Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Election lawsuit timing at issue

The parties in the lawsuit challenging the state’s new election law are so fractured they can’t agree on when to hold the trial. The NAACP wants June. The League of Women Voters, another party in challenging the law, says mid-August. But the state and the Department of Justice – on opposite sides in this case – say not sooner than summer 2015.

On Thursday, attorneys for the NAACP, League of Women Voters, the ACLU of North Carolina and other voter rights advocates will gather in a federal courtroom in Winston-Salem to talk about one early point of contention – whether the trial will happen before or after the 2014 elections.

Chris Brook, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union North Carolina Legal Foundation, one of the law groups representing the League of Women Voters: “We believe these voting restrictions that have been put in place need to be reviewed for their legality and their constitutionality before they go into effect.”

Thomas Farr, a private attorney representing the State Board of Elections and lawyer with the Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart firm in Raleigh, declined to comment when reached Tuesday about the scheduling matter.

The scheduling indecision could lead to a request for a stay on the law until it goes to court. Read more here.

*** Wake County is possibly the first to start grappling with the law. Read about its decisions below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a Midtown Raleigh Alliance holiday member celebration at 9 a.m. Wednesday before traveling to Mecklenburg County for a Good Fellows Club lunch at noon.

WAKE BOARD WEIGHS NEW ELECTIONS LAW: Wake County voters will be able to continue casting early ballots on a Sunday leading up to November’s general election. But there won’t be Sunday voting in the May 2014 primary, and a symbolically significant community center in Southeast Raleigh will not be among the primary early-voting sites.

Those were the decisions the Wake County Board of Elections wrestled with Tuesday as it adapted to the new state law that cuts a week off the early voting period while at the same time requiring counties to stay open for the same number of hours. Read more here.

THE GOVERNOR CHALLENGES 12-YEAR-OLD’S STORY: From WFMY-TV in the Triad -- “Governor Pat McCrory talked to WFMY about Madison Kimrey, the Burlington girl who has been asking to sit down with him for months. In August, Madison Kimrey brought a cake she baked to McCrory in Raleigh. She said the idea stemmed from an earlier incident when McCrory passed out cookies to protesters outside the governor's mansion.

“McCrory told us a side to the story we haven't heard before. He said Madison's mother and Progress NC were coordinating an event right outside his gates. McCrory claims that Madison's mom, Mary Kimrey is a very strong activist with MoveOn.org. He said that Madison showed up at 10:30 p.m. saying she was hungry.

"First of all, what's a 12-year-old doing at 10:30 at night outside the governor's gates? And we actually did try to help her and they made it into a political stunt by her mother," said Governor McCrory.” See the report here.

THOM TILLIS GETS A NEW NICKNAME: A writer at the conservative RedState website is giving Senate candidate Thom Tillis a less-than-flattering nickname in GOP circles: the Charlie Crist of North Carolina. Crist is the party-switching Florida governor who is now seeking to return to his seat as a Democrat. Read the website’s report here.

6th DISTRICT RACE GETS 6th CANDIDATE: Bruce VonCannon is joining the Republican primary to replace Congressman Howard Coble in the state’s 6th District. In an announcement set for release Wednesday, VonCannon highlights Washington’s “broken politics.”

My reason for seeking office is straightforward: I am confident we can fix our economy but, first, we have to fix our broken politics,” he said in the announcement.

VonCannon, who is getting help from Carter Wrenn, enters a crowded GOP primary that includes Phil Berger Jr, the son of the state Senate president pro tem.

UPDATED: UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT PROPOSAL BLOCKED: U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan inserted language in a bill Tuesday to reinstate the extended federal unemployment benefits in North Carolina, her office said. The benefits were cut off July 1 after Republican lawmakers curtailed the jobless benefits and ran afoul of a federal law saying any changes would lead to the termination of the extended federal aid.

But the bill, Hagan’s office said, died because Senate Republicans blocked the legislation Tuesday. GOP legislative leaders Thom Tillis and Phil Berger had asked Hagan earlier this year to insert a provision to exempt North Carolina from the federal law as they were crafting changes to unemployment benefits in the state.

MEL WATT CONFRIMED: Rep. Mel Watt was confirmed to a top housing finance post Tuesday after Senate Democrats cleared a path for him by changing filibuster rules that Republicans had used to block his confirmation. The Senate voted 57-41 to make the Charlotte Democrat the newest leader of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Read more here.

THE LECACY WATT LEAVES BEHIND: For over two decades, Democratic Rep. Mel Watt has been Charlotte’s reliably liberal, if sometimes lonely, voice in Washington. A former civil rights lawyer, he juggled the interests of his constituents and those of the financial industry that powered his hometown’s economy.

Votes on war, spending and the rights of convicted sex offenders often left him in a distinct minority. He served under three presidents, led the Congressional Black Caucus and acted as a sounding board for a young senator named Barack Obama. Read more here.

A LOOK INSIDE WHAT BOEING WANTS FROM NORTH CAROLINA: A copy of the company’s requests to the states. Read about it here.

5 JOBS CUT AT STATE COASTAL AGENCY: From the N.C. Coastal Federation -- N.C. Division of Coastal Management employees will be taking on more responsibilities starting next year after the cut of five positions, including the assistant director in charge of enforcement and the planning director. Read more here.

MORE TO THE EDUCATION DEBATE: Rob Christensen uses a new educational study to find that North Carolina’s kids are doing better than you think. Read more here.

VOUCHER SUPPORTERS AIM AT JUNE ATKINSON: State Superintendent June Atkinson’s recent remark about the new state private school voucher law (“There is nothing in the legislation that would prevent someone from establishing a school of terror.”) is getting a strong reaction. Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, which advocated for the law, said in statement: “The real terror is when only 29 percent of low-income students read at grade level statewide and the parents who feel paralyzed without a viable option.”

SEN. SOUCEK’S DETAIL: A Democratic blogger in the mountains is taking aim at state Sen. Dan Soucek, who appears to be caught in some double-talk. Read more here.

TIM MOFFITT GETS A DEMOCRATIC OPPONENT: From the Mountain Express -- Former UNC Asheville Assistant Vice Chancellor Brian Turner (D) announced his intention today to run for the North Carolina Statehouse in 2014 against two-term incumbent Rep. Tim Moffitt (R). Read more here.

GOV. McCRORY WANTS YOU TO READ THIS: A Wall Street Journal editorial praised the state for scaling back unemployment benefits to avoid a payroll tax hike. Read it here.

SBI INVESTIGATES ANSON COUNTY PRISON: The State Bureau of Investigation is conducting a wide-ranging probe into accusations of official misconduct at an Anson County prison that has been shaken by violence, contraband and allegations that inmates were mistreated. The investigation at Lanesboro Correctional Institution was spawned by a separate SBI inquiry into the September 2012 stabbing death of inmate Wesley Turner. Three fellow inmates were charged with first-degree murder after Turner’s death. Read more here.

CONGRATS: The Institute for Political Leadership in North Carolina celebrated it’s 49th class of graduates last weekend. They include: Marjorie Benbow, Jacklyn “Jackie” Blair, Kimberly Moore-Dudley, Jeanne Marie Foster, Lee Green, Matt Hughes, Robert “Robb” Jansen, Terry Light, Paul Arthur Lowe, Jr., Morris F. McAdoo, Danny H. Rogers, Dallas “Trip” Stallings, III, J.J. Summerell, Kathleen Volandt, Ashlee Wiley, Paige Worsham and Brandon Wright.

HOLDAY CARD: The Southern Strategy Group lobbying firm is well known for its funny Christmas cards. This year features President Barack Obama dressed as Santa in front of a control panel with the tag line: “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.” See it in the PDF attached.

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