Daily dose

A sad day, regardless of party affiliation:

Rep. Fulghum dies after ongoing cancer treatments (WRAL-TV) -- Rep. Jim Fulghum, R-Wake, has died, according to a statement from House Majority Leader Rep. Edgar Starnes.

Cleanup of Dan River ash sparks backlash (Charlotte Observer) -- Most of the Duke Energy coal ash that spilled into the Dan River in February will stay there, creating a rift between regulators and river advocates over the cleanup.

Tillis, NC Republicans talk GOP campaign efforts (WRAL-TV) -- The U.S. Senate race is at the top of North Carolina's ballots this fall, and Republican nominee Thom Tillis is helping lead the GOP's charge to get out the vote. The state Republican Party held a sparsely attended kickoff event Saturday at state GOP headquarters in Raleigh for its grassroots efforts to elect Republicans up and down the party's candidate slate. Tillis and other party notables spoke at the event.

Walker's efforts turn to fundraising for November (Greensboro News & Record) -- Think the primary was expensive? Wait until you see the general election. Last week, Mark Walker emerged victorious after a brutal and incredibly expensive GOP runoff for the 6th Congressional District seat. Despite a landslide victory over opponent Phil Berger Jr., who dramatically outraised and outspent him, Walker can’t rest now. While Walker was spending nearly all of the $325,000 his campaign had raised to best Berger, Democratic opponent Laura Fjeld — who had an easy primary and no runoff — was raising money toward November’s general election. Fjeld now has a nearly $120,000 cash-on-hand advantage, and her fundraising has received a boost from Walker’s victory. Walker is less connected to traditional Republican groups and donors than Berger, and Democratic interest groups, like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emily’s List and the House Majority PAC, believe that makes Walker more vulnerable in November.

Walker keeping image of 'outsider' (Greensboro News & Record) -- On Tuesday, Mark Walker won the Republican nomination for which he worked so hard in the 6th Congressional District race. Now, he has to make the transition to being his party’s nominee and address the expectations and demands that come with that position. “Going forward, it’s about staying on point and focus with Mark Walker,” said Michael Picarelli, the chairman of the Guilford County Republican Party. “We want to make sure we’re on the same page. We want to make sure he’s working in tandem with Thom Tillis. It’s all about focus. We’ll want to have constant daily communication.” Tillis is the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Kay Hagan. That’s going to be a change for Walker, who has operated as an outsider — and a long shot — since the race for the nomination began. But he said he doesn’t think it means the party is trying to control him. “I don’t sense that at all,” Walker said. “At this point, we couldn’t change the core of who we are and what we stand for, and we don’t intend to. We have a message and a strategy, and we’re going to stick to it. “When you say ‘people before politics,’ that’s people before all politics, both Republican and Democrat,” he said.

SHORT SESSION, DAY 68: Overtime 20, $1 MILLION
Adjourning without Tillis? (Charlotte Observer) -- Adjourning without Tillis? If the General Assembly hopes to adjourn this week, lawmakers might have to do so without the speaker of the House, or at least work around his schedule. Speaker Thom Tillis has two fundraisers scheduled for his U.S. Senate campaign. On Tuesday, he’ll be at Bobby Vans Grill in Washington at an event with U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. On Wednesday, he’ll be back in D.C. at the Capitol Hill Club for a fundraiser with the state’s GOP congressional delegation. A group of Tillis critics, meanwhile, has begun a campaign to write in John Rhodes on the November ballot. Rhodes, who lost his House seat to Tillis in 2006, has been a critic of the speaker. A Washington Post blog called the Monkey Cage this week put Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s chances of winning re-election at 92 percent and Tillis’ at 8 percent.

In N.C., Art Pope sits at heart of government he helped transform (Washington Post) -- Art Pope is one of the most generous donors to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, having lavished millions on his alma mater. The retail magnate is also one of the university’s staunchest critics — so much so that he has directed millions into creating a think tank that has blasted UNC as being wasteful and a bastion of political correctness. But when Pope sent university leaders a letter this year chastising their state funding request, it was in yet another capacity entirely: as Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget director. There is no one in North Carolina, or likely in all of American politics, quite like Art Pope. He is not just a wealthy donor seeking to influence politics from the outside, nor just a government official shaping it from within. He is doing both at the same time — the culmination of a quarter-century spent building a sphere of influence that has put him at the epicenter of North Carolina government and moved his state closer to the conservative vision he has long imagined. “There are not many people as influential, because few people have invested the time and the money that he has on behalf of his state,” said Republican former governor James G. Martin, who tapped Pope, then 28, to be a lawyer in his administration in the 1980s.

Art Pope's influence on N.C. (Washington Post) -- Wealthy retail magnate Art Pope has helped reshape North Carolina politics by creating and financing a network of conservative groups that buttressed GOP efforts to take on the long-dominant Democratic establishment. Along the way, he has played key roles in state government as a four-term state legislator and now as budget director for Gov. Pat McCrory, the first Republican to lead the state in two decades

Dozens in Durham protest state budget director’s conservative policies (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Dozens of protesters gathered at a Durham Maxway to show their opposition to conservative policies of the state’s budget director, Art Pope.

Honduran girl’s border crossing brings her to Charlotte (Charlotte Observer) -- The most controversial person in Charlotte right now could be a 9-year-old who wears plastic flowers in her hair and refuses to leave the house without a teddy bear she calls Linda. Her name is Ligsdenis Ochoa, and she is the first child known to be in Charlotte as part of the government’s effort to deal with a flood of immigrant children from Central and South America streaming over the U.S. border. She arrived in Charlotte last month to be reunited with her mother, after a trek from Honduras that had her hiking for days, forging rivers and clinging to the tops of freight trains. She was accompanied by her grandmother, a woman in her 50s who is being held in a Texas detention facility.

Human trafficking can happen to the child next door (New Bern Sun Journal) -- Human trafficking is alive and well in Eastern North Carolina and even in Craven County, according to a panel hosted by True Justice International Friday night, and the battle is on to put an end to it. The ministry, formerly known as Pearl Ministries, held a fundraising “Freedom Friday Dinner Theater,” which included dinner, a panel and film at Temple Baptist Church from 5 to 9 p.m. The film was the documentary “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls,” which focuses on a presentation of trafficking worldwide. The panel was emceed by Doc Loomis, a member of the TJF board and also a bishop in the Anglican Church. Speakers were TJF director Sarah Tellis; Chip Hughes, a member of the governor’s crime commission; two TJF missionaries serving in Charleston, and Kelly McPherson, a trafficking activist whose sister escaped trafficking.

Statewide anti-poverty group calls for more money for job training (Fayetteville Observer) -- A new report from a statewide anti-poverty group calls for more money for job training to boost the middle class.

NC lottery director says there is room for growth (AP) — It may have taken more than two decades for the North Carolina General Assembly to enact a lottery, but it is now an attractive moneymaker in the eyes of state lawmakers.

Revenue figures for North Carolina lottery (AP) — Gross revenue sales are the total amount of sales made throughout the state for that year.

Fla. jury slams RJ Reynolds with $23.6B in damages (AP) — A Florida jury has slammed the nation's No. 2 cigarette maker, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., with $23.6 billion in punitive damages in a lawsuit filed by the widow of a longtime smoker who died of lung cancer in 1996.

Experts: Youth curfews, like one considered for Fayetteville, aren't effective (Fayetteville Observer) -- As Fayetteville officials look to develop a youth curfew, two criminal justice professors say such ordinances are not effective.

Slim Baucom: Patrick Cannon 'was a good friend' (Charlotte Observer) -- Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon pleaded guilty to taking money from strip-club businessman Slim Baucom in exchange for help with city regulators. It turns out he accepted other favors as well.

Hundreds rally at NC capitol to protest violence in Gaza (WRAL-TV) -- Hundred of people rallied at the state Capitol grounds in Raleigh Saturday afternoon to protest the continuing violence in Gaza.

Protestors call for peace in Gaza (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- A crowd of 75 to 80 people in Rocky Mount protested Friday in front of City Hall over Israeli troops’ recent invasion into the Gaza Strip, which has reportedly resulted in the death of more than 200 Palestinians.

Young’uns With a Yen for Wisdom (New York Times theater review) -- A little strip of lonesome highway has plopped down at City Center, where a flavorsome revival of the North Carolina inspired, chicken-fried musical revue “Pump Boys and Dinettes” plays through Saturday as part of the Encores! Off-Center series. Should you pull off the road for a fill-up, a Coke and a piece of pie, you’ll find amiable company in the show’s beaming cast members, who make like a big old human jukebox as they sing of the daily grind in a gas station (the pump boys) and the roadside coffee shop nearby (the dinettes). First seen Off Broadway in 1981, the musical was a homespun collaboration among the men and women who performed it. The book, music and lyrics are by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann — and all but Mr. Hardwick, who died in 1993, were on hand to celebrate on Wednesday’s opening night. The little show moved uptown the next year, to big bad Broadway, where it ran for more than a year and subsequently spawned countless regional and amateur theater stagings.

Long road leads Lumberton's Brad Allen to NFL as a referee (Fayetteville Observer) -- Ask Brad Allen about the moment he found out that he was going to become an NFL referee and you'll get a pretty thorough answer.

Clean Power, Off the Grid (New York Times) -- After years of hype, renewable energy has gone mainstream in much of the United States and, increasingly, around the world. Enormous wind projects are moving ahead in oil- and gas-rich Wyoming, utility-scale solar projects are sprouting up in California and Nevada and tens of thousands of homeowners nationwide are installing affordable solar panels on their rooftops. But many communities that need small-scale renewable energy remain out in the cold — literally and figuratively.

Toxic cleanup shifts from dirt near RDU to region’s streams, lakes (Raleigh News & Observer) -- An 8-acre mound of dirt is all that remains after an $82 million cleanup at the site of Ward Transformer Co., the Triangle’s nastiest industrial polluter. But Ward’s half-century legacy of toxic PCB contamination will linger.

Is a 7 percent solution good enough for us? (Fayetteville Observer column) -- This is why I have a queasy feeling about that billion gallons of coal-ash wastewater that Duke Energy owns, up where the Haw and Deep rivers come together to form the Cape Fear:

What NC lawmakers have in common at the core (Raleigh News & Observer) Longtime N&O editorial cartoonist Dwane Powell is back to the drawing board to lampoon lawmakers during the short session of the General Assembly.
What’s best use of $500 million? (Charlotte Observer) -- You can have your opinion about teacher pay, other spending and tax cuts – we certainly have ours. But here are the facts: North Carolina cut personal income taxes and corporate income taxes last Jan. 1. Those tax cuts will reduce state revenue in the current budget year by at least $500 million and possibly by closer to $1 billion. Most of that money went to the state’s wealthiest taxpayers.

McCrory, Frankly, Will Let You Know When He's Full Of It (Buzzfeed column) – N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, frankly, has a very subtle tell when he is just about to say something that is complete BS. Let’s see if you can spot it in the examples below:

Vote fraud myths meet voting rights reality (Chicago Tribune column) -- Before she was allowed to register and vote for the first time in Franklin County, N.C., Rosanell Eaton had to read the entire preamble to the U.S. Constitution out loud in front of three men in the county courthouse. Eaton is black. The three men testing her were white. The time was the early 1940s, when trying to vote was difficult and even dangerous for African-Americans. Contrived "literacy tests" were one of the milder obstacles that were deployed to suppress the black vote in the South. Now 93, Eaton is back in court. This summer she is lead plaintiff in one of two lawsuits brought by the North Carolina NAACP and others to prevent her state from raising a batch of new hurdles to voting in this November's midterm elections.

Amid recovery, NC's low-wage workers struggle (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- One way to see how the economy is really doing is to see it from the perspective of ministries that help people who are having a financial crisis. These are not homeless shelters serving the permanent poor, the addicted, the abused and the mentally ill. The two ministries I spoke with last week serve people who are straining to pay basic bills and then get hit with medical problems or a layoff or a family situation. These people are the weather vanes of the economy, their fates swinging with the trends in employment and wages. Denise Crumpler, executive director of North Raleigh Ministries, says the economic storm that hit in 2008 and lingers to this day is abating, but there are still plenty of people in need, even in the suburban areas of North Raleigh. Crumpler said 25 percent of the 5,000 people her organization serves are, or used to be, middle class.

McCrory, Art Pope, and the short. unhappy career of Poet Laureate (Scholars & Rouges column) -- The N.C. Poet Laureate controversy isn’t about poetry, it’s about power – and probably about money, too. North Carolina has been in the news a lot lately – and not for the right reasons. A Tea Party dominated legislature doing the bidding of a billionaire ally of the Koch Brothers, a guy named Art Pope who, while having inherited a vast fortune made by his father by selling crappy stuff to the poor, has wholeheartedly embraced the somewhat warped version of Randian philosophy of “more for me and none for you if there’s any way I can make that happen.” … While Pope and his minions destroy North Carolina’s educational system, environment, and social safety net, NC’s sock puppet governor, Pat McCrory, just this week took it upon himself to dip his toe into one pool that he and his fellow Libertarian ubermenschen had previously avoided direct contact with – the arts. … What McCrory did, and his appointee undid just yesterday, was appoint someone as poet laureate of North Carolina who is, in the words of one critic, a “hobbyist poet.” There are several ways of explaining this mess:

Laureate, minus the laurels (Statesville Record & Landmark) -- We’d hardly claim to be poets. But following Gov. Pat McCrory’s out-of-the-blue and much-criticized poet laureate appointment of state employee Valerie Macon — whose entire body of work consists of two self-published volumes — we figured we’d give it a shot. Following an uproar from the state's poetry community, Macon announced her resignation Thursday, ending her brief appointment.
The laureate picked to lead our great state/ Had very little poetry or experience to date./ Our Governor Pat got in a big heap of trouble,/ And answers were demanded, on the double!
We hated to be snide, but we just had to say,/ Self-published was fine … in an amateur way./ But Pat sought no input, no wisdom, no clue./ Hey, maybe we could be a poet laureate too!
Artists and poets were building their case/ One former laureate felt ‘slapped in the face./ So Macon stepped down in a most classy way,/ Now Pat needs to recover his image - today!
Step 1: Get Tar Heel workers back on the clock/ Step 2: Better school funding surely would rock/ Step 3: Loosen the reins so counties can bloom./ Step 4: Tax reform – yeah, let’s get that done soon.
If Pat fixes these, plus gives teachers raises/ We'll be first to write verses singing his praises.

Calling all potential poet laureates! (Asheville Citizen-Times column) -- You’ve got to hand it to Gov. Pat McCrory. I mean, who else could have made North Carolinians care so deeply about who the state poet laureate is? Boy, did he mess and step in it on this one. His choice for poet laureate, a Department of Health and Human Services employee and self-published poet named Valerie Macon, resigned Thursday, saying she didn’t want negative attention to detract from the position.

McCrory, Ellmers Just Dig Deeper (Southern Pines Pilot) -- Both Gov. Pat McCrory and our own 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Elmers seem to have forgotten a basic rule: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

It's All About Southern Women In The 2014 Elections (Huffington Post column) -- "Southern women are different," says Garden & Gun, the cheeky lifestyle magazine out of Charleston, S.C. "They're forever entangled in and infused by a miasma of mercy and cruelty, order and chaos, cornpone and cornball -- a potent mix that leaves them wise, morbid, good-humored, God-fearing, outspoken and immutable." This year, they are also politically pivotal. As candidates and voters, the women of the South could well be the Democrats' last line of defense against Republicans hungering to retake the U.S. Senate in November. In presidential years, the South is pretty much GOP territory. But in 2014, Democrats are in desperate need of help from four Southern states and the women running in them: Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, and charity CEO Michelle Nunn in Georgia. All but Hagan are members of deeply rooted political families in their respective states, and Hagan has acquired that aura through her unassuming charm and prodigious fundraising.

Important lab spared (Carteret County News-Times) -- On the chopping block for closure, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab on Pivers Island has officially been saved. For lobbying on its behalf, we thank Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.; Third District Rep. Walter B. Jones, Republican; Fourth District Rep. David Price, Democrat; Seventh District Rep. Mike McIntyre, Democrat, and Virginia Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science.

Wait on ruling before handing out money (Fayetteville Observer) -- North Carolina parents hoping to receive state assistance for children to attend private schools have been put in limbo by court maneuvers.

Magical thinking on the lottery down in Raleigh (Asheville Citizen-Times column) -- Magical thinking. That is the only way to describe the McCrory and NC GOP budget on education. The contention is that an increase in advertising will generate another $100 million in lottery revenue for education. Even the director of the lottery says that is not possible. There is no logical reason to assume that more advertising of the lottery will generate appreciably more revenue. This is just magical thinking. Of course, magical thinking is not new for Republicans. Remember the trickle-down economics of the Reagan administration? Getting more money in the hands of the rich was supposed to trickle down to the middle class. Even G. H. W. Bush called that "voodoo economics" when he was running against Reagan.

The US needs better tax support for highways (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The United States must meet the cost of maintaining its highways or pay the price of neglect.

From young chicks to dumped old egg-less hens (Wilmington Star-News Riverbark column) -- I don't like to brag (unless I'm awake) but I have gathered a few eggs in my day.

Will unemployment decline lead McCrory to White House (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- “Do you propose, at some point, to run for the presidency?” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory was asked on national TV the other day. The question was posed by Stuart Varney of Fox Business News, in the context of North Carolina’s declining unemployment rate, which he admiringly suggested might provide McCrory with a launching pad to the White House. McCrory, of course, demurred, saying he was focused on Raleigh. Before we get too far down the road of the McCrory presidential boomlet, we should perhaps take a closer look at the claims.

Waiting to exhale (Greensboro News & Record) -- The sale of Lorillard saves jobs and the plant in Greensboro. As for the future, we’ll have to wait and see.

Short-term fix for a long-term problem (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- The U.S. House last week passed a $10.8 billion stop-gap measure to extend transportation funding through May 2015.

Secrets of a 61-year miracle marriage in NC (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- A Havelock man says it is very important that we tell each other daily how much we love each other. “If she or I were going out for just a few minutes, we would kiss and tell each other how much we love each other. We have had 61 years of a marriage

The clear sin of contracting voter participation (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- The NC legislature explicitly ended programs designed to pre-register teens. Despite several silly attempts, they’ve been unable to come up with any plausible explanation. They also decided to allow military and veteran IDs while rejecting university ones.

How young voters can be a destabilizing force in college towns (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Last fall, the New York Times highlighted how younger college students were manipulated for political purposes. The University of Alabama student Greek system, called “the machine,” voted as a bloc to elect a former fraternity leader onto the school board. The outrage was over who orchestrated the effort. Rather than Organizing for America, the NAACP or some other left-leaning group that normally harvests low-information votes on college campuses, it was the sororities and fraternities (or a more sinister-sounding “secret society”) that rented buses and offered free drinks to anybody wearing an “I Voted” sticker at local bars. In short, the wrong side won, and this garnered New York Times scorn. Nobody wants to take away students’ right to vote, but we need to examine the widespread abuse of “domiciliary” residency (as opposed to temporary college residency) voting rules. While no other voters in American society get to pick a residence on Election Day, college students enjoy this pampered privilege, and it distorts local policies.

Yankee with a Southern mom (Charlotte Observer column) -- Growing up in Massachusetts with a North Carolinian mother was confusing. After all, how could I describe being a Northerner who felt Southern; a Tar Heel raised above the Mason Dixon line; a girl with Carolina roots, but Boston branches?

Three tips on how to navigate this political season (Charlotte Observer column) -- From Mark Erwin, a Charlotte businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros: The political season is upon us again … with a vengeance. Nowadays it seems to always be that time. So much money – so little time.