Under the Dome

Dome: Readers click and pick the top Dome posts in 2013

jfrank@newsobserver.comDecember 30, 2013 

Gov. Pat McCrory shocks Jamie Sohn of Chapel Hill and other abortion legislation protesters with a plate of chocolate-chip cookies. Incensed, the group put the cookies back at the main gate of his mansion with a sign that read, “Will take women’s health over cookies!”

COURTESY OF IRENE GODINEZ

Looking back at 2013, it’s hard to encapsulate such a watershed year in North Carolina politics. Outside pundits called the state the best political story in the nation, given the shift in state policy and political direction under the guidance of Republican leaders.

Dome chronicled it all – the big stories that drew banner headlines and the behind-the-scenes anecdotes that pulled back the curtain. Here’s a look at the Top 5 Domes from 2013 based on reader clicks, and why they garnered so much attention.

1. “Some North Carolina lawmakers defer pay, Renee Ellmers refuses”

Amid the government shutdown, members of Congress were pledging to return their paychecks, partly to show solidarity with furloughed federal workers and partly for the politics.

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Dunn Republican, refused. “The thing of it is, I need my paycheck. That is the bottom line,” Ellmers told a Raleigh TV station in October. She wasn’t the only one, but her words stuck a chord, and within the day she reversed course.

2. “McCrory wants to revamp higher ed funding, takes aim at UNC-Chapel Hill”

Shortly after taking office, Gov. Pat McCrory’s off-hand remark to a conservative talk radio host about the state’s venerable UNC system drew an outcry. “I think some of the educational elite have taken over our education where we are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs,” McCrory said in January. He continued later, “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine, go to a private school and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”

To critics, the words amounted to an attack on liberal education. And campus communities reacted with vitriol.

3. “House committee OK’s new version of abortion bill”

In a high-drama legislative session, a bill to tighten standards on abortion clinics took the show. Hours after the governor threatened to veto one version, House lawmakers debuted a revamped abortion bill without any advance notice in July as the session neared an end.

The abortion language was attached to a motorcycle safety measure, the juxtaposition of which became a rallying cry for critics. The legislation made national news when the House voted later the same day to approve it and send it to the Senate, which just days before had approved its own version in a bill tacked on to another dealing with Islamic law.

4. “Speaking in Raleigh, Colin Powell blasts North Carolina voting law”

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell came to North Carolina and used a business forum in August to criticize the state’s new voting law. He took the stage after McCrory but didn’t mince words, saying the law makes it “more difficult to vote” and “immediately turns off a voting bloc the Republican Party needs.”

Powell also rebuked others in his party, saying “there is no voter fraud.” His remarks made him the most high-profile Republican to criticize the state’s new election law and added to the debate about its effects.

5. “McCrory gives protesters cookies”

Under fire from critics for supporting an abortion bill, McCrory sought to make peace with the protesters outside the gate of the executive mansion by taking them a plate of cookies. Considered a gaffe by some observers, the gesture came across as condescending to the protesters, who returned them with a note that said, “We want women’s health care, not cookies.”

Staff writer John Frank

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