A campaign trail dispatch from Kinston: Six weeks before early voting begins for the May 6 primary, the U.S. Senate race remains undefined. Even the most ardent Republican voters, remain ambivalent in one of the nation’s most closely watched races.
What qualities make for the best candidate also remains a matter of debate. But in recent interviews with dozens of Republican voters, it’s clear that the gridlock in Washington, reflected in the government shutdown and health care debates, left an impression.
Many voters are looking at each candidate’s ideology more than his or her stance on the particular issues. A candidate’s conservative strength even competes with the much-hyped “electability” factor.
“It’s all about being conservative,” Keith King said at the Lenoir County GOP convention. “I actually wish there was a Conservative Party.”
Roger Farina, 47, made a similar point ahead of his barbecue precinct meeting at the recent Harnett County GOP convention. “It’s not just winning,” said Farina, who is retired from the Army. “It’s not just beating Hagan. It’s going up there and doing the right thing.”
He, too, is undecided about which Republican candidate fits that mold. “Nobody’s hooked me yet,” he said. Read more from the road to the GOP primary here.
*** Thom Tillis says he’s getting a big endorsement, the state Democratic Party’s money fight, four big environmental stories and much more North Carolina politics below in the Dome Morning Memo.***
The House committee looking at drone rules will meet at 1 p.m. in room 1228 of the legislative building. The task force looking at teacher compensation will meet at 2 p.m. in room 544 of the legislative office building.
The state Department of Health and Human Services will announce a proposal to revamp the Medicaid system at 2 p.m. in Raleigh.
Also Monday, North Carolina will release its state unemployment data for January. County data will be released on Friday.
Cary physician Greg Brannon, Charlotte minister Mark Harris and North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, the three top Senate hopefuls competing to face Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan this fall, all spoke to a large crowd at the Davidson County Republican Party’s annual convention.
After candidates made brief speeches on their tour to various conventions held throughout the region, a straw poll conducted amongst party delegates gave a slight edge to Brannon over Tillis. Read more here.
Here’s how it describes Hagan’s environmental record: “Prior to the U.S. Senate, Hagan served for a decade in the North Carolina State Senate. During her tenure as a State Senator, she co-sponsored the Clean Smokestacks Act, which would reduce smog and acid rain pollution from coal-fired power plants. As a U.S. Senator, Hagan has been an advocate for public lands, cosponsoring the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act of 2013, introducing bipartisan legislation to protect thousands of acres around the Blue Ridge Parkway, and sponsoring the Community Parks Revitalization Act, which would increase green spaces in economically distressed urban areas. She has also been a consistent vote against legislation to block the EPA from reducing carbon and mercury pollution. Time and again Senator Hagan has voted to end taxpayer-funded subsidies to Big Oil. As co-chair of the new Clean Energy Innovation Project at the think tank Third Way, she has been a public advocate for extending incentives, like the Production Tax Credit, for renewable energies. Senator Hagan has earned an 84 percent lifetime score on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard.”
That was some of the wisdom shared by two veteran Tar Heel political consultants, Paul Shumaker, a Republican, and Morgan Jackson, a Democrat, when they appeared last week at a lunchtime panel sponsored by the North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation, a business-financed group that provides nonpartisan political research. Get their take here.
N.C. Democratic Party officials have said the N.C. Victory Fund was a point of contention in the firing of former executive director Robert Dempsey, who had reservations about the program. The main concern is the program will siphon away money from party operations at a time when the party desperately needs money.
Under the terms recently discussed at an executive council meeting, the party will split the money in the Victory Fund with district chairs who can use it for whatever they want, regardless of whether it’s effective or matches the larger party strategy. The money was at the heart of the push to put Chairman Randy Voller into his post. Read more on the program from AP here.
But reporters at The News & Observer and other news outlets sometimes wait six months or more for requests about simple things such as which professor taught a UNC class in which room, or more complicated requests for records at the heart of the state’s $14 billion Medicaid program or the botched rollout of the state’s food stamp program, NC FAST.
The delays mean the public lacks timely insight into how public dollars are being spent and how public servants are fulfilling their duties. Read more here.
The cuts of 14 staff positions in the Ecosystem Enhancement Program follows the elimination of 68 jobs in the Division of Water Resources earlier this month, and continues a trend that has seen accelerated cuts to the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources over the past three years.
... The stream and wetlands restoration program, commonly referred to by its acronym EEP, was the object of criticism by the company that employed Skvarla. In December 2012, less than a week after McCrory announced Skvarla’s appointment, a representative of Restoration Systems, where Skvarla was the chief executive officer, excoriated EEP in a PowerPoint presentation to a legislative committee.
Restoration Systems has made millions of dollars in contracts for state projects restoring damaged waterways and dealing in “mitigation banking” credits for conserving and restoring sites that can be used to offset road projects and other development elsewhere. EEP supervises that process. Read more here.
Aerial photographs of two Duke coal ash ponds at the head of the Cape Fear River show portable pumps and hoses that appear to be siphoning water into a canal leading to the river.
A spokesman for the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources said on Saturday that its inspectors noticed the pumping while on a site visit last week. Read more here.
North Carolinians must wait until 2016 for an official answer. That’s the law.
After promoters of coastal development attacked a science panel’s prediction that the sea would rise 39 inches higher in North Carolina by the end of this century, the General Assembly passed a law in 2012 to put a four-year moratorium on any state rules, plans or policies based on expected changes in the sea level. ...
Now the 13-member Coastal Resources Commission has a new chairman and eight more new members appointed last year by Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory. The 2012 law says the commission must receive a new draft sea-level prediction from its science panel by March 2015, but the new commission has not asked the science panel to start work. Read more here.
But the seven violations filed on Feb. 28 were aberrations, state records show.
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources had cited Duke and Progress Energy, now part of Duke, for only 31 water-quality violations in the previous decade.
That’s despite the statewide footprint of the combined Duke. The company serves most of North Carolina, inhaling millions of gallons of water a day to cool its 19 power plants. Read more here.
The plan includes an expansion of high-risk insurance pools, promotion of health savings accounts and inducements for small businesses to purchase coverage together.
The tenets of the plan – which could expand to include the ability to buy insurance across state lines, guaranteed renewability of policies and changes to medical-malpractice regulations – are ideas that various conservatives have for a long time backed as part of broader bills. Read more here.
DPS study downplays need for strict immigration laws in North Carolina. Read more here.
McCrory advisers focus on BRAC prep. Read more here.
Renee Ellmers wants a national womens museum. Read more here.
Controversy about Phil Berger Jr. campaign moves. Read more here.