Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Looking at voter turnout in primary elections

One of the key questions for the May 6 primary is voter turnout.

It is likely to play a role in deciding the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. The conventional wisdom among political observers goes like this: The three main candidates all need to turnout their base – for Greg Brannon, the tea party, for Mark Harris, evangelical voters, for Thom Tillis, Chamber of Commerce Republicans. Whoever does the best job, and gets a boost from the general GOP electorate, will have a good showing.

In the 2010 primary election, in which a Democratic Senate primary appeared on the ballot, turnout hit 14 percent of registered voters. In 2002 primary election, in which contested Democratic and Republican primaries for Senate were at stake, 21 percent of voters came to the polls. This year, the race – particularly to the 40 percent mark for an outright win – means even a few thousand more votes may matter.

Michael Bitzer, a political analyst at Catawba College, looked at the primary turnout in a post for WFAE radio in Charlotte. He writes:

“Over the past six mid-term elections, North Carolina generally had a higher primary voter turnout both in voting age population and among registered voters than the national averages. ...

“In another key aspect of primary electorates, the age of voters casting ballots is decidedly older among partisans: only 11% of the ballots coming from registered Democrats were from voters under the age of 40, while 15% of the ballots coming from registered Republicans were under 40.”

His conclusion: “So for the coming May election, we will most likely see electorates that are skewed to the partisan side, to voters over the age of 40, and (dependent on the party election) either a very white electorate or one that is very racially diverse.” Read the full post here.

Thomas Mills, a Democratic strategist and blogger, suggests turnout matters most for Tillis. He writes:

“First, he needs a large turnout. Tillis will have an advantage on the airwaves and can reach a broader audience. A larger turnout will mitigate the impact of the more narrowly focused grassroots operations that FreedomWorks is running for Greg Brannon and the old Christian Coalition is likely preparing for Mark Harris.

“Second, Tillis needs a larger turnout among less ideological unaffiliated voters. In recent years, unaffiliated voters have been increasingly involved in primaries. Tillis needs to tap into those less partisan voters who are not happy with Obama and, by extension, Hagan and offer himself an alternative. He could certainly benefit from a field operation.” Read more here.

*** Plenty of news from the North Carolina political arena, and a new Charlotte mayor, all below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory is touring Manufacturing Solutions Center in Conover at 10 a.m. before visiting Catawba Community College at 10 a.m. in Hickory, where he will make an unidentified announcement at 11:20 a.m.

The joint legislative oversight committee on emergency management meets at 9 a.m. in room 544 LOB. The oversight panel looking at public safety issues meets at 1 p.m. in room 643 LOB.

Senate candidate Greg Brannon is scheduled to appear live in the studio with Glenn Beck at 10 a.m. in Dallas and appear on Beck’s TV program at 5 p.m. ET.

HEADLINE OF THE DAY: “La resistance” mounts campaign against local tea party in Rowan County. Read more here.

JUICY STORY -- ARREST RECORD AN ISSUE IN GOP PRIMARY (ALTERNATIVELY: DEMS HELP GOP INCUMBENT THEY ARE TRYING TO BEAT): The Republican challenger for state House District 9 was convicted of assault in the late 1990s, according to a Democratic campaign manager and court records.

Supporters of Uriah Ward, the lone Democrat running in the House District 9 race, released information about Ashley Bleau, one of two Republicans running for the District 9 seat. (He is challenging incumbent Rep. Brian Brown.)

After reviewing Mr. Bleau’s lengthy criminal record, and realizing the severity of the charges — including felony assault with a deadly weapon, possession of illegal drugs, driving under the influence, and repeated speeding tickets and driving with a revoked license — the campaign feels it has a duty to ensure that the citizens of the district have all the information necessary to best evaluate who will represent them in the General Assembly,” Alicia Speedy, Ward’s campaign manager, said. Read more here.

#NCSEN ---

IF YOU HATE YOUR TV RIGHT NOW, HERE’S WHY: Bloomberg -- More television campaign ads have run in North Carolina’s 2014 Senate race, including the past week, than in any other congressional contest.

Seven candidates and groups active in that race combined paid for ads that ran 1,783 times in the week ended April 7, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising.

Outside groups ran 88 percent of the North Carolina Senate ads during the week, underscoring the outsized role of super-political action committees and nonprofit groups that can accept donations in unlimited amounts. Read more here.

HEADLINE: 11 Democrats, including Hagan, urge Obama to approve Keystone pipeline. Read more here.

#NCPOL ---

THE BIG STORY -- LAWSUIT SEEKS TO SPEED GAY MARRIAGE CHALLENGE: Later this year, three federal judges could strike down North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Esmeralda Mejia worries she can’t wait that long. The Hickory woman is among several same-sex married couples who, for urgent health reasons, are seeking an immediate end to the state’s legal roadblocks to gay unions.

Their lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday, also calls for a federal judge to order North Carolina to recognize marriages performed in other states, and to throw out its law that allows only one partner in unmarried couples to adopt.

Some, if not all, of these steps could be taken by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Next month, it will review the February decision by a Virginia judge finding that state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The appeals court decision, which legal experts say likely would apply to the Carolinas and West Virginia, could come by fall. Read more here.

WHERE IT PLAYED: A1 lead story in Greensboro News & Record, A1 in Charlotte Observer, B1 lead in News & Observer

TAYLOR GRIFFIN EMBRACES HIS INSIDER TIES: Taylor Griffin, a Republican District 3 primary candidate, launched a radio and television ad series this week that seems to shift strategies. The ads are biographical, highlighting in particular his experiences in Washington working for Senator Jesse Helms, in the White House under Bush and in the Treasury Department. Earlier in the campaign, Griffin tried to highlight his ties to the district, where he recently moved from the Washington area.

“Taylor’s Washington resume is one of his strongest things we’ve pushed from day one,” said Doug Raymond, Griffin’s campaign manager.

Earlier this week, Rep. Walter Jones, Griffin’s opponent in the primary, released a radio ad attacking Griffin as a “Washington insider.” See the ad here.

EDUCATION POLLING NUMBERS: The Civitas Institute conducted a poll three weeks ago looking at registered voters’ attitudes about education. Two straightforward questions worth noting:

--71 percent believe the state doesn’t spend enough on education, 16 percent think it’s about right and 6 percent said it’s too much.

--An even greater proportion, at 79 percent, think teachers are paid too little, 14 percent say it’s about right and only 2 percent say it’s too high.

The poll for the conservative think tank was conducted by National Research. It has a 4 percent margin of error.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY POLICE WIN DUBIOUS HONOR: The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, a free speech advocacy organization, issued its annual “Jefferson Muzzles” awards to mark those responsible for “some of the more egregious or ridiculous affronts to First Amendment principles” in the past year.

One of the honorees: the N.C. General Assembly Police. The writeup: “For arresting Charlotte Observer reporter Tim Funk as he was covering a protest inside the state capitol. Officers had ordered the crowd to disperse and warned of arrests for those that did not. Despite the fact that he was wearing press credentials, repeatedly identified himself to officers as a reporter, and was not standing among the protesters, Funk was arrested, handcuffed, and charged with trespassing and failure to disperse.” Read more here.

FEC QUESTIONS N.C. GOP CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: See filing here, via @DaveLevinthal.

STATE SENATOR SWORN IN AS CHARLOTTE MAYOR: Pledging to rebuild Charlotte’s trust in government after “the world seemed to have turned upside down,” Dan Clodfelter was sworn in as mayor Wednesday, replacing Patrick Cannon, who resigned nearly two weeks ago after his arrest on federal corruption charges.

In an emotional speech, Clodfelter, 63, said “old-fashioned values” would help heal the city. Clodfelter, who has been a state senator since 1999, did not lay out his vision for how the city government should move forward over the next 20 months, joking that “I have not been carrying a 10-point plan in my back pocket.”

Clodfelter repeatedly invoked the date Cannon was arrested. “On March 26, the world seemed to have turned upside down,” he said. “This is the city that makes things happen. How it could be?” Read more here.

CARTOON: Mayor Clodfelter. See it here.

MORE CHARLOTTE NAVEL GAZING: McCrory says it could take years to restore city’s image. Read more here.

SEVEN FIRED IN STATE PRISON PROBE: Seven state prison employees have lost their jobs as a result of an internal investigation into the death of a mentally ill and disabled inmate last month.

A captain and four nurses have been fired, and a psychologist and another nurse have resigned. Other employees at Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville are still being interviewed, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Authorities are trying to find out what led to the death of Michael Anthony Kerr when he was transported by prison van from Alexander County in the western part of the state to Central Prison in Raleigh for medical attention on the morning of March 12. Kerr was unresponsive when he arrived at Central and could not be resuscitated. Read more here.

STATE LAWMAKERS LOOK TO CAP KEY LOCAL TAX: A legislative study committee has given its OK to draft legislation that would cap at $100 annually the privilege license taxes that some cities and towns apply to businesses.

The approval of the draft bill, however, doesn’t mean that members of the Revenue Laws Study Committee will be on board with the proposal when it comes before the legislature later this spring. Some committee members argued Wednesday that lawmakers should completely ban municipalities from levying a privilege tax; others said the proposal will rob cities and towns of needed revenue.

The legislation would force some larger cities that now apply a gross receipts tax to some businesses to replace that tax with a flat fee of no more than $100. Read more here.

STATE SHIFT POSITION, WONT SELL ENTIRE DIX PROPERTY; REJECTS RALEIGH’S OFFER: The state has rejected the city of Raleigh’s offer to buy 308 acres of the former Dorothea Dix psychiatric hospital campus for about $38 million and instead has responded with a counteroffer.

The state does not want to sell the entire property, according to a letter from the governor’s office. Instead, Gov. Pat McCrory proposes to keep 64 acres for use by the state Department of Health and Human Services and sell 244 acres to the city for about $52 million.

It would be too costly to move the DHHS offices currently on the campus, the letter says, and the state doesn’t want to sell the land below “fair market value.”

McCrory sees a chance for a “win-win-win” solution to the long-running debate over the former psychiatric hospital, according to the letter. Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican and a chief budget writer, said that the new proposal might satisfy the legislature, which nearly shot down an earlier deal. Read more here.

CATAWBA CASINO OPPONENTS MOBILIZE: As the federal government continues to review the Catawba tribe’s plan to build a casino near Kings Mountain, opponents are busy countering positive claims for the project.

A grassroots effort called the Kings Mountain Community Awareness Group held its first community meeting in February and is sponsoring another on April 24, featuring John Rustin, president of the N.C. Family Policy and a leading critic of the casino.

Last week, the group sponsored an informational event for business owners. ... Foes of the project warn of negative impacts such as increased crime and gambling. And they say hopes of an economic boom are hollow. Read more here.


Lawmakers want to nullify governor’s order. Read more here.

A1 in Wilmington -- Officials tour Duke Energy coal ash facilities. Read more here.

Without offering specifics, lawmakers again pledge to raise teacher pay. Read more here.

Limited state money limits abortion clinic inspections. Read more here.