Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Candidate filing deadline looms

Most hopefuls for North Carolina office are down to the final hours to enter the 2014 elections or wait to see if they avoid campaign rivals.

The three-week filing period for candidates from official political parties ends at midday Friday at the State Board of Elections and at elections offices in all 100 counties.

Some highly publicized races are already quite full. Eleven people had filed by late Thursday for the U.S. Senate seat that Kay Hagan wants to keep. Another 11 want to succeed retiring 6th District Rep. Howard Coble.

Entering Friday, no one had run to challenge 9th District Rep. Robert Pittenger. And Supreme Court Justice Mark Martin was unopposed to run for chief justice, AP reported.

*** Plenty more politics below including a look at some of the more unusual U.S. Senate contenders, all in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the Metro Mayors meeting Friday at 10:15 a.m. in Charlotte before traveling to UNC-Charlotte for a closed-door business roundtable and then attend a ribbon cutting for a new campus building at 1:30 p.m.

The N.C. Republican Party will hold a press conference Friday at 1 p.m. in Raleigh to criticize Democrat Kay Hagan.

On Saturday, top Democratic officials, including David Price, G.K. Butterfield, Bill Bell and Paul Luebke, will join a canvass in Durham to educate people about buying insurance on the federal healthcare exchange. The event takes place at 10:30 a.m. at the Nehemiah Christian Center in Durham.

On Sunday, McCrory and commerce department officials convene a tourism conference in Charlotte that runs through Tuesday.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: The legislative committee studying the Affordable Care Act will meet for the first time March 18 at 1 p.m. in Raleigh.

BULLETIN: Patriot Majority PAC, a liberal nonprofit, running a attack ad hitting Republican Thom Tillis has added about $300,000 to it initial $500,000 TV ad buy. “The ad was clearly effective as you have seen Tillis completely bungle the health care issue – saying he was for something, then back peddling, then saying he didn’t have a plan at all,” said Ty Matsdorf, a spokesman.

COOPER CRITICIZED BY DEM OPPONENT: Attorney General Roy Cooper’s ties to Duke Energy and a possible settlement deal with the company regarding coal ash are providing fodder not only for Republicans – but his potential Democratic primary opponent for governor in 2016. “There continues to be what appears to me as a disturbing pattern by the attorney general where he is on both sides of an issues at the same time,” Ken Spauling said in a statement Thursday, suggesting Cooper may have a conflict of interest.

HAWKE HONORED WITH DONATION: The Renew North Carolina Foundation, a private nonprofit organized to boost Gov. Pat McCrory, honored its late founder Jack Hawke with a $10,000 donation to the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Jack was a leader and a visionary in the public and political discoure of our state for four decades,” the group’s chairman Robert Singer wrote.

RAN COBLE TO RETIRE: The executive director of the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research announced Thursday he would step down after 33 years at the helm. Ran Coble is an authority on North Carolina politics and the think tank develops nonpartisan policy analysis, some of which were adopted by lawmakers and governors.. He worked as a legislative staffer and attorney for the state’s health agency before joining the center.

HAGAN JOINS MINIMUM WAGE BILL: From The Hill -- Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.), a vulnerable Democratic incumbent, plans to co-sponsor legislation raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, according to her office. Read more here.

THE DEEP DIVE -- LONGSHOT CANDIDATES APLENTY IN SENATE RACE: (Aaron) O’Neal is a 43-year-old single guy, born and raised in Davie County, and one of a handful of conservative candidates with little or no political experience ready to enter an increasingly populated U.S. Senate race.

The field of challengers to Sen. Kay Hagan is already crowded – seven Republicans candidates have filed. Throw in a couple of write-in and third-party hopefuls, and the race bubbles over from competitive to chaotic.

Long-shot candidates aren’t uncommon in any election year, but the higher-than-average number this time could be attributed to both Hagan’s perceived vulnerability and recent national trends, said David McLennan, a political analyst and professor at Peace University.

“Just look around the country the past two years, and you see incumbent senators losing in the primary, losing to someone who’s never run before,” McLennan said. “Both Democrats and Republicans are saying this is going to be a very tough race. People are saying well, it could happen.” Read more here.

CASE IN POINT -- D-Annunzio makes bid: Four years ago, then-Republican Tim D’Annunzio first ran for Congress in a controversial 8th District campaign.

Now the Hoke County businessman is back – as a Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate. He faces a rare Libertarian primary with longtime party activist Sean Haugh.

During a memorable interview on WBT radio, he told host Keith Larson that “there’s a special place in hell for people like you.” Larson called D’Annunzio “a delusional, deranged human being” – and still the interview continued.

At one point, then-GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer took the unheard of step of calling D’Annunzio “unfit for public office at any level.” Read more here.

THE BIG STORY -- FEDS AGREE TO EARLY STEP TOWARD OFFSHORE DRILLING: The Interior Department is endorsing seismic exploration for oil and gas in Atlantic waters, a crucial move toward starting drilling off the Carolinas, Virginia and possibly down to Florida.

The department released its final review Thursday, favoring a plan to allow the intense underwater seismic air gun blasts that environmentalists and some members of Congress say threatens the survival of whales and dolphins.

The oil industry wants to use the air guns to find out how much oil and gas lies along the U.S. Atlantic seabed. Federal estimates of a relatively modest 3.3 billion barrels of oil date from the 1970s and 1980s and are considered too low. Read more here.

EARLY VOTING CUT FOR PRIMARY: One-third of North Carolina’s 100 counties have the go-ahead to reduce voting hours leading to the May primary even as the elections overhaul law told officials to maintain cumulative early voting hours while the period fell from 17 days to ten.

Gov. Pat McCrory has talked up that requirement while defending why he signed the law last year. Read more here.

CHARLIE ROSE HONORED: The North Carolina Press Association has named journalist Charlie Rose its 2014 North Carolinian of the Year at its annual meeting Thursday. Read more here.

RELATED: N&O wins handful of awards for legislative, Rural Center coverage. Read more here.

AVILA RECEIVES FIRST AMENDMENT AWARD: The North Carolina Press Association honored a commitment to government transparency Thursday night, granting an award that celebrates First Amendment freedoms to state House Rep. Marilyn Avila.

At a ceremony in Chapel Hill, Avila, a Republican from Raleigh, received the Lassiter Award, an honor given to a non-journalist who has worked to promote ideals that journalists themselves value, including open government and widespread protection under the First Amendment. Read more here.

PERSONNEL FILE: The N.C. Republican Party named Penn Broyhill as its new finance chairman and Charlie McCurry as assistant general counsel. Broyhill, the grandson of former U.S. Sen. Jim Broyhill, is a currently a prosecutor for the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office. McCurry is currently a broker and counsel to Commercial Realty Advisors LLC and previously served as assistant general counsel for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.


Why Democrats can win on Obamacare and still lose the midterms. Read more here.

Wake County leaders agree on school construction deal. Read more here.

Former N.C. utility regulator hired by utility. Read more here.