Within 48 hours of each other, Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis filed the papers necessary to get on the ballot for the 2014 Senate race.
It’s a scripted routine to officially launch the campaign season, tracked by TV camera crews and print scribes. And even though both candidates are under fire, the two events couldn’t have been more different. (Read about Tillis’ healthcare tightrope walk below.)
Hagan staged a press conference to outline her campaign message, complete with the introduction from a military mom and a token small business owner standing behind.
Tillis, too, brought supporters. And he addressed them in the makeshift press conference room at the State Board of Elections in Raleigh, giving them a little pep talk and talking tough about his opponents. (More on what he said later today on Dome.)
Both answered reporters questions for the exact same amount of time – 12 minutes – Hagan from behind a podium and Tillis in a gaggle of reporters. Hagan appeared tentative and avoided some questions (“What do you think of Sen. Burr’s alternative health care plan?”) – while Tillis tackled all the questions reporters threw at him, even if he pirouetted around a one or two.
Who came out the winner? Depends on who you ask.
Republicans hit Hagan for dodging questions, with a Republican tracker video of the questioning landing on the Drudge report. The Charlotte Observer suggested it demonstrated her biggest flaw, the same point made by a pretty sharp editorial cartoon.
Democrats hit Tillis for opposing a minimum wage hike – and the minimum wage concept as a whole. A Democratic tracker released a video about his stance and the national group EMILY’s List issued a statement criticizing him. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will do the same today, Politico reports.
So the tally: Hagan is facing questions about her wobbly stance. Tillis is facing questions about where he stands. Expect to hear more about both as we head toward November.
*** Much more North Carolina Senate race news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***
TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory is schedule to tour a Wake Forest charter school at 8 a.m. and then a public school in Franklinton at 9:45 a.m. Both are closed to the press.
A House committee on wetland and stream mitigation meets at 9 a.m. in room 544 of the legislative office building. And the House committee on land development meets at the Magnolia Place subdivision clubhouse.
ADDENDUM -- TILLIS CAMPAIGN DEBUT FAIL: Though few noticed, Republican Thom Tillis’ campaign did put one foot in the mud with its debut Wednesday. The campaign sent a press release about the filing saying Tillis is “lining up in support of our campaign because they understand my record of achieving conservative results and solving problems.”
Critics dispute those results and Tillis’ campaign made them easy to find. The photo of Tillis filing his paperwork linked to telltillis.com, a website that criticizes him for giving his staff big raises and features a petition asking him to give the money back to taxpayers. (It also misspells his name as “Tom.”) The campaign later sent a corrected release linking to their website. But as Rick Perry would say, oops.
TILLIS EMBRACE OF BURR PLAN DRAWS FIRE FROM GOP RIVALS: Greg Brannon, who is courting tea party loyalists, has said the Burr plan is “national health care.”
“The (Burr) plan is an attempt to fix Obamacare, but Obamacare cannot be fixed,” he said in a statement. “It must be repealed and replaced with free-market solutions, not with Obamacare-lite.”
In an interview Wednesday after he filed official candidacy papers in Raleigh, Tillis cautiously defended Burr’s plan.
“It’s not a detailed set of legislation; it’s a direction that tries to embrace only a handful of things that Obamacare seems to have right, but takes things in a very different direction, particularly in relation to how people pay for it.”
Tillis has declined to endorse Burr’s plan, but doesn’t have an alternative. “I don’t think I need to come in with a plan,” he said in a recent interview. “I think we need to take a look at the ones that already exist and build on those.” Read more here.
HAGAN A ‘MINION’ TO SEATTLE 1 PERCENTER PUSHING FOR WAGE HIKE: From the Seattle Times -- (Nick) Hanauer interrupted one recent phone call with a reporter. “I have to go. Sen. Hagan is walking into my office,” he said.
That was U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat facing a tough re-election challenge, who paid a visit to Hanauer while in Seattle. She later left him a flattering voice message saying she’d started his book and wanted to give him “full credit” for the “middle-out” economic debate.
“They come in thinking they’re raising money for their campaigns, and they walk out realizing they’ve become one of my ‘middle-out’ minions,” Hanauer said. Read more here.
BRANNON FAILED TO FILE ETHICS FORM – It was due nearly a year ago. His campaign tells WRAL: “We filed this many, many months ago,” said Reilly O’Neal. He said the campaign did encounter problems last year when it tried to file the paperwork, so it was possible something got lost in the shuffle. “I don’t have an explanation for why they did not put it up there. ... We may have to re-send them something we already have filed away.” Read more here.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD TO SPEND BIG ON HAGAN’S BEHALF: From Politico -- The political arm of Planned Parenthood is preparing to launch its largest campaign offensive ever, targeting more than a dozen states and some of the cycle’s top Senate and gubernatorial races to raise the alarm about the stakes of the 2014 midterm elections for women’s health care and abortion rights.
The cost of the midterm campaign is expected to cross the $18 million mark ... That investment would make the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Votes — the national federation’s political entities — two of the heaviest outside spenders on the Democratic side, and certainly among the top independent expenditure campaigns focused on reaching women. ...
The Planned Parenthood campaign, which will be formally announced later this week, begins with digital ads in North Carolina, Alaska and Texas. A sample ad from the North Carolina Senate race asks voters, “Who trusts N.C. women to make their own health choices?” over a photo of Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. Read more here.
EVEN LIBERTARIANS HAVE A SENATE PRIMARY: AP – It looks like North Carolina Libertarians will have a U.S. Senate primary this year, too.
Two Libertarian candidates filed Wednesday for the party’s nomination – Sean Haugh of Durham and Tim D’Annunzio of Raeford. Their candidacies bring to 11 the number of people running so far for Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s seat, including Hagan herself. The Democrats and Republicans also will have May primaries.
D’Annunzio ran for Congress in 2010 and 2012 as a Republican but has switched his affiliation. He won the 4th District GOP primary in 2012 but later lost to Democratic incumbent David Price. D’Annnuzio lost in an 8th District Republican primary runoff in 2010.
Haugh ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2002 and is a former state Libertarian Party executive director.
TOP STORY – McCRORY MEDICAID REFORM PLAN TAKES A TURN AWAY FROM PRIVATIZATION: State officials rolled out a plan Wednesday for changes in the state Medicaid program that are a huge step away from the managed-care proposal Gov. Pat McCrory and top state Department of Health and Human Services officials pitched last year.
The new proposal avoids a fight with doctors, hospitals and other health care providers over the future of the $13 billion government health insurance program that covers about than 1.7 million poor children and their parents, and elderly and disabled people.
McCrory wants changes in Medicaid to make costs more predictable. Miscalculations in the state Medicaid budget have frequently sent legislators, DHHS and the governor’s office scrambling to find money to cover overruns.
Instead of pursuing managed care, DHHS proposes that hospitals, doctors, and clinics form networks called accountable care organizations, an option that state health care groups publicly supported. Health care providers objected to the prospect of national managed-care companies coming into the state and profiting from the Medicaid program.
Under the new proposal, North Carolina health care providers would be able to control the accountable care networks, and the state’s care coordination program for Medicaid patients called Community Care of North Carolina could be preserved. Read more here.
DENR CHIEF THROWS COLD WATER ON COAL ASH REFORMS: From the Southern Pines Pilot – (John) Skvarla told The Pilot that this is a complicated issue. He pointed out that Duke has 32 of these ponds at 14 operating or retired plants storing more than one million tons of coal ash. He said simply requiring that it be moved into lined landfills, which is an option supported by many environmental groups, would not be as simple as it sounds. Read more here.
WALTER JONES CALLS TAYLOR GRIFFIN A ‘PUPPET’: From Roll Call – Rep. Walter B. Jones blasted his primary opponent Wednesday, implying that he is a “puppet of Washington” after CQ Roll Call reported that a cadre of plugged-in Republican operatives are hosting a fundraiser for his challenger this week.
The North Carolina Republican said the Capitol Hill fundraiser with a handful of longtime GOP aides shows the influence of Washington insiders and campaign money in politics, rather than ideas and principles.
“This is again an example of the influence of Washington. I am an independent. The people back home know I’m an independent. And I don’t think the people back home want a puppet of Washington to go down there and represent them,” he said. Read more here.
RELATED: Griffin raising money in Washington. Read more here.
POLITICO MAGAZINE: NORTH CAROLINA’S CIVIL WAR -- Look at us, this beautiful state. After the Civil War and slavery, we needed a boost, so we started marketing the phrase “Southern hospitality” to give people the impression that we’re friendly and welcoming. In the last quarter century, the rest of the country really started to believe us. ... But despite a statewide ability to adapt and adjust, North Carolina’s conflicting identities have bubbled. Read more here.
QUICK HEADLINES ---
Gov. Pat McCrory goes national. Read more here.
Another mysterious education group emerges in North Carolina. Read more here.
Texas gay marriage ban struck down by judge. Read more here.
As Gov. McCrory suggested he favored, Arizona religious bill vetoed. Read more here.
Report says Duke Energy paid no federal taxes. Read more here.