPENDING ALARM: The John Locke Foundation, a limited government think-tank, issued a new report that shows state spending increasing. The key findings: North Carolina’s total state budget peaked in 2012, reaching more than $51 billion or $5,348 per capita; general fund spending has decreased since 2009, but total state spending has increased. The shift of spending outside of the General Fund has created a lack of transparency in the state budget process; federal spending continues to be a major part of North Carolina’s total budget spending, totaling 45 percent of total expenditures in 2012; Health and Human Services is the largest state agency expenditure in North Carolina’s budget and has grown over 260 percent since 1980; during the Easley administration, Health and Human Services became the largest expenditure in total state government. Since 2005, the HHS budget has been consistently higher than education appropriations. Read the report here.

MORE ON CROSSROADS CAMPAIGN: From the Washington Post – American Crossroads, the biggest-spending super PAC of 2012, made its first significant foray into the 2014 midterms Wednesday with three web videos attacking vulnerable incumbent Senate Democrats for their defense of President Obama’s signature health insurance overhaul. Read more here.

RALEIGH MAYOR GETS NEW DIGS: A $2.1 million house from a well-known seller. Read more here.

PERSONNEL FILE: The N.C. House Republican Caucus announced it hired a new political director. Josh Thomas, 32, starts the job on Dec. 1. He comes from Tennessee, where he worked as the House GOP caucus campaign director in 2010, helping the party gain 14 seats. He then joined Hall Strategies, a lobbying and political firm. His other political experience includes serving as a staff member to Tennessee’s U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and a deputy political director for Bob Corker’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2006. He currently works as an assistant in the state comptroller’s office in Tennessee. Thomas replaces Matt Bales, who left earlier this year to become research director at the NC FreeEnterprise Foundation.

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