Morning Memo: Greg Brannon enters the spotlight

Posted by John Frank on November 13, 2013 

Let’s take a look at the Greg Brannon coalition announced so far: Rand Paul and Ann Coulter. And let’s consider the new Public Policy Polling numbers that put Brannon as the only Republican candidate besting Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan right now.

All GOP candidates – including the more prominent challengers, Thom Tillis and Mark Harris – are within the margin of Hagan. But the idea that Brannon may have the “best” chance of beating Hagan is intriguing, especially given the unanswered questions hanging over his plagiarism controversy.

The question is whether his support will last as his views become more well known. In an interview last week, Brannon told Dome that he believed the federal government has only two roles: protect free trade and provide national defense. It should do nothing else; the rest is for the states. His position fits with tea party credo but how it plays with mainstream Republicans and then independents (if he gets to the general election) is unclear. Plenty of questions remain. In a speech, Brannon also suggested a change in the hearts and minds of the American people led to the end of slavery and made no mention of the Civil War. His views are sure to get more attention in coming weeks and the poll numbers may change as a result.

But for now, the Democratic Party sounds downright gleeful that Brannon is getting so much attention, calling him a fringe candidate. “The Republican field has been spoiling for a fight for months, and more and more it looks like they’re going to have one with each other,” said Ben Ray, a Democratic Party spokesman.

*** More North Carolina political analysis and headlines below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: The Environmental Review Commission will meet at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday to consider a host of issues related to fracking, a controversial practice of extracting natural gas from shale rock in the ground. Gov. Pat McCrory will attend two events: the governor’s awards lunch at 11:30 a.m. at the mansion and a Metro Mayors dinner at 5:30 p.m. at the mansion. Both are closed to the media.

OFA’s North Carolina chapter will hold an event at noon to promote the federal health care exchanges it calls Obamacare. The event at the Wake County Health Clinic on Sunnybrook Road in Raleigh is designed to get more people to sign up for health insurance. Later in the day, an advocacy group will look at the topic of redistricting in its push to get political maps drawn by an independent board. The redistricting forum is schedule for 7 p.m. at Martin Street Baptist Church.

The Big Story: KAY HAGAN PUSHES BACK AGAINST HEALTH CARE LAW: U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said Tuesday that she wants federal investigators to examine how contractors who were paid to create the go-to site for the new health insurance law botched it. On the same day, a new poll showed that the North Carolina Democrat’s 2014 re-election race has tightened in recent months and that she has lost her lead over potential Republican challengers.

GOP REACTION: Brook Hougesen, press secretary for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Hagan could have worked to address those concerns before now, “instead of after the system is already failing.” “Now, with her political career on the line, Hagan is feeling fake concern for what she knew all along would be inevitable,” Hougesen said. Read more here.

WASHINGTON POST’S DANA MILBANK: From his column -- Two months ago, polls showed Democrat Kay Hagan leading prospective opponents by double digits in her quest for a second term representing North Carolina in the Senate. So why is she so nervous? Well, her problem begins with Obamacare, ends with Obamacare and has a whole lot of Obamacare in between. Read more here.

PLAGIARISM KEEPS US FROM SEEING WHETHER CANDIDATES CAN THINK ON THEIR OWN : From the Winston-Salem Journal editorial board on Greg Brannon’s admitted plagiarism of his campaign website: “This sounds like an understandable error from a political neophyte, one who probably did not think he had to teach his staff not to plagiarize another politician’s writing. If he keeps the site fixed and does not have a similar occurrence, then the mishap will likely be forgotten.

“But that does not diminish the mistake’s significance or relieve Brannon from a burden created by it. Plagiarism is a serious problem in our society, especially with politicians.

“The public must know where politicians stand, their true beliefs, and that’s hard enough to determine when candidates write their own material. It’s nearly impossible when material is just handed to them by outside powerbrokers or, worse, copied from them. Read more here.

HOUSE CANDIDATES BEGIN TO EMERGE: Two Mecklenburg County Republicans Tuesday announced their candidacies for the N.C. legislature, hoping to succeed leaders of the GOP-controlled House, Jim Morrill reports.

Outgoing Cornelius Mayor Lynette Rinker said she’ll run for the seat held by House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius. Tillis is running for the U.S. Senate. “I’ve always focused on solving problems and delivering results for the people of Cornelius,” she said in a statement. “That’s the same approach I’ll take to Raleigh.”

And former two-term county commissioner Dan Bishop plans to run for the District 104 seat now held by Rep. Ruth Samuelson, who is stepping down. In 2004, Bishop was elected to succeed Samuelson on the board of county commissioners from District 5, which largely overlaps with Samuelson’s district. “I’m known to people in that House district,” he said. “They know who I am. They know me to be conservative. They know me not to be a bomb-thrower, to be an effective advocate.”

AMID COMPLAINTS, HEALTHCARE.GOV SUCCESS STORIES: Only a fraction of the expected number of people have enrolled in health insurance plans through the online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. Estimates are that about 40,000 people signed up during October in the 36 states – including North Carolina and South Carolina – where the federal government is running the website.

In the Charlotte area, insurance agents and specially trained navigators say the website has improved since enrollment started Oct. 1. More people have been able to get through to compare plans and find out about eligibility for premium subsidies. But there are still only spotty reports of people who have actually purchased insurance at Healthcare.gov.

Many people have experienced technical difficulties and encountered higher premiums stemming from the new healthcare law. Still, some people have been pleased with their online experience. Although not representative of the overall rollout, click here to read a few success stories.

IN SCHOOL FUNDING FIGHT, NO WINNERS AND NO LOSERS: From columnist Scott Mooneyham — For everyone involved, maybe their public proclamation should have been, “We didn’t lose! We didn’t lose! We didn’t lose!”

Lawyers and politicians aren’t in the business of providing that kind of lukewarm response, though. They certainly weren’t going to start when the North Carolina Supreme Court issued its latest ruling in the long-running, court-mediated dispute over educational funding in North Carolina known as Leandro. Read more here.

Rolling Stone: HOW REPUBLICANS RIG THE GAME: The magazine takes a look at the Republican Party’s push to control the political maps with a focus on the Republican State Leadership Committee, of which Senate leader Phil Berger is chairman of the affiliated Republican Legislative Campaign Committee. The article from includes all the requisite mentions of North Carolina’s latest upheaval. Read more here.

A STORY PAT MCCRORY IS SURELY WATCHING: Gov. Pat McCrory made his mark on Charlotte in the public transit arena. Now his adopted home city of Raleigh is considering its own light rail plan. Read more here.

POLITICAL CARTOONS: North Carolina politics is giving the Charlotte Observer’s editorial cartoonist Kevin Siers plenty to work with. First Pat McCrory. And now Kay Hagan.

WATERGATE INVESTIGATOR TO SPEAK IN RALEIGH: AP -- The lead investigator on the team that discovered the taping system inside President Richard Nixon's White House is discussing his experience working with the Senate committee that looked into the administration.

Eugene Boyce will talk Wednesday at a brown bag lunch at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. He'll talk about his experiences as assistant chief counsel of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. Boyce worked closely with Sen. Sam Ervin during the televised hearings about crimes committed during the 1972 presidential campaign.

The museum also is hosting an exhibit titled "Watergate: Political Scandal & the Presidency." The exhibit runs through Aug. 10, 2014, one day after the 40th anniversary of Nixon's resignation. Visitors should bring their own lunch; the museum will provide beverages. Admission is free.

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