Under the Dome

Morning Memo: U.S. Chamber ads part of Tillis effort to avoid runoff

A week to the day before the Republican primary in the U.S. Senate race, it’s clear that Republican Thom Tillis and his supporters are scrambling to finish above the 40 percent threshold to win outright.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching television ads in North Carolina promoting Tillis’ campaign, another big Washington player throwing weight into the nationally significant race, AP reports.

“Thom Tillis, a bold conservative who balanced our budgets and reduced regulations,” intones an announcer in the North Carolina commercial that criticizes first-term Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. “Conservative Thom Tillis. He’ll fight Washington instead of joining them.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Chamber is holding two events with Tillis in Raleigh and Charlotte to formally announce its support of his campaign – which it telegraphed weeks ago after its leaders voted to endorse his candidacy.

Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the Raleigh event. He also is expected to endorse Tillis.

The effort joins TV and radio ad campaigns from two super PACs supporting Tillis and his campaign’s final push to take support from opponents Greg Brannon and Mark Harris.

A new Public Policy Polling survey scheduled for release Tuesday morning is expected to show a big bump for Tillis, putting him above the runoff line.

*** The final U.S. Senate debate featured more fireworks than the previous two combined as Republican Mark Harris made a final push. Read about it in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory is attending a closed door meeting with the Industrial Asset Management Council in Pinehurst at 12:30 p.m. and an entrepreneur summit at Methodist University in Fayetteville at 6:30 p.m, according to his public calendar.

#NCSEN ---

FINAL #NCSenDebate – HARRIS GOES ON OFFENSIVE, BUT WILL IT WORK? Taking a more aggressive approach, Republican Mark Harris made the case in the final U.S. Senate primary debate Monday that his two rivals are unelectable in November because of their “political baggage.”

The Charlotte pastor criticized Greg Brannon for not supporting Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. And he highlighted a recent civil verdict against Brannon that found he owed $500,000 for misleading investors in a technology company he helped start.

Harris pivoted later to hit House state Speaker Thom Tillis for pushing political appointees who were generous campaign contributors. And he accused Tillis of undermining the effort to approve a constitutional ban on gay marriage by saying it would likely be repealed in 20 years.

“It is so critical that we have someone that is electable,” he said minutes into the debate. “There are two individuals on this platform tonight that carry with them baggage that I believe Kay Hagan will use to rip them apart.”

The attacks began in answering the first question and ended in Harris’ final statement, bookending a debate that featured more contentious moments than two earlier forums. ... But the debate did little to shake Brannon or Tillis, who reiterated his support for the marriage ban and emphasized his accomplishments in the General Assembly. Read more here.


WHO ARE YOU? Republican Mark Harris delivered more punches in the final debate than the first two combined. But his big line came about halfway through: “I think if we were to chose Speaker Tillis, you would find someone that is more in the Lindsey Graham, John McCain mode. I think if you were to choose Greg Brannon, you would choose someone who … has been endorsed by Rand Paul. What I believe we need in North Carolina is a United States senator that comes from the Reagan perspective.” He considers himself the latter.

JOIN THE CLUB. In the first two debates, it seemed Tillis hit Kay Hagan every time he opened his mouth. His two rivals picked up the refrain in the final debate, making “Kay Hagan” possibly the most uttered phrase of the debate – even more than “constitution.”

NULLIFY THIS. It took until the final debate, but the issue of nullification, a favorite among constitutional conservatives, entered the U.S. Senate race in prime time courtesy of Greg Brannon. It refers to the school of thought that the Constitution gives states the authority to reject federal laws. “The Supreme Court has no power to enforce their opinion,” he said. “This goes back to state sovereignty … The state must say no to the federal government.”

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S REBUTTAL: President Barack Obama didn’t mean to rebut the N.C. GOP candidates, but he happened to deliver a defense of his record during an overseas trip that contrasted neatly with what the candidates said.

“Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?” Obama said after being asked at a press conference in the Philippines about criticism of his record. “My job as Commander-in-Chief is to deploy military force as a last resort, and to deploy it wisely. And, frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests.” Read more here.

BIG PICTURE: How the Democrats can avoid going down this November. Read more here.


SARAH PALIN ENDORSES TAYLOR GRIFFIN – As a Republican operative in 2008, Taylor Griffin helped former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin transition into a national political figure. Now, she is trying to help Griffin get back to Washington as a congressman.

Griffin’s campaign announced Tuesday morning that Palin had endorsed his bid to defeat GOP incumbent Rep. Walter Jones in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District. Her PAC also is expected to contribute to the campaign. “I consider Governor Palin to be the epitome of a principled conservative and her endorsement reinforces my message that I will give eastern North Carolina the conservative representation we deserve,” Griffin said.

AHEAD OF SENATE ELECTION, NAACP AND OTHER GROUPS TO REGISTER VOTERS: From BuzzFeed – While they are battling the law in court, the NAACP has embarked on an aggressive effort to register voters in the hopes that putting the law at the center of their political efforts will have a profound impact on November’s election. They are planning on sending 50 volunteers into counties across the state to “engage in intense issue-based voter registration and voter empowerment campaign,” said Laurel Ashton, a field coordinator for the group. Other groups too have committed big resources to voter efforts – including Planned Parenthood Action, which plans to spend $3 million in the state. Read more here.

JOB TITLE: The N.C. NAACP is calling them “Moral Freedom Summer organizers.” Check out the job listing here.

CLERGY SUE OVER N.C. BAN ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Ministers from Raleigh, Charlotte and Asheville helped launch the country’s first faith-based challenge to same-sex marriage bans, claiming in a lawsuit filed Monday that North Carolina’s laws block them from practicing their religion.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court by the United Church of Christ, marks the first time an entire denomination has joined the marriage battle. UCC, headquartered in Cleveland, has more than 1.1 million members and 5,100 local churches. North Carolina is home to more than 24,000 members and 155 churches.

The plaintiffs say state prohibitions, including a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2012, violate their First Amendment right of freedom of religion. And they are asking the federal courts in the Western District of North Carolina to overturn the ban as quickly as possible. Read more here.

N.C.’s NASTIEST CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN? From The (Greensboro) News & Record: The war of words – and ads – continues between Bruce VonCannon and Phil Berger Jr., both vying to be the Republican candidate for the 6th Congressional District seat now held by Howard Coble.

On Friday, attorneys for VonCannon filed an application of their intent to file a lawsuit for libel and slander against Keep Citizens United, which backs Berger in the 6th district race, over a campaign ad.

VonCannon also struck back Friday with a TV ad about Berger’s prosecutorial record as Rockingham County district attorney and claims he offered a child rapist a plea-bargain deal for a three-year sentence.

Berger’s campaign responded late Friday with a letter threatening legal action and a press release calling VonCannon “a liar” for implying that the defendant in question, James Dunlap, received only a three-year sentence. Read more here.

AMID ATTACKS, HUDSON BACKED BY PBA: Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson is being blasted with TV ads suggesting she is soft on criminals. But the N.C. Police Benevolent Association is coming to her defense ahead of the May 6 primary in which Hudson faces two opponents. “Justice Hudson is a highly respected Justice who consistently provides fairness and integrity for all persons before the Court. A vote for Robin Hudson is a vote for the men and women of law enforcement,” the group said in a statement.

ENVIRONMENTAL AWARDS: The N.C. League of Conservation voters announced its 2014 Green Tie winners. The Senator of the Year: Democrat Angela Bryant. The Representative of the Year: Democrat Larry Hall. The rising stars it listed, again Democrats: Sens. Valerie Foushee and Sen. Mike Woodard of Durham and Reps. Nathan Baskerville, Carla Cunningham, George Graham, Duane Hall, Yvonne Lewis Holley, Bobbie Richardson and Evelyn Terry.


Hopefuls to succeed Clodfelter meet in forum. Read more here.

Area researchers will help guide new e-cigarette regulations. Read more here.

What Mecklenburg County wants this legislative session. Read more here.