Morning Memo: Does Florida race offer clues to NC Senate contest?

Posted by John Frank on March 12, 2014 

The morning-after spin from a Florida congressional race Tuesday is pointing to possible implications in North Carolina this November.

Democrat Alex Sink – a North Carolina native – lost a close race to Republican David Jolly that many expected her to win in the special election for a Tampa area seat. And so far the headlines are brutal: Victory in Florida Bolsters Midterm Hopes for Republicans ( New York Times), GOP emphasis on Obamacare helps David Jolly win House seat ( Los Angeles Times) and Republican wave in 2014 looking more likely ( National Journal).

Now the time-old interest in drawing national lessons from a single race is fraught with problems. But the campaign tested a number of themes already visible in the North Carolina Senate race.

Like Hagan, Sink raised the most money. Outside Republican groups helped close the gap, as they are likely to do in North Carolina, but Democratic forces still outspent them $5.4 million to $4.5 million. And like Republicans here, the Jolly campaign and outside interests hammered the federal health care law as the top issue. Sink didn’t serve in Congress and didn’t even vote for it; Hagan did.

More bad news for Democrats like Hagan: a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows 48 percent of voters are less likely to vote for a candidate who is a solid supporter of President Barack Obama. Republicans are using this line against Hagan, citing a vote analysis to show she sided with the administration 96 percent of the time, while Hagan is pushing back with a different analysis showing her as the most moderate senator. Both are accurately cited, but who wins this message battle may prove important.

The glimmer of light for Hagan: a Bloomberg News poll showing 69 percent of voters (nationally) support a minimum wage hike to $10.10 an hour, as the president proposed. Hagan is pushing this issue big time; Republican Thom Tillis is solidly against it, even questioning the existence of a minimum wage.

So while one side talks Obamcare, expect the other to talk minimum wage in a campaign that will sound like a marital spat with two sides talking past each other and refusing to look each other in the eye.

*** Get more North Carolina political news and analysis – along with more tributes to the late Sen. Martin Nesbitt – below in the Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a global competitiveness summit at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte at 9 a.m. and a Boy Scouts dinner 8:15 p.m. in Charlotte.

The Revenue Laws Study Committee will continue to look at tax changes at its 10 a.m. meeting in room 544 LOB. The health and human services oversight committee meets at 10 a.m. in room 643 LOB.

REMEMBERING MARTIN NESBITT: Two North Carolina governors and dozens of legislators from both parties joined several hundred mourners Tuesday to pay their last respects to veteran General Assembly member Martin Nesbitt.

Gov. Pat McCrory and former Gov. Beverly Perdue also attended the funeral at a Buncombe County church. Former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker and current Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue delivered eulogies. Read more here.

CHRISTENSEN: Nesbitt stayed true to a history of populism – State Senate leader Martin Nesbitt of Asheville, who was buried Tuesday, represented a particular strain of Tar Heel politics – a strongly independent brand of mountain populism. Read more here.

MOONEYHAM: What does it mean to be a populist? With Nesbitt, the description was like a reflex. I think that is because you know a populist when you see one, even if you are not quite sure what really makes one a populist.

You also know one because it’s a political strain, in today’s world, that stands out, that’s different. Read more here.

TOP STORY – UTILITIES COMMISSION PART OF DUKE ENERGY PROBE: Records from the N.C. Utilities Commission have been subpoenaed as part of a federal grand jury investigation prompted by the Duke Energy ash spill on the Dan River.

The subpoena, issued last month, asks for records related to ash-pond dam inspections formerly reported to the Utilities Commission. It also seeks documents on illicit seeps and discharges from those dikes.

The grand jury will meet in Raleigh for three days next week. U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker’s office has refused to confirm an investigation is underway. Read more here.

PPP Poll: One more note on the Public Policy Polling survey in the U.S. Senate race. The headline is the deadlocked GOP primary. But the potential matchups in November are likewise tight.

Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan's job approval remains 41 percent to 50 percent disapproval, unchanged from a month ago, PPP found.

And against Republicans, she’s essentially tied within the margins with all eight candidates – even those barely mounting a campaign and new to the race, suggesting a hardening of opinions against her re-election.

Hagan is tied 43-43 percent with Greg Brannon and up an inconsequential 2 percent (45 to 43) against Thom Tillis.

The federal health care law received only 40 percent approval with 48 percent against and 12 percent undecided, a slight uptick but within the margins from a month ago. The general election poll of North Carolina voters – has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.7 percent. More numbers here.

ACA UPDATE: New figures on Tuesday show 200,546 people in North Carolina have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and 91 percent have received subsidies.

Among the 30 states that aren’t running their own state websites for insurance signups, North Carolina ranked third in the number of people getting insurance plans, after Texas and Florida.

The Health and Human Services figures show the numbers who have signed up in the first five months, from Oct. 1 to March 1. The deadline for signups is March 31.

EVEN WITH CHIQUITA HQ MOVING IN MERGER DEAL, STATE LIKELY STILL ON HOOK FOR MILLIONS IN INCENTIVES: The state is providing the bulk of Chiquita’s incentive package, which has a total value of about $22 million. The state and local governments promised Chiquita the money to help lure the company away from Cincinnati. The state’s agreement with Chiquita doesn’t appear to include a requirement that the headquarters stay in Charlotte.

The state’s contracts with Chiquita contain conditions that the company must maintain at least 375 jobs here after its third year in Charlotte. Chiquita has about 320 workers in uptown Charlotte, ahead of its hiring requirements, and a company spokesman said Tuesday that any changes to local employment would be minimal.

LOCAL INCENTIVES IN JEOPARDY: To date, the state has paid Chiquita more than $1.5 million, an N.C. Department of Commerce spokeswoman said.

One of the state grants – worth $2.5 million – is contingent upon a local match. That local match could be stopped if the city and county decide Chiquita has violated the agreement and that it’s no longer eligible for grants. Read more here.

STOP THE PRESSES – STRAW POLL RESULTS: These don’t mean much. But nonetheless: Tillis takes GOP straw poll wins at GOP events in Lincoln and Iredell counties.

MARK HARRIS TO GET 22 ENDORSEMENTS: The Duggar family is visiting Raleigh on Friday to boost Charlotte pastor Mark Harris’ U.S. Senate campaign. All the family members – featured on TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” – will endorse Harris, 20 kids and two parents means 22 endorsements, according to the campaign. (The Duggars have 19 children – unless they haven’t had time to update their website – so presumably one of those endorsements is coming from a Duggar grandchild.) Jim Bob Duggar is a former Arkansas state representative and active in conservative politics. The Raleigh rally is planned for 5 p.m. at the Crabtree Marriott.

TONI MORRIS, THE SPOILER IN THE 2nd DISTRICT DEM PRIMARY: Toni Morris, staging her second Congressional campaign, believes Moore County could be pivotal in helping her win a three-way Democratic primary in the 2nd Congressional District this May.

Morris, of Fayetteville, gave Whispering Pines resident Steve Wilkins a close run in the 2012 Democratic primary, coming up short in the end because of Wilkins’ strong showing in his home county. “That was pretty significant,” she said in an interview Monday morning with The Pilot editorial board. “I was leading in the primary until the Moore County vote came in.” Read more here.

CHARLOTTE SCHOOLS WANT DIFFERENT TENURE PLAN: Joining a chorus of concern about the state’s “25 percent law” that phases out teacher tenure, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board voted unanimously Tuesday to ask state legislators for a chance to create its own plan.

Last summer state lawmakers ordered all districts to select 25 percent of qualified teachers to receive four-year contracts and $500-a-year bonuses, part of a move to phase out tenure for all teachers by 2018. Read more here.

RALEIGH, STATE TO BEGIN DIX NEGOTIATIONS: Armed with new appraisals and environmental studies, Raleigh and state officials are restarting negotiations this week on an agreement to turn the 325-acre Dorothea Dix property into a park.

The goal is to craft a new deal to sell or lease the former psychiatric hospital campus to Raleigh, after Republican state legislators tried last year to revoke the lease signed by then-Gov. Bev Perdue in 2012. Gov. Pat McCrory brokered a “standstill agreement” that gave the city and state a year to come up with a new arrangement to replace the lease. Read more here.

QUICK HEADLINES –

UNC Charlotte economists expects NC economy to grow. Read more here.

Climate change links vanish from DENR website. Read more here.

NC wrongly paid for $140,000 in calls from Elizabeth City State University. Read more here.

Protest attracts 200 in Raleigh. Read more here.

Staff writer Renee Schoof contributed to this report.

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