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Robocalls start speed-dialing for voters

North Carolinians have been bombarded with campaign mailers and TV ads. And now it's time for the robocalls as Election Day draws near.

The Democrats are bringing in the big guns, apparently.

Triangle residents have reported receiving automated phone calls in the past few days from President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

Some of the calls said they were from a group called FiredUpNC.org. The website for the Fired Up and Ready to Go Action Fund Inc. says the organization aims to energize, mobilize and turn out voters "in typically under-performing areas of North Carolina."

The site takes voters to a precinct search, so they can find out where to vote. Early voting ended Saturday.

Joking with the tracker

At the end of a news conference at Republican headquarters last week, party Chairman Tom Fetzer took the unusual step of recognizing a young Democrat tasked with going to GOP events with a video camera.

Adrian Ortega smiled uncomfortably as Fetzer praised his work ethic and good humor.

"It takes a unique personality to go into the lion's den," the GOP chairman said, before adding that the opposing party shouldn't be so stingy when supporting its staffer.

Fetzer recounted how Ortega was at a Republican event in the mountains, drove home to Raleigh that night and then returned to the western part of the state again the following day for another GOP rally.

"The mileage alone should have paid for a hotel room," Fetzer said.

Both parties employ staffers, known as trackers, to follow around the opposition in the hope of capturing an embarrassing gaffe on video.

Andrew Whalen, the executive director of N.C. Democratic Party, agreed with Fetzer's assessment of Ortega's work. A former college intern, Ortega was added to the party's paid staff last summer, Whalen said.

"He is a fantastic employee, and we are glad to have him," Whalen said.

After extolling his virtues Tuesday, Fetzer gave Ortega a small gift - a red GOP beer koozie featuring the party's elephant logo.

"I think you might need an adult beverage come election night," Fetzer quipped.

The governor reflects

An article by Gov. Bev Perdue appears in the current issue of U.S. News & World Report as part of a spread about public service.

Others who contributed pieces to the magazine were Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel.

Perdue writes that she was inspired by a collage of people from her past - neighbors in the coal mining town where she grew up, children she taught and senior citizens she advocated for as a state lawmaker.

Perdue writes that there is nothing more rewarding than bringing a new company and new jobs to North Carolina, and she mentioned Caterpillar's recent plant expansion.

"This job, like no other, has given me the capacity to make the state better than I found it," the article said.

The governor also made the point that public life has a downside, "such as the barrage of attacks and loss of privacy, but those are in the price of admission. Those in public office are big girls and boys. We can take it."

By staff writers Jane Stancill, Michael Biesecker and Rob Christensen

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