Morning Memo: GOP Senate race starts with deadlock as Tillis slides, poll finds

Posted by John Frank on March 11, 2014 

UPDATED

With the ballot now set, the first poll of the official Republican primary field for U.S. Senate finds a dead heat between Thom Tillis and Greg Brannon.

Both took 14 percent in a March survey from Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh-based Democratic firm.

It’s a downward shift for Tillis, who held a commanding 20 percent in the PPP poll a month ago, and puts him in the morass of an eight-candidate field despite pumping big money into a TV ad campaign.

The plurality of the GOP primary electorate remains undecided, at 36 percent.

Even with a minimal campaign, Heather Grant took third at 11 percent putting her within the margins for the lead. Former Shelby Mayor Ted Alexander and Charlotte pastor Mark Harris took 7 percent ahead of unknown Alex Bradshaw at 6 percent.

When GOP primary voters are asked about the candidates, about three-quarters are unsure what to think about them. The one candidate recognized by at least half of the voters is Tillis, the House speaker. But even then, his favorable ratings are a tick lower than his unfavorable numbers at 24-28.

*** For more on the poll, check Dome later today. In the meantime, get your North Carolina political fix below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory and the Council of State members will meet at 9 a.m. in Raleigh.

State Sen. Martin Nesbitt’s funeral is today outside Asheville. All legislative meetings were canceled to allow lawmakers to attend. The governor also plans to attend.

Activists urging the restoration of the Voting Rights Act will rally at the state Capitol this afternoon. The groups include the state chapter of the NAACP and an Alabama civil rights coalition.

BRANNON SAID A VOTE FOR ROMNEY WOULD ‘ADVANCE TYRANNY’: A year before launching his Republican U.S. Senate campaign, Greg Brannon urged people not to vote for the party’s presidential nominee, saying a vote for Mitt Romney would “advance tyranny.”

Brannon also said Romney and President Barack Obama, a Democrat, “despise the Constitution,” as he minimized the differences between the two major parties.

The comments came in a blog that Brannon co-wrote on the website of Founders’ Truth, a group he helped start.

Brannon, 53, is standing by his statements. “I’m a lifelong Republican who firmly believes that we will continue to lose elections if we don’t nominate candidates who will stand on principle,” he said in a statement. “Moderate Republicans have given us out-of-control spending, unsustainable debt and bigger government. Enough is enough.” Read more here.

RELATED: From The Hill – North Carolina Senate candidate Greg Brannon (R) is hoping to follow in the steps of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) – and wants to make sure everyone knows. Read more here. And watch an edited video of Paul endorsing Brannon from the campaign here.

ENDORSEMENTS: More state legislators endorse Thom Tillis. See announcement here.

DEMOCRATS TRY TO START FRESH: AP –The permanent leader of day-to-day operations at the North Carolina Democratic Party said Monday she’s focused on winning elections and having the party speak for working people despite recent electoral and financial setbacks.

... Gary Pearce, a longtime Democratic consultant who worked with former Gov. Jim Hunt, wrote in a blog posting Monday that Voller’s supporters “pose as great a danger to Democrats as the tea party does to Republicans.” Read more here.

LAWMAKERS GET POINTED QUESTIONS ON COAL ASH SPILL: A community meeting on coal ash stored at Mountain Island Lake turned into a grilling Monday of state legislators over their response to Duke Energy’s spill on the Dan River last month.

The group We Love Mountain Island Lake hosted the panel discussion including environmental advocates, Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins, Gaston County Republican Rep. John Torbett and Mecklenburg Democrat Rep. Rodney Moore. About 75 people attended.

As a line formed to ask questions, most were aimed at the two lawmakers. Their responses grew more pointed as the questions did.

“We’re going to be the General Assembly that fixes this problem after all these years,” Torbett finally said after being pressed on how the legislature would respond to the spill.

... Torbett toured Riverbend last week and said he’s most concerned about draining water from its ponds to make any breach of the dams less likely.

“We’re going to work within the law” as the state investigates the Dan spill, he said. “Duke is a private company that is entitled to due process.” Read more here.

MORE: GOP lawmaker also gets earful on education. Read more here.

PERSONNEL FILE: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ted Alexander has named Jamie Pruitt as his campaign manager. Pruitt officially started in February. He attended Gardner-Webb University and met Alexander, the former Shelby mayor, when he was working at New Wilderness Adventures, a ministry organization. This is Pruitt’s first campaign.

QUICK HEADLINES –

Conservative American Enterprise Institute says Burr’s alternative to the Affordable Care Act falls short. Read more here.

Obama administration abandons Medicare prescription changes. Read more here.

N.C. businesswoman to visit White House, talk health care. Read more here.

Commercial fishing groups intend to sue state, federal agencies. Read more here.

Air Force emphasizes vital role of C-130s amid talks of cuts. Read more here.

Lawyer, NC unemployment agency battle in court. Read more here.

Staff writer Caitlin Owens contributed to this report.

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