Morning Memo: Greg Brannon joins race, but is he a viable candidate?

Posted by John Frank on February 20, 2014 

Amid questions about his viability, Republican Greg Brannon filed the official papers Wednesday to join a crowded primary for U.S. Senate.

It came a day after a jury verdict questioned his integrity and financial management and put a dent in his political prospects.

“I think its a pretty tough blow for Brannon,” said Carter Wrenn, a prominent Republican consultant. “He’s been trying to get a little traction and trying to become the credible alternative to (Thom) Tillis and this sort of knocks his knees out from under him.”

In conversations with more than a dozen North Carolina political analysts and operatives, the consensus questioned Brannon’s decision to even file, saying it could hurt his chances and possibly the Republican Party’s bid to unseat Democrat Kay Hagan.

“Two words: It’s fatal,” said Democratic consultant Gary Pearce. “A jury found him guilty of misleading investors. How can he convince voters to trust him? The negative ad writes itself.”

The winner from the ordeal, analysts say, is Tillis – the front-runner and House speaker. The other tea party-themed candidates don’t seem able to capitalize on Brannon’s setback.

If the other candidate can’t undercut Brannon, another school of thought suggests the first-time candidate can overcome his early campaign troubles, whether the jury verdict, his website plagiarism or his unpaid tax bill.

“Brannon potentially represents the best voice for the tea party versus the Republican establishment. Insofar as he keeps representing that voice/niche with support from people like Rand Paul, I suspect he will remain quite viable in the Republican primaries,” said N.C. State political science professor Steven Greene. “For Republican voters who believe strongly in the tea party, I don’t see them abandoning Brannon for Tillis. The question would be is whether any of the other candidates could make a strong play for the tea party vote.”

*** Read all the big stories in North Carolina politics below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will host a World War II Legion of Honor ceremony at the old state capitol at 1:30 p.m.

A legislative committee looking at Common Core will meet at 10 a.m. in room 643 LOB and another panel looking at the state’s justice system gathers at 1 p.m. in room 544 LOB.

Sen. Richard Burr is visiting the Triangle on Thursday, first the Centennial Campus in Raleigh at 11 a.m. before speaking to the Crabtree Rotary Club at 12:30 p.m. In the afternoon, Burr will visit Earl Energy in Durham.

THE BIG STORY: It’s not politics. It’s North Carolina verse Dook. Read about it here.

THE REAL TOP STORY: AMID SUBPOENAS, McCRORY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDS ITS ENVIRONMENTAL RECORD -- While criticism from environmental advocates and a widening federal criminal investigation swirled around him, N.C. Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla on Wednesday defended how his agency has handled the threat of pollution from coal ash at Duke Energy power plants around the state.

Even as Skvarla spoke at the department’s headquarters in Raleigh, his staff was busy complying with a new round of subpoenas they received Tuesday and disclosed Wednesday demanding 18 current and former employees appear before a federal grand jury in Raleigh next month. Those subpoenaed are required to bring any records they have of payments or items of value they might have made or received from Duke Energy or its predecessor company, Progress Energy or Carolina Power & Light.

MORE RECORDS REQUESTED: The subpoenas also order the department to produce the personnel files of those employees, most of whom have jobs related to the regulation and oversight of water quality. The subpoenas also order the department to produce the personnel files of those employees, most of whom have jobs related to the regulation and oversight of water quality.

The personnel file of Tom Reeder, director of the Division of Water Resources, has also been subpoenaed, along with that of Amy Adams, a former DENR employee who is the state campaign coordinator for Appalachian Voices, a conservation group based in Boone. Neither Reeder nor Adams have been subpoenaed.

Skvarla has not been subpoenaed, according to the department. Adams, who worked at DENR from 2004 to 2013, most recently as regional supervisor for the Washington, N.C. office, issued a statement. Read more here.

2014 ELECTION -- IMMIGRATION ISSUE HAUNTS N.C. DELEGATION: Two stories in this morning’s newspaper highlight how illegal immigration is becoming a tough issue for North Carolina’s congressional delegation.

First from Charlotte: The head of a Raleigh-based immigration group Wednesday accused U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger of supporting “amnesty,” and said he’s looking for a candidate to challenge the Charlotte Republican.

William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, said he’s added Pittenger to the list of 36 Republican congressmen his group opposes. “ALIPAC is alerting the entire nation that … Pittenger has been exposed as one of the GOP members of Congress who is working behind the scenes with (House Speaker) John Boehner and (President) Barack Obama to pass ‘immigration reform’ amnesty for illegal immigrants,” Gheen said in a statement.

Pittenger spokesman Jamie Bowers said the Republican opposes amnesty. Read more here.

ELLMERS, TOO: Closer to Raleigh, Renee Ellmers is also facing a challenger who is making illegal immigration a top issue. But Ellmers is not backing down. In fact, she’s going all in:

Facing criticism within her own party, U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers on Wednesday doubled down on her push to give legal status to millions of immigrants living illegally in the country.

The Dunn Republican is making immigration overhaul a top priority even as it becomes a flashpoint in her re-election campaign and the prospect of a deal appears to fade on Capitol Hill. “If I can do anything in Washington, I’d like to solve this problem,” the second-term lawmaker told a forum of immigration advocates in Cary.

Ellmers offered a broad outline of a plan that puts the emphasis foremost on securing the nation’s borders, while also including legal status short of citizenship for the roughly 11 million people living in the United States illegally.

HEARING IT FROM BOTH SIDES: Immigrant advocates aren’t entirely sold on Ellmers’ plan: “It’s a good first step,” said John Herrera, the senior vice president for Latino affairs at Self Help, a Durham nonprofit. “There might be some folks that it works for them.

“But for others,” he continued, “it’s really hard to think that you cannot establish a life in this country and become an American. We want to be citizens.” Read more here.

THE TALKER ---

FIRED WORKER SAYS HOMOPHOBIA A FACTOR IN McCRORY INCIDENT: “I don’t know what he was thinking, but I’ll tell you from man to man: He was hating on me for being a fag,” Swope said. Read more here.

MORE FROM BARRY SAUNDERS: Now, that’s what you call “job creation.” Walk past Reid’s Fine Foods on Selwyn Avenue in Charlotte and you may see in the window a “Help Wanted” sign that wasn’t there before Gov. Pat McCrory and members of his staff swooped in this week.

Drew Swope, a cook at Reid’s, was canned after confronting the governor on Sunday and letting him know what he thought of the job he was doing. Read more here.

RELATED: From the Charlotte Observer editorial board -- The governor had a run-in with a cook at Reid’s Fine Foods grocery store. He could have come off as magnanimous. Instead, he reinforced his image as thin-skinned. He complained to the store owner and the employee was fired within the hour. Read more here.

QUICK HEADLINES ---

Officials dispute McCrory administration rationale for public records fees. Read more here.

Kay Hagan is not the only target on AFP hit list. Read more here.

State regulators question insurance rate hike request. Read more here.

Remembering former U.S. ambassador Jack Perry of Charlotte. Read more here.

Lawmakers consider capping public records fees. Read more here.

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