Three GOP candidates for Senate courted tea party conservatives Thursday night. Here’s the report from AP: Three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate spoke Thursday night to convince conservative voters that they’re best to challenge Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in November, saying they’ll fight to repeal the health care overhaul law and reduce the federal government’s role in daily life.
Cary obstetrician Dr. Greg Brannon, the Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte and Army veteran Heather Grant of Wilkes County participated in a forum along Lake Norman, not far away from the home of state House Speaker Thom Tillis, another candidate who didn’t attend. Both Tillis and Hagan were barely mentioned during the forum by the participants, although an empty chair affixed with Tillis’ name sat alongside the in-person candidates.
*** The forum elicited much more about how one candidate wants to phase out Social Security and others who want to impeach President Barack Obama. Read more below in the Dome Morning Memo.***
TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the N.C. Technology Association’s annual meeting at 11:30 a.m. in Charlotte.
Other meetings listed for Friday: the Golden LEAF Foundation holds its annual planning meeting at 8:30 a.m. in Morrisville and the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission meets at 9 a.m. in Raleigh.
Greg Brannon, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, is opening a campaign office at 7 p.m. in rival Thom Tillis’ hometown Friday. The Cornelius office is his seventh campaign outpost.
BRANNON WANTS TO PHASE OUT SOCIAL SECURITY: Brannon told listeners if he had his way he would phase out Social Security over time and privatize it or let states offer retirement plans.
Grant said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished and responsibilities left to state and local governments, who know their region’s needs the best. Read more here.
MORE FROM CHARLOTTE OBSERVER --- GOP CANDIDATES WANT TO IMPEACH OBAMA: Grant, a Wilkesboro nurse, acknowledged that there aren’t enough votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate to convict the president if he were impeached by the House. “By God in 2014 I’m hoping we’re going to have enough,” she said. Republicans must win six seats to take the Senate.
Harris, pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, said he’s surprised the House hasn’t begun impeachment proceedings.
BRANNON HITS TILLIS: Brannon said he has raised “close to $600,000” in the race. Reports are due Friday, but that would put him closest of all the candidates to Tillis, whose campaign has said he has raised $1.7 million.
At one point, Brannon noted Tillis’ absence. “Mr. Tillis should be here,” he said. “He’s interviewing for a job. He should be here answering these questions.” Read more here.
BERGER JR. FACING HEAT FOR TWEET: A gay-rights organization is hoping to get some traction out of congressional candidate Phil Berger Jr.’s tweet earlier this week.
Berger may or may not be a big fan of the Grammy Awards. But the Republican politician wasn’t too happy to learn that more than 30 gay and straight couples were married on the TV show on Sunday.
Berger, who is the Rockingham County district attorney and candidate to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Howard Coble in the 6th Congressional District, asked his followers to re-tweet: “Tonight California is showing us their values. RT if you want our NC values in Congress.”
He included an icon with the caption “Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman.”
On Thursday, Equality N.C. sent out a call for money because “We are under attack.” Executive Director Chris Sgro said Berger, “has chosen to lash out at the loving, gay and lesbian couples who married at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards with a host of despicable tweets and images singing the praises of marriage inequality.”
Sgro asked for small contributions to raise $5,000 by midnight Friday in response.
ROCHE ANNOUNCES ENDORSEMENT: Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers’ GOP rival is using immigration as a cornerstone in his race. Frank Roche is now touting an endorsement from Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, a North Carolina-based political action committee focused on immigration. It comes after Ellmers backed efforts for a path to citizenship for a immigrants who are in the country illegally. In a statement, William Gheen, the ALIPAC president, said, “Frank will support America’s existing borders and immigration laws instead of destroying them as Renee Ellmers would do.”
KEN SPAULDING SAYS HE RAISED $100,000: As Attorney General Roy Cooper launches his 2016 campaign for governor, his Democratic rival is trumpeting his campaign fundraising. Durham attorney Ken Spaulding announced Thursday his campaign raised more than $100,000 through the end of the year. He launched his candidacy in August.
THE BIG STORY -- McCRORY CONTINUES PUSH FOR AUTOMAKER: From the News & Record: Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday night that he is working with Greensboro leaders to create megasites in the region that might attract an automotive manufacturer.
“We’re going to be working ... to recruit automotive manufacturing to North Carolina, which is nonexistent,” McCrory told about 750 people gathered for the Greensboro Partnership’s annual dinner.
He said most other states in the Southeast have auto makers and it’s time that North Carolina recruited one. But he stopped short of saying what North Carolina’s financial commitment might be to such an effort. Read more here.
FROM WASHINGTON: Hundreds of thousands of homeowners in coastal and flood-prone areas would win protection from sharply higher federal flood insurance premiums under legislation muscled through the Senate on Thursday after angry constituents inundated Capitol Hill with complaints.
The 67-32 vote reflects widespread alarm about changes enacted two years ago to shore up the program’s finances. In many cases the changes produced unexpected, sky-high insurance rates that are unaffordable for many homeowners in flood-prone areas whose insurance has historically been subsidized by the government and other policyholders.
“Something is just terribly wrong when homeowners are more worried about raging flood premiums than they are about raging floods,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Richard Burr voted yes. Read more here.
The Policy Corner -- THE QUESTION FACING DIGITAL TEXTBOOKS: Wake County’s 35,000 middle school students will log into Discovery Education’s Science techbook, an online site that includes a variety of interactive resources. Wake’s first big plunge into digital textbooks, or “techbooks,” points both to the opportunities that the new technology provides and the equity challenges for low-income families who don’t have Internet access at home
“Science is just the first step,” Wake County school board vice chairman Tom Benton said when the board approved the $875,000 digital textbook contract last week. “This is the direction that we’re moving in as a society, I believe, and to me it’s an exciting direction if we can get over the hurdle of equity.” Read more here.
STATE SCRAMBLES AHEAD OF FOOD STAMP DEADLINE: With the clock ticking to get through thousands of overdue food stamp applications before a federal deadline, county workers are putting in overtime, and the state has deployed more staff.
State information released Thursday – about a week after the most recent federal warning – shows that the pile of overdue applications was cut nearly in half in seven days, to about 10,000. About of third of those overdue applications are in Wake County, which has a longer waiting list than any other county, one that’s nearly three times longer than No. 2 Cumberland.
Wake leaders vowed Thursday to eliminate the backlog by Feb. 7, with the help of 17 state staffers who are working alongside 110 county workers and 38 temporary employees. Read more here.
RELATED: LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANTS RECRUITED TO HELP DHHS BACKLOG: From the Camel City Dispatch -- In an email sent out to legislative assistants on Thursday, Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam (R-NC37) has asked the same to volunteer to help the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services complete the work that must be done regarding pending applications and re-certifications for FNS benefits in order to meet a USDA deadline. Read more here.
MACON INVESTIGATION FOCUSES ON CHECKS, NOT VOTES: From the Citizen-Times -- The Macon County elections office director is the focus of an investigation into $50,000 in forged checks meant for vendors. Kimberly Bishop is on paid leave while the State Bureau of Investigation completes its probe into the missing money.
The office was closed for about a week during the investigation but it has since reopened. The SBI believes checks made out to four people were sometimes forged with the signatures of county Board of Elections officials. Checks from the agency require two signatures. Read more here.
QUICK HITS ---
Ted Alexander touts crime crackdown in Senate race. Read more here.
Thad Woodard, the longtime chief executive of the North Carolina Bankers Association, will retire. Read more here.
N&O op-ed -- 12-year-old asks: Why do 6 out of 10 NC voters see my two-mom family as wrong? Read more here.
Staff writer Craig Jarvis contributed to this report.