Under the Dome

November 5, 2013

Morning Memo: Jack Hawke dies; pro-Hagan ads hit TV

Jack Hawke, the veteran political strategist who helped build the modern North Carolina Republican Party, died Monday night after an extended illness. Hawke, who was 72, was the leading architect of the campaign for GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, and for previous Republican governor Jim Martin, as well.

Jack Hawke, the veteran political strategist who helped build the modern North Carolina Republican Party, died Monday night after an extended illness. Hawke, who was 72, was the leading architect of the campaign for GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, and for previous Republican governor Jim Martin, as well. He also played an important role in countless other Republican campaigns. He was particularly close to former Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner, a three-time candidate for governor.

A cheerful political warrior who loved the game, Hawke was state Republican Party chairman from 1987-95, which was believed to make him the longest serving chairman in state history. “The North Carolina Republican Party extends our deepest condolences to Jack’s family and the many friends he made throughout his life,” party chairman Claude Pope said in a statement. “Jack’s tremendous devotion to North Carolina, his sheer political brilliance, and his legendary sense of humor will be sorely missed.”

Hawke also ran for Congress in 1968, losing a close race. More recently, he served as president of the Civitas Institute, a conservative advocacy group in Raleigh.

McCrory called Hawke “a trusted mentor, friend and father figure.”

***Kay Hagan is the subject of dueling campaign ads hitting Tuesday. And get a Election Day 2013 guide below in today’s Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLITICS: The Council of State will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Gov. Pat McCrory will convene his teacher advisory council at 1 p.m., a day after teachers across North Carolina protested the state legislature's education policies.

TAX POLL – THE KEY NUMBER: Americans for Prosperity released a poll Monday showing what the group said was support for the legislation approved by Republicans in the 2013 session. But the key number may lie deeper in the poll. Among those who know at least something about the tax bill, 47 percent are opposed to the changes compared to 42 percent who support. The margin of error is 3 percent.

HAGAN IS FOCUS OF NEW AD CAMPAIGNS: A political action committee supporting Democrat Kay Hagan’s re-election bid, is fighting back against a recent conservative attack ad. According to Politico, the Senate Majority PAC is airing a new TV ad titled, “False.” It labels Hagan as an “independent senator” who puts “families ahead of partisan attacks.” Watch it here.

But at the same time, the Karl Rove-affiliated American Crossroads is pushing the opposite message in an online ad campaign that hits three U.S. Senate incumbents, Politico reports.

The spot focuses on President Barack Obama’s broken pledge that Americans can keep their current insurance policies under the new federal law. It says “Obama lied” and “Hagan lied.” It ends with a photo of Hagan and Obama embracing. Watch it here.

Rove is supporting Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis’ bid and Tillis has reached out to Crossroads for support. Read more on the ads later on Dome.

WHAT TO WATCH ON ELECTION DAY 2013: It’s Election Day! And despite being an off year, plenty of races on the ballot will tell important stories. Municipal races in the state are being closely watched and at the national level, a handful of races may hold tea leaves for North Carolina.

Here’s a breakdown of 5 races to watch:

CHARLOTTE MAYOR’S RACE: Can a moderate Republican win in a Democratic-leaning city? Republican Edwin Peacock III faces an uphill battle against Democrat Patrick Cannon but he’s treading a familiar campaign. Like Pat McCrory, Peacock is running as a moderate and he surrounded himself with McCrory allies who helped boost the former mayor to the governor’s office in 2012. If Peacock can pull off the upset, it may hold larger lessons about the brand of Republican that works in North Carolina. Republicans and Democratic state parties also are playing in the campaign. The N.C. GOP is also putting an emphasis on reaching out to black voters, as part of a trial run for the state’s all-important Senate race in 2014. RELATED: A look at early voting in the mayor’s race. Read it here.

GREENSBORO MAYOR’S RACE: Though officially nonpartisan, Mayor Robbie Perkins, a Republican, faces a strong challenge from Nancy Vaughan. Vaughan, a Democrat, is the wife of former state Sen. Don Vaughan. Perkins is plagued by stories about his personal finances and Democrats at the state level are hoping for the win.

VIRGINIA GOVERNOR’S RACE: Gov. Pat McCrory and North Carolina conservative activists traveled north of the state line to help boost Ken Cuccinellii’s campaign. But polls suggest the Republican is headed for defeat against Democrat Terry McAuliffe. If so, McCrory’s record will start 0-1 for helping other governors get elected and the Republican Governors Association will suffer a blow after electing its candidate in North Carolina a year earlier.

Expect others to try to spin the win, too. Politico reports that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will attempt to draw connections between Cuccinelli and the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in North Carolina.

ALABAMA GOP PRIMARY RUN-OFF: This race is serving as a national proxy for a tea party vs. establishment GOP battle – one visible in North Carolina, too. In Alabama’s 1st Congressional District in the Mobile area tea party activist Dean Young is mounting an insurgent campaign against the well-funded Bradley Byrne, a former state senator who D.C. Republicans and business groups are trying to elect. The mood of GOP voters in this race – the first all-Republican test after the divisive shutdown – may hold lessons for other GOP primaries in 2014.

OTHER MUNICPAL RACES: The big ticket races get much of the attention but the low-level council races in small towns can prove the most intriguing. In Princeville, the historic town in eastern North Carolina, voters are picking a mayor and two commissioners. Mayor, Priscella Everette-Oates, was recently indicted after state investigators determined that she abused her taxpayer-funded credit card. She faces three challengers. Who wins the race and two commission seats will help decide whether the town will regain its autonomy after the state took control of its finances more than a year ago.

The Sanford City Council race is a doozie. Lawyer Chas Post is a candidate for an at-large seat but the Lee County Republican Party is tearing him down with advertisements that highlight his representation of a man who struck and killed a 12-year-old child boarding a school bus. The GOP mailer’s tagline: “Chas Post – great for alleged criminals! Not good for Sanford City Council.” Not all agree with the tactic and it will be interesting to see how voters react.

TEACHER PROTESTS ACROSS STATE GET BIG ATTENTION: North Carolina’s public schools became the latest battleground in the fight over public education Monday as teachers rallied across the state to protest actions of the General Assembly.

At events held at schools, educators charged that decisions such as not giving a teacher pay raise and ending tenure are making them less likely to stay in the profession. Some Republican leaders voiced sympathy while others charged the walk-ins were a media stunt.

“We need to be heard,” said Tamiko Williams, a sixth-grade teacher at West Lake Middle School near Apex. “We know what’s best for the kids. We’re the ones in the trenches.”

Williams was among 130 teachers, parents, students and community members who wore red and marched Monday afternoon to a town hall meeting at West Lake Middle School. Similar teacher walk-in events were held before and after classes at several schools in Wake, Durham, Guilford, Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties.

McCRORY SAYS TEACHERS HAVE ‘LEGITIMATE GRIPES’: In an interview Monday, Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, said teachers have “legitimate gripes,” but added that he didn’t know enough about the protest to say whether it was an appropriate tactic.

McCrory, who earned an education degree from Catawba College, formed a teacher advisory council Monday that is scheduled to meet Tuesday. “We need to come up with some legitimate and long-term solutions to a very difficult problem, which has been around a lot longer than my term in office,” he said.

Declining to provide specifics, McCrory promised new education proposals to support students and teachers soon. He said his administration is looking at teacher salaries and performance pay, but didn’t mention adjustments to per-pupil spending. Read more here.

DEEP DIVE ON HEALTH CARE LAW – Navigators keep pushing federal health insurance program amid computer glitches: Despite the high-tech debacle associated with the health law’s website, navigators plod on. In the Triangle alone, they have distributed hundreds of paper applications and processed scores of them for people eager to get the application process underway. Most will remain in limbo until the website is fixed and enrollments can go through.

These nonprofit volunteers, part-timers, legal assistants and social workers have unexpectedly seen themselves recast from a supporting to a starring role in the controversial federal health program, taking over duties for a malfunctioning insurance website that had been designed for the public to use without assistance.

To keep the public momentum going on subsidized insurance, navigators have come up with creative workarounds – patching together a combination of paper forms, federal phone banks and insurance company web sites – to keep the uninsured on track with the nation’s new insurance mandate.

With the federal website expected to be down for at least several weeks, the public is dependent on alternative sources of information about the insurance mandate: navigators, insurance agents, counselors and the government’s phone-in customer service reps, as well as a growing list of online resources. Read more here.

McCRORY MANSION RENOVATIONS – AP reports that the governor added bullet-proof windows and outdoor fire pits: The administration of Gov. Pat McCrory has spent $167,000 on renovations and repairs at the NC Executive Mansion, including the additions of bullet-resistant windows, gas fireplace logs and outdoor fire pits.

The Associated Press reviewed public records of 2013 spending at the historic Raleigh manor after the Republican governor was forced to scuttle plans last month for $230,000 in bathroom remodeling following public outcry.

Department of Administration spokesman Chris Mears said he could not discuss whether a specific threat prompted the March addition of laminated ballistic glass to windows on the mansion’s lower floors, citing concern about disclosing precautions taken to ensure the governor’s safety. “Terrorism is a real and active threat,” Mears said.

A notation in documents obtained through a public records request indicate that the old windows were “not operable” and presented “a safety hazard to (the) first family, employees and guests.” The windows and repairs to woodwork on the mansion’s balconies cost at least $72,000, according to records. ...

In addition to the windows, public records show about $43,000 in taxpayer money was spent this year to convert the mansion’s fireplaces to use gas logs and add an outdoor fire pit. A second fire pit valued at $500 was provided by a private donor, Mears said. The administration has refused repeated requests to disclose the donor’s identity. Read more here.

NC FALLS FROM ATOP BUSINESS CLIMATE LISTING FOR FIRST TIME IN 13 YEARS: From the Winston-Salem Journal – North Carolina’s hold has loosened – at least for now – on having the nation’s top business climate. Site Selection magazine said Monday that Georgia moved in front of North Carolina in its 2013 rankings. The magazine has ranked North Carolina No. 1 for 10 of the last 13 years.

North Carolina was ranked third among site selectors, trailing Texas and South Carolina. The state was second in that category in 2012. Read more here.

DHHS BACK IN THE NEWS – State agency will have 24 staffers in communications unit: From the Winston-Salem Journal: The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is expanding its internal communications group, including establishing a sub-unit of three employees dedicated to its Medicaid privatization effort.

An internal memo sent Oct. 24 by communications Director Ricky Diaz listed its staff at 24, including six vacancies that are expected to be filled.

The expansion was first reported Friday by N.C. Policy Watch, a left-leaning advocacy group that made a public-records request for the memo.

There has been no formal announcement of the changes. When contacted Monday, Diaz declined to answer questions about the cost of the salaries to fill the six vacant jobs and the communications office’s overall payroll. Read more here.

DEMOCRATS DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM HEALTH CARE LAW: From Politico – Democrats are clearly anxious to see the issue resolved because their most at-risk senators in 2014 voted for the measure on Christmas Eve 2009. Those Democrats – Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan – all have defended the law in the face of GOP attacks. But their frustration with the White House is showing, whether it’s Pryor and Hagan backing an extension of Obamacare’s enrollment period, Landrieu proposing legislation to ensure insurance policyholders won’t lose their existing coverage or Begich voicing his fury with the White House. Read more here.

CHILD SAFETY ADVOCATES CONCERNED: AP – North Carolina child safety advocates are worried about a recent increase in death among some tweens and middle-school children, particularly by suicide, homicide and poisoning.

The state’s Child Fatality Task Force received reports Monday based on government statistics showing the 2012 rates of infant mortality and child deaths were slightly higher compared to last year. The increases weren’t statistically significant – essentially flat compared to 2011 – and don’t reverse marked declines in these rates since the late 1980s, according to presenters. Read more here.

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