Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Greg Brannon’s Senate campaign touts Rand Paul endorsement

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul endorsed Republican Greg Brannon for North Carolina’s marquee U.S. Senate race, giving the Cary physician’s low-profile campaign a huge boost.

“I enthusiastically endorse Greg Brannon for U.S. Senate because he’s a true constitutional conservative who will join me in fighting against business as usual in Washington,” Paul said in a statement Wednesday morning released by Brannon’s campaign. “Americans are looking for leaders who will honor their oath of office by fighting to ‘protect and defend’ the Constitution and Greg is the clear choice for conservatives in North Carolina.”

Paul’s decision to snub the two top-tier candidates – Thom Tillis and Mark Harris – to endorse Brannon further splits the Republican primary vote, reflecting the divide in the party among moderates, evangelicals and tea partiers.

***Read more from Paul’s endorsement and get the latest campaign fundraising figures below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will help Wake Tech Community College celebrate its 50th anniversary and then attend a workforce development conference in Greensboro. The Alcohol Beverage Control Commission will meet at 10 a.m.

PAUL ENDORSEMENT -- What it means: Brannon’s campaign called the Paul endorsement a “game changer.” It may not boost Brannon to the top of the polls just yet, but the endorsement is likely to generate more grassroots support, campaign cash and attention for Brannon’s bid. The stakes for the race are visible in Washington now more than ever with Brannon siding with Paul and Ted Cruz on the shutdown and deficit ceiling.

Here’s more from Paul’s endorsement: “The American people don’t want more politicians in the U.S. Senate who will continue to expand the size of government. We need Greg in the Senate to provide vital reinforcements to help reverse out-of-control spending, restore constitutional limitations on our federal government, and fight back against President Obama’s agenda.

"And as Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and I showed clearly in our campaigns, when you run on principle and excite the grass-roots Republicans, and Independents and even Democrats hungry for a change, you win. That's why I support Greg Brannon, and expect him to be North Carolina's next Senator," Paul concluded. Full annoucement here.

HAGAN TOUTS $1.8 MILLION QUARTER: Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is touting a $1.8 million haul in the third fundraising quarter, reporting $5.4 million cash in the bank for her re-election bid in 2014.

A joint Hagan fundraising committee with the N.C. Democratic Party raised another $255,000 for her effort, posting $244,000 in the bank.

Republican Thom Tillis has not released his campaign reports. But he said in an email he will have more than $800,000 cash on hand to seven months before the GOP primary.

MORE ON THE MONEY: From National Journal -- As third quarter fundraising reports roll in, Democrats are hearing good news from an unlikely place – the South. Read more here.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT CENTRAL: Democratic state Rep. Alma Adams raised nearly $90,000 in her bid to replace U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, her latest report shows. Democrat Laura Fjeld’s $130,000 haul announced Tuesday as part of her bid for U.S. Rep. Howard Coble’s seat includes a $50,000 personal loan, her new report shows. GOP Congresswoman Virginia Foxx’s massive campaign war chest grew by $184,000 to top $1.8 million cash, her report filed Tuesday shows. Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger raised $130,000, not nearly enough to cover his outstanding debts (loans) at $663,000, his new report shows. Raleigh U.S. Rep. George Holding, a Republican, raised $222,000 this quarter but spent $161,000 -- including thousands on meals in Washington, as well as contributions to other candidates, including David Rouzer, his report shows. And Republican Renee Ellmers, who is facing a possible primary challenger, raised $123,000 from July through September, sitting on $181,000 cash, her report filed Tuesday shows.

BOMBSHELL –Samuelson’s exit scrambles House speaker’s race: Charlotte Republican Rep. Ruth Samuelson, one of North Carolina’s highest profile lawmakers and a top contender for House speaker, said Tuesday that she won’t run for a fifth term.

Samuelson, 53, said she decided that a continued political career would take too much time from other passions, “philanthropy, faith and family.” She also plans to pursue business opportunities. “We realized that my current trajectory in the House ruled out a lot of other things that are more important to us,” she told the Observer. “We’ve got a lot of awesome opportunities. We wanted to be more intentional.”

Samuelson, who hadn’t hidden her desire to be the state’s first female speaker, plans to leave the House when her term ends after next year’s election. But the decision by the Republican Conference Leader creates another key vacancy in House leadership and deprives Republicans of a top fundraiser. Read more here.

N.C. STANDS ALONE IN CUTTING SOCIAL SAFETY NET AMID SHUTDOWN: Twice in the space of a week North Carolina became the first state to cut programs for low-income families, and on Tuesday officials said more of the state’s most vulnerable citizens could be put at risk if the federal shutdown continues.

Counties across North Carolina are facing difficult choices including the loss of money for subsidized child care, for feeding and nutrition programs for babies and their mothers, for child protection programs, and for money to pay social workers, officials said. “There are kids who are losing their child care today in counties,” said Sherry Bradsher, deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

But as state officials blamed Washington for the fraying social safety net, Democrats questioned why North Carolina has been so quick to cut off access to federal dollars. Read more here.

SHUTDOWN POLITICS CATCHES ELLMERS, PITTENGER IN THE MIDDLE: In the fight over the government shutdown, two North Carolina members of Congress have found themselves caught in the middle.

U.S. Reps. Renee Ellmers and Robert Pittenger, both Republicans, predicted the current political and fiscal mess and tried to tell their constituents that defunding the health care law by halting government operations was a bad idea. But then they voted for the shutdown anyway, facing intense pressure from conservative groups.

More than two weeks into the shutdown, few places exemplify the growing divide between House and Senate Republicans over strategy more than North Carolina, where diverse viewpoints and redistricting have intensified competing pressures on lawmakers. Read more here.

SUPREME COURT CONSIDERS EDUCATION FUNDING: North Carolina’s highest court heard arguments Tuesday about the state’s promise of prekindergarten for tens of thousands of children living in poverty.

At issue is whether legislative cuts to the publicly funded pre-K program ran afoul of the state’s previous commitment to provide preschool for children at risk of failure in school.

The pre-K program, previously known as More at Four, was created in 2004 as a state response to court rulings in the long-running Leandro school quality lawsuit brought by poor counties. In the 19-year-old case, courts found that there is a constitutional right for all children to have a “sound, basic education.”

Tuesday’s oral arguments focused on whether the state has an obligation to provide public preschool to all low-income, at-risk North Carolina schoolchildren. For years, the state increased funding for the program, but in 2011, the legislature cut the program and placed limits on eligibility. Read more here.

McCRORY’s HOME COUNTY WANTS HIM TO REVERSE COURSE ON MEDICAID EXPANSION: Mecklenburg County commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday urging state lawmakers to reconsider turning down billions in federal money that would expand Medicaid coverage to 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians.

The resolution, approved 6-3 along party lines, urges Gov. Pat McCrory to call the General Assembly into a special session to reverse its previous decision and expand the state’s Medicaid coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act. Read more here.

McCRORY ON OFFSHORE DRILLING: The Biloxi, Miss., newspaper on the energy conference Gov. Pat McCrory attended -- “McCrory said he favors looking into such options as offshore drilling, not only because of the energy impact, but because of the economical impact. "This isn't a partisan issue or a political issue," he said. "It's a jobs issue." Read more here.

APODACA GETS A CHALLENGER: From the Hendersonville Lightning: “Henderson County School Board member Rick Wood said today he is running against state Sen. Tom Apodaca in an effort to turn around what he called the Legislature's "race to the bottom" in education funding.

“Wood, a Democrat, said Monday he is running "basically as a result of the legislation from the North Carolina General Assembly, especially as it relates to education and some of the other things that relate to voter suppression." Apodaca, who is a member of the leadership as the Senate Rules Committee chairman, said he welcomed an opponent.” Read more here.

LOCAL JOB RECRUITERS’ FUTURE REMAINS UNKNOWN: The fate of local job-recruitment agencies such as the Charlotte Regional Partnership remains “an open question” as North Carolina moves to a statewide economic development strategy, a key official told Charlotte business leaders Tuesday morning.

John Lassiter, chairman of the N.C. Economic Development Board, told a crowd at the Charlotte Chamber’s quarterly economic development breakfast that Gov. Pat McCrory’s effort to refocus job recruitment efforts under a single statewide public-private agency is moving ahead, with a completed plan expected to roll out in January.

Many have questioned what that will mean for the seven existing smaller partnerships that currently serve different regions of the state. Read more here.

ALLEGED MASTERMIND OF FLORIDA GAMBLING RING CONVICTED: Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis was found guilty on 103 counts in the sweepstakes scandal that involved Chase Burns, a prolific North Carolina political donor to lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory. Burns cooperated with prosecutors and received a deal for his help. He pleaded no contest to two felony charges of assisting in the operation of an illegal lottery, the Florida Times-Union reports. Read more here.

TOOBIN SAYS NC IS ‘Biggest political story in the United States:’ CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin, speaking at UNCC’s Center City campus, praised the University of North Carolina system as the envy of the nation. He said the state legislature’s sharp turn to the right this year “is the biggest political story in the United States,” but not for the best of reasons.

“Overnight,” he said, “North Carolina turned into Mississippi.” Read more here.