Under the Dome

Morning Memo: New TV ads, politicking marks Senate race push

It’s game time in the U.S. Senate race. With 14 days before early voting begins, the candidates in the Republican primary are starting to make their moves.

Charlotte pastor Mark Harris launches a new television advertising campaign Friday and tea party favorite Greg Brannon debuts his ads on TV and radio Monday. The voter registration deadline for the primary is Friday.

The latest polls show the two are battling for second place and trying to force a runoff against House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Harris is initially putting $300,000 behind the ad to air it on statewide cable TV. ( PREVIEW: See it here.)

It’s unlikely the ad buys from Harris and Brannon can match Tillis, who is spending $1 million on TV ads this month and getting another $1.1 million boost from American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-backed super PAC supporting his bid.

The retail politicking picks up this weekend. Tillis is expected to attend at least three events Friday through Saturday across the state.

Brannon is launching a “Conservative Victory Tour” on Saturday that will take him to eight barbecue restaurants in one day. It’s part of a 25-city tour in the final 25 days of the primary.

*** More developments in the Senate race are giving it shape, read about it below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory lists one public event on his calendar Friday, and it’s one the baseball-throwing governor will enjoy: the 6:30 p.m. grand opening of BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, the new home of the Triple-A Charlotte Knights.

Former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker will speak about the need for redistricting reform at 1 p.m. Friday at Highland United Methodist Church on Ridge Road in Raleigh. The event is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club.

READ THIS: A can’t-miss, twisted tale about abduction of a prosecutor’s father in Wake County. Read more here.

You’ll be hearing more about this on the campaign trail – HOUSE APPROVES RYAN BUDGET: House Republicans rallied behind a slashing budget blueprint on Thursday, passing a non-binding but politically imposing measure that promises a balanced federal ledger in 10 years with sweeping budget cuts and termination of health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The 219-205 vote on the budget outline takes a mostly symbolic swipe at the government’s chronic deficits. Follow-up legislation to actually implement the cuts isn’t in the offing. Twelve Republicans opposed the measure, and not a single Democrat supported it. Read more here.

#NCSEN –

HOLD THE PRESSES – PRO-TILLIS GROUP SAYS ITS POLL SHOWS TILLIS WINNING: The Washington Post is reporting that a poll commissioned by super PAC American Crossroads gives Tillis a huge advantage in the Senate race. It puts Tillis at 27 percent, Greg Brannon at 16 percent and Mark Harris at 10 percent.

Other polls that had Tillis in the upper 20s, but others have him in the upper teens. The full Crossroads results weren’t released, the poll included push questions and the group that conducted it has obvious motivations – American Crossroads supporting Tillis with $1.1 million in TV ads. ...

... MORE INTERESTING: The most interesting part of the Washington Post report is a question in the poll that asked about the recent civil judgment against Brannon. About 4 in 5 voters said it made them less likely to vote for Brannon.

It’s unclear if Tillis (or more likely the outside groups) will use the ruling against Brannon in the primary. But if it’s Tillis-Brannon in the July runoff, bet money that the court case is featured in a TV ad. Read more here.

HAGAN ALLY CRITICIZES HAGAN’S STRATEGY: One week West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is raising money for Democrat Kay Hagan in Asheville, the next he’s on Fox News criticizing his party for trying to “beat up” conservative donors Charles and David Koch.

Hagan is pushing the attack-the-Koch line in her campaign. Read more here.

TILLIS WADES INTO THE LION’S DEN: Thom Tillis is getting flak from tea party groups and is skipping many of their candidate forums. But he recently met with the Catawba Valley Tea Party in Conover.

The report from the Hickory Record: U.S. Senate candidate and N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis argued against being labeled as an establishment candidate and touted his ability to build coalitions, including the Republican return to control of the General Assembly at a Conover campaign stop Tuesday night.

At a Catawba Valley Tea Party meeting, Tillis and his wife, Susan, spoke about when he quit his job ... to devote himself full time to busting the old establishment and restoring a Republican majority.

“Some of my opponents and other people call me the establishment candidate,” Tillis said. “I’ve been in the minority longer in the legislature than I’ve been in the majority.” Read more here.

TEA PARTY PATRIOTS ENDORSE BRANNON: “Dr. Brannon has a vision, one where North Carolinians and all Americans live in a country with personal freedom, economic freedom, and a debt-free future. Greg is physician with a compassionate practice and a servant’s heart; many North Carolinians know that. But it was his passion for Constitutionally-limited government that made him the obvious choice for our endorsement,” said Chairwoman Jenny Beth Martin in a statement released by Brannon’s campaign.

PUNDIT: Mentioning Greg Brannon, the Washington Post’s conservative blogger writes: “If the tea party challengers to mainstream incumbent Republicans lose most of their races, it will be a significant statement by primary voters, usually considered the most conservative segment of the GOP.” Read more here.

OUT: Kathleen Sebelius resigns after health care rollout fiasco. Read more here.

HEADLINE: White House dismisses vulnerable Democrats’ push on Keystone pipeline. Read more here.

#NCPOL –

POLTIFACT ON PUNDIT’S “VOTER FRAUD” CLAIM – FALSE: Politifact’s sister publication PunditFact checked Fox News commentator Dick Morris’ claim using North Carolina’s study of potential double voters and found it lacked standing. Read it here.

FBI SEIZED GUN, CASH FROM MAYOR CANNON’S HOME: After accusing former Mayor Patrick Cannon of accepting bribes last month, the FBI almost immediately began hunting the money by seizing computers, phones and financial records from Cannon’s home and business, newly released records show.

According to search warrants made public by federal prosecutors on Wednesday, FBI agents also combed the mayor’s offices.

There, they found what has become a well-known piece of luggage: the brown Fossil briefcase that the FBI says held a $20,000 bribe Cannon took from an undercover agent last month on the 15th floor of the Government Center.

At Cannon’s home, agents also toted away thousands of dollars in cash and a semi-automatic pistol. Read more here.

RALEIGH VOTERS COULD DECIDE ON DIX PURCHASE: If state and city leaders can reach an agreement on the sale price, Raleigh’s purchase of the Dorothea Dix property for a new park will likely go before city voters as early as November.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s counteroffer released Wednesday makes the price range clear: The sale will fall between Raleigh’s $38 million offer and the state’s $52.2 million proposal. Raleigh will have to borrow to afford the purchase, and City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said the council has agreed to put that bond issue on a ballot referendum.

“Unlike a public safety center, this is a nice thing to have – not a critical thing to have,” Baldwin said Thursday. “We felt it would be appropriate to let the public decide.” Read more here.

QUICK HEADLINES –

McCrory promotes N.C. community college job training. Read more here.

McCrory, Clodfelter talk teamwork, ethics in meeting. Read more here.

Same-sex couples plan to file N.C. taxes as married. Read more here.

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