Keith Crisco is being remembered as a dedicated public servant and “one of North Carolina’s giants,” as former Gov. Bev Perdue called him.
The Democratic congressional candidate and former state commerce secretary died Monday – the day before the certification of election results from the May 6 primary. Crisco trailed Clay Aiken by 369 votes and he had not yet conceded defeat in a divided race that may linger into the general election.
A close Crisco adviser said he planned to concede Tuesday and its absence leaves a void in the race. On the most basic level: he never had the chance to tell his supporters to support Aiken. Democrats will need to coalesce behind the candidate and play an active role to boost the former American Idol runner up into contention.
If he chose to help Aiken, Crisco could have served as a key asset given his connections in the district among prominent businessmen and even voters that lean Republican in a district dominated by them.
More from today’s story: Crisco turned 71 a few weeks ago while in the midst of a vigorous campaign that he had begun to prepare for last year.
Sensing an opening for a successful challenge to Republican incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers, Crisco lined up endorsements from many veterans of the state’s Democratic establishment as well as business and civic leaders he knew from many years in public service.
What he didn’t foresee was the entry of pop singer Aiken into the race in February, which turned the primary into a contest with national attention and made it a much more expensive effort.
*** Ahead of the legislative session, Gov. Pat McCrory is outlining his agenda. Read more and get a full North Carolina political news roundup below in today’s Dome Morning Memo.***
TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend an event at 10 a.m. at the Department of Public Instruction focused on teacher effectiveness before traveling to Kinston for a noon event with Lenioir County leaders.
McCrory will announce a new initiative focused on substance abuse and underage drinking – one of the top priorities from his first year – at 2 p.m. event at East Carolina University in Greenville. Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry and N.C. ABC Commission Chairman Jim Gardner will join him.
Ahead of Wednesday’s legislative session, the Revenue Laws committee will meet at 9:30 a.m. in room 544 of the legislative office building to review a draft report of the omnibus tax changes that lawmakers are considering after passing a massive tax cut law in 2013.
Another committee expected to draw attention: the joint study panel looking at the Affordable Care Act. It meets at 1 p.m. in room 643 LOB.
The Legislative Research Commission will meet at 2:30 p.m. in room 1228 at the legislature to discuss committee reports from the interim that may move in the short session.
And House Democratic leader Larry Hall is scheduled to hold a press conference at 3 p.m. in the press room.
ANOTHER HAGAN FUNDRAISING COMMITTEE: Another joint fundraising committee will benefit Democrat Kay Hagan’s U.S. Senate campaign. This one is titled Colorado North Carolina Victory Fund, a joint entity created in the past week that will benefit Hagan and Mark Udall in Colorado. Other joint fundraising campaigns link Hagan to vulnerable senators in Arkansas (Mark Pryor) and Louisiana (Mary Landrieu).
In fact, Hagan is approaching about a dozen campaign committees of various sorts to take money from donors – a byproduct of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that removed the aggregate cap on campaign contributors giving to candidates and party committees.
The wealthy donors can now give huge sums to the party who can dole them out to these various committees. Read more about how it works here.
HEADLINES -- The Week: Why the GOP wants to “divide and conquer” the poor. Read it here. Washington Post: Liberal groups launch campaigns to boost turnout using Obamacare. Read more here. Politico: In 2014, how big will the GOP wave be? Read more here. Huffington Post blogger from UNC-Chapel Hill: There is no meaningful difference between tea party and “establishment” Republicans. Read more here. Open Secrets: Conservatives finally take lead in 2014 outside spending. Read more here.
TODAY’s TALKER -- LAWMAKER SENDS N.C. TEACHER A SHARP REPLY: From WUNC -- Last week, Sarah Wiles, a science teacher in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Schools with a master’s degree and six years’ experience, sent an email to every member of the North Carolina General Assembly with the subject line: “I am embarrassed to confess: I am a teacher.” That email is below.
This morning, Sen. David Curtis, a Republican from Denver, NC, replied (actually “reply all” as it went to every member of the General Assembly.) And it’s a message that is sure to get some attention from public-school advocates. Read it here.
PAT McCRORY’S NUMBERS: Going into the legislative session, a Republican pollster finds likely voters essentially split on Gov. Pat McCrory. His approval rating is 48 percent with 44 percent disapproving, according to a Pulse Opinion Research poll conducted for Rasmussen Reports.
But the naysayers are more adamant. The poll found 17 percent strongly approve of the governor and 26 percent strongly disapprove.
ANTHONY FOXX SAYS HE SUPPORTS GAY MARRIAGE: Transportation Secretary and former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said Monday that he supported gay marriage and that North Carolina was wrong when it passed its law banning same-sex marriage.
While he’s considered an ally to the gay community, his comments at the White House were the first time he’d spoken publicly in favor of gay marriage.
“I support same-sex marriage,” Foxx said. “Who someone loves should never be an issue at work or anyplace else.”
--TAKES SWIPE AT McCRORY: Foxx spoke about his support for the Charlotte gay community and took a swipe at the former Mayor Pat McCrory, who’s now North Carolina’s governor.
“I was the first mayor to even go meet with the LGBT community,” Foxx said. “I was, unlike my predecessor, someone who went out and _ and went to the annual Human Rights Campaign dinner and signed a letter. I did a lot of things. But this is a place where I think the country’s attitudes are shifting. And _ and I think North Carolina got it wrong.” Read more here.
THE BIG STORY -- COAL ASH CLEANUP BEGINS: With the clatter of heavy machinery, the cleanup of the ash-laden Dan River will begin in earnest this week.
Duke’s contractor will use a dredge that vacuums ash off the river bottom while disturbing sediment as little as possible. About 2,500 tons of ash and sediment will be sucked up by the end of June – a small fraction of the up to 39,000 tons that spilled.
The material will be sent for burial in a private, lined landfill in Person County. DENR says it is still concerned for the long-term health of the Dan. The condition of animals that live on the river bottom, such as crayfish and mayflies, hasn’t been determined because of high water levels, it said. The Environmental Protection Agency, which is overseeing the project, signed off on the cleanup method. Read more here.
THE COWELL DODGE: State Treasurer Janet Cowell has sidestepped – for now – the politically charged issue of whether she and future treasurers should share high-level investment decisions on the state’s $86 billion pension fund.
Cowell has called on state lawmakers to adopt several reforms ... But she didn’t endorse the commission’s most far-reaching recommendation, which called for the appointment of a board of trustees that would help make investment decisions.
In a letter to the leaders of the state House and Senate that was released Monday, Cowell said she wasn’t staking out a position on investment decisions given that the 11-person commission was split on the issue – and based on what she was hearing from lawmakers. Read more here.
MOONEYHAM: Two big races; two very different lessons to learn from each. Read more here.
McCRORY BACKS MORE UNEMPLOYMENT CHANGES: Returning to one of his administration’s top priorities, Gov. Pat McCrory outlined legislative proposals Monday that he says are needed to reduce wasteful spending at the state’s unemployment agency. “We are cutting down on unemployment insurance fraud,” McCrory said. “You have to show that you’re treating finding a job as a job.” Read more here.
DOUBLE VOTER REGISTRATIONS ... OF LAWMAKERS: Bob Hall, executive director of Durham-based Democracy North Carolina, said there may be other explanations – aside from voter fraud – for why a recent cross-check of 28 states’ voter databases turned up 35,750 North Carolina voters whose names and birth dates match those of registered voters in other states who cast ballots in both states in 2012.
To illustrate his point, Hall said during a news conference that his group identified four sitting state lawmakers whose names and dates of birth match exactly with registered voters in other states. The lawmakers include two Republicans – Rep. Charles Jeter of Mecklenburg County and Sen. Ronald Rabin of Harnett County – and Democratic Reps. Duane Hall of Wake County and Rodney Moore of Mecklenburg.
Hall said he believed the legislators did nothing wrong, acknowledging that the voters with the same personal information hadn’t voted in the other states in recent years. He said the lawmakers could have lived in those states previously and their registrations hadn’t been purged or the voters are different people.
“When you match 6.4 million registered voters in North Carolina with over 90 million records in other states, it’s not surprising that you find tens of thousands of voters with matching first and last names and birth dates who are actually two different people,” Hall said. Read more here.
PROBE LAUNCHED INTO CALLS IN 7TH DISTRICT RACE: From Wilmington StarNews: The New Hanover County Board of Elections officially announced Monday its investigation into a series of “irregular” election-related recorded telephone calls. ...
The calls in question were sent out last Monday night and Tuesday morning and contained a male voice claiming to be Commissioner Brian Berger asking voters to support Woody White in his bid for the 7th district congressional seat and Mike Lee for a state senate seat. Caller identification on these calls listed both Berger’s cell phone number and the number for the county clerk’s office. Read more here.
ICYMI -- In case you missed it, Rush Limbaugh on the tea party in North Carolina and U.S. Rep. Walter Jones. Read more here.