Morning Memo: Kay Hagan keeps attacks focused on Thom Tillis

Posted by John Frank on March 24, 2014 

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan thinks she knows who will win the Republican primary for U.S. Senate: Thom Tillis.

In an interview Friday with the Associated Press, she said her campaign will continue to focus on the House speaker and try to link him to the conservative backers of Americans for Prosperity, which supported most of the Republican legislative agenda.

The focus on the Koch brothers is nothing new – Democrats have pressed the issue for weeks now. And the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic outside political group, is preparing to reinforce her push with a new TV ad campaign.

But Hagan’s unilateral focus on Tillis – one of eight candidates – is interesting. A telling line from the story: “Hagan said she’d leave it to Republicans to decide her challenger but voluntarily critiqued Tillis at nearly every turn in a wide-ranging interview.”

Obviously Hagan can read a poll; Tillis leads in most of them. But as she attacks Tillis, how much of it helps Greg Brannon, a tea party candidate with views further outside the state’s center of political thought? Democrats would surely salivate for a Hagan-Brannon matchup in November, but it remains unclear if Brannon can bust his 15 percent ceiling in the race.

Either way, Tillis is taking the attacks seriously, knowing they could plant an early narrative for the fall race. His wife, Susan, responded to the latest round in an email to supporters.

“Thom is a man of character who says what he means and does what he says,” she says in a campaign email. “He presided over the most conservative House legislative sessions in North Carolina history, leading efforts to protect human life, defend the Second Amendment, protect the integrity of our voting system, and cut taxes for North Carolina families.

“Don’t let attacks from Kay Hagan and her left-wing cronies distort Thom’s character or his conservative record.” Read more from AP’s Hagan interview here.

*** Get more details about the upcoming TV buy hitting the Koch brothers below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the United Negro College Fund’s annual luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Monday in Charlotte. At 6 p.m., he will attend the Statesville Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.

A legislative panel looking at the fire and rescue workers pension fund will meet at 11 a.m. in room 421 of the legislative office building. At 1 p.m., a House committee examining food desert zones will meet in room 544 LOB.

The State Board of Elections meets at 4 p.m. at the Cary Embassy Suites. It will consider county board requests to shorten early voting times for the May primary among other items.

$1M AD BUY TO BOOST HAGAN: As The New York Times reported Friday, a Democratic super PAC is coming to Kay Hagan’s aid.

The Senate Majority PAC is preparing a $3 million television advertising campaign in five states – spending $1 million in North Carolina alone. The group aligned with Harry Reid to help Democratic Senate candidates started spending to boost Hagan in December, with an initial buy of $750,000.

The Times reported that the TV ads will attack “Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, the libertarian-minded billionaire brothers who support conservative causes and have already poured millions of dollars into the 2014 midterm elections.” Read more here.

MORE #NCSEN –

NATE SILVER SENATE FORECAST FOR N.C.: Dead even at 50-50. The only Senate race in the nation at this mark. Read more here.

MORE TILLIS ATTACKS: The attacks against Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis continued Friday when the GOP lawmaker he defeated in 2006 accused him of “bullying and intimidation” and pledged to file ethics complaints against him. ...

His broadside capped a week-long flurry of attacks on Tillis. Rival Greg Brannon called him “unelectable.” ...

“We are definitely getting into the homestretch and this is what I think everybody has been waiting for,” said Michael Bitzer, a Catawba College political scientist. “We’ve got the mud and we’ve got the gloves off.” Read more here. And read the documents John Rhodes provided to make his point.

ANOTHER MARK HARRIS STORY: Via AP – Harris said in an interview he’s keeping to a disciplined and focused campaign strategy and will have the money to run commercials before the primary. The pastor also shown recently he’s willing to throw verbal punches in the primary, particularly at Tillis for questionable activities and comments he’s made while speaker that Harris’ campaign describes as “character” issues.

Harris said: “If we don’t put up a candidate that is that fresh face, is marked by integrity and character and consistency and courage, then I fear we aren’t giving people the real motivation that they need to get to the polls and to make the change that needs to be made.” Read more here

TOP STORY – TILLIS CONFRONTS QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS RESUME, DOWNPLAYS STORY: A day after questions surfaced about his alma mater, U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis said where he went to college shouldn’t matter and dismissed suggestions he misled voters.

In an interview Friday with The N&O, the House speaker acknowledged his college diploma says “University of Maryland University System,” not the University of Maryland – which he repeatedly cited as his alma mater in interviews, a resume and his campaign websites, dating to 2003.

Even as he makes his background a central part of his campaign, the Republican downplayed the discrepancy, saying he has never campaigned on the source of his college diploma.

“I’ve never listed my education degree as why people should vote for me,” he said. “I think the average person is thinking more about what I’ve accomplished in my professional career and what I’ve accomplished in my career as a legislator.”

THE INTERVIEW: But even during his Friday phone interview, Tillis said numerous times he attended the “University of Maryland.” Tillis explained that “when someone asked a general question ... I may say that,” especially when trying to be brief.

“It’s not a matter of a conscious omission,” he continued. “It’s just a matter of moving on to what they are really asking about.” Read more here.

TILLIS AT HENDERSON COUNTY GOP CONVENTION: “We have got to protect and heal our economy,” he said. “We’ve got to protect and heal our culture. We’ve got to go back to the Judeo-Christian values that made this country great and reassert them in everything we say and do in Washington.” Read more here.

GREG BRANNON: The headline his campaign wants you to read. See it here.

BRANNON ATTACKING TILLIS: “We’re attacking issues,” Brannon said. “Mr. Tillis allowed Common Core. Mr. Tillis said Obamacare is a good idea you can’t pay for.” Read more here.

UPGRADE – Washington Post pundits suggest Hagan race now 6th most likely to change parties, up from No. 8. Read more here.

From Bloomberg story – VOTER ON TILLIS: “When he brought in Karl Rove, that knocked him out of the running for me,” said Ann Hilburn, a retired U.S. customs worker from Wilmington, North Carolina. “Karl Rove is a moderate and he doesn’t like the Tea Party.” Read more here.

#COALASH CORNER –

THE VIEW DOWN RIVER IN VIRGINIA: What happens on one side of the river happens on the other side and downstream. So, as the long-term effects of Duke Energy’s catastrophic coal-ash spill nearly two months ago remain unknown, North Carolina’s neighbors to the north are not in a forgiving mood.

“I’d say most of us are very upset with Duke Energy,” John Gilstrap, the former parks director for the city of Danville, said in an interview this week. “We just don’t understand how this could happen.” ...

TOUGH TALK: On Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe visited Danville’s treatment plant and assured its 18,000 customers the water was safe to drink. But the governor said he expected the utility to fully compensate Virginia for any costs it incurs related to the spill. He said Duke officials have assured him they would do that.

Earlier this month, the head of Virginia’s environmental agency said it would hold Duke accountable for any long-term damage that is found. Read more here.

MORE: The state’s environmental regulatory agency on Friday abandoned attempts to reach a settlement in its lawsuits against Duke Energy and also announced it was calling in its federal counterpart to help force the utility to clean up coal ash pollution. Read more here.

SEN. BURR ON SPILL: “I think this should be taken as a serious event.” Read more here.

#NCPOL –

STATE OVERPAID MEDICAID PROVIDERS: The state department of Health and Human Services overpaid Medicaid health care providers and set up a food stamp approval system that allows county workers to override benefit time limits.

The Medicaid and food stamp issues were among seven problem areas highlighted in a annual state audit released Friday of federally funded DHHS programs for the budget year that ended in June 2013.

The state overpaid Medicaid providers $440,000, of which the federal government paid nearly $290,000. The state has a $13 billion Medicaid program where the federal government pays about two-thirds of the costs. Read more here.

CHRISTENSEN – OBSESITY NEEDS BIPARTISAN EFFORT: If there is one thing Michelle Obama and Aldona Wos can agree on, it is that we have too many obese children.

Obese children usually turn into obese adults, which can lead to heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, stroke, sleep apnea, joint problems, and social and psychological issues – not to mention endless jokes if you should be elected governor of New Jersey and contemplate running for president. Read more here.

QUICK HEADLINES –

Gov. McCrory gets a haircut during main street tour in Morganton. Read more here.

N.C. sees a future for drones. Read more here.

Immigrants march for N.C. driver’s licenses. Read more here.

Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush appear at education forum organized in part by former Gov. Jim Hunt. Read more here.

Rep. Speciale urges “no” vote on constitutional amendment. Read more here.

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