Daily dose

Daily dose: Monday madness edition

Independent groups aim to help Democratic legislative candidates (AP) — Groups in the shadow of traditional campaigns are poised to once again attempt to influence North Carolina General Assembly races through ads and mailers bought with millions of dollars largely from companies and politically-minded organizations.

New poll shows Hagan widening to 9 point lead (WRAL-TV) -- Raleigh polling firm American Insights is rolling out a new poll Monday that shows Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan has a 9 percentage point lead among likely voters over Republican challenger Thom Tillis. This poll is the latest in a string showing Hagan gaining ground in the campaign. Of likely voters surveyed, 43 percent said they would back Hagan, 34 percent said they backed Tillis, the current state House speaker, and 5 percent backed Libertarian Sean Haugh. "The race has unmistakably shifted towards Sen. Hagan in recent days," said Pearce Godwin, insights director for American Insights. "This poll is a continuation and affirmation of the recent trend in her direction. But there is still a lot of time left on the clock, and I would not be surprised if this volatile race shifts back to a jump ball between now and November."

Daily dose: GOP bait-and-switch edition

Ads take up education, contraceptive issues in US Senate race (Raleigh News & Observer) -- It’s rapidly reaching the season when it’s not safe to turn on your television, unless you dig political advertising. Friday was the day for both sides in the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina to launch TV ads. First up was another spot by Carolina Rising, a nonprofit that has begun spending a lot of money on behalf of House Speaker Thom Tillis. The group’s Dallas Woodhouse says the ad buy is $1.3 million and will cover the state.

Wos: DHHS will build stability before expanding Medicaid (Winston-Salem Journal) -- “Soon.” The state’s health secretary, Aldona Wos, gave that one-word answer – filled with possibilities and ambiguities – when asked when she would recommend expanding the state Medicaid program to Gov. Pat McCrory.

Daily dose: Hagan takes lead, GOP mob calls in New Jersey big-shot to fix things

Poll shows Hagan pulling ahead of Tillis (Greensboro News & Record) -- Sen. Kay Hagan pulling ahead of N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis in the tight N.C. Senate race.

Christie to Campaign with Tillis in Wilmington on Tuesday (TWCN-TV) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will attend a rally and a private event in Wilmington on Tuesday to support U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis.

Daily dose: TGIFF edition

NC Senate candidates largely back more airstrikes (AP) — Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and her Republican challenger Thom Tillis largely support the plan President Barack Obama outlined to expand military airstrikes and help forces fight the Islamic State militant group.

Big Swing In N C. Improves Democrats . (FiveThirtyEight) -- Republican chances of winning back the Senate fell below 60 percent Thursday, dropping about 4 percentage points to 58.2 percent, thanks to several good polls for Democrats in North Carolina and Colorado. Republicans are still favored to pick up six seats they don’t hold currently, and that would still lead to a GOP-controlled Senate. But Republicans are left with little room for error, and the race in Kansas becomes even more crucial. In North Carolina, a Rasmussen Reports poll found Democrat Kay Hagan ahead of Republican Thom Tillis 45 percent to 39 percent. Tillis had led in the previous Rasmussen survey by 5 percentage points. Another North Carolina poll released Thursday, bySurveyUSA, gave Hagan a 3-point lead (46 percent to 43 percent). The two polls together moved Hagan from a 45 percent underdog to a 61 percent percent favorite. With Hagan now leading, theFiveThirtyEight model does not project a single state in which President Obama won in either 2008 or 2012 to switch from Democratic to Republican control.

Daily Dose: Voter suppression edition

Watchdog group says election changes harming voters (WRAL-TV) -- With the voter registration deadline for the November elections one month away, voting watchdog group Democracy North Carolina says it's already found hundreds of cases in which last year's changes to state election laws prevented voters from casting ballots.

454 NC voters had ballots rejected in May primary, advocacy group says (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Democracy North Carolina's review of State Board of Election records from the May primary found 454 ballots were rejected because of election law changes enacted by the General Assembly in 2013.

NC pols agree on Islamic State threat, not timing (McClatchy Newspapers) -- Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis and incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan on Wednesday agreed with President Barack Obama that the Islamic State poses a grave threat to the United States, but Tillis harshly criticized the president and Hagan for not acting sooner. Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro who is in a close race with Tillis, stressed the threat from the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, and said that “their murder of two American journalists is an attack on America and our values.” “We must respond, and we will respond, by taking immediate, sustained and decisive action,” Hagan said. She added that she started to press the administration to arm moderate Syrian rebels last spring, “and I am glad that effort will be accelerated. “The president and our military leadership have now developed a plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels and defeat ISIS with a sustained campaign of airstrikes,” Hagan said, adding the effort must be carried out with allies and other Arab states and not by the United States alone. Tillis said the Islamic State was “growing stronger each day because of President Obama’s failed foreign policy and lack of leadership.”

Daily dose: $1 billion budget shortfall edition


North Carolina’s budget year is a mere two months old and already there are annoyances that could be signs of huge problems in a few months. Total general fund revenues are $200.4 million short where they were at this point last year, according to the Monthly Financial Report for August 2014, issued by State Controller’s Office on Tuesday.

If the current trend continues, it is likely legislators will be dealing with a budget hole of $725 million to as much as $1.2 billion. This past legislative session, the General Assembly had to confront a $500 million shortfall as they struggled to meet a variety of election-year spending demands, including pay raises for teachers and other state workers. Most state agencies started the year already in an austerity mode and it won’t be surprising, if by the end of September or October, memos will be dispatched from Lee Roberts, Gov. Pat McCrory’s new budget director, with belt-tightening orders and restrictions on state employee travel.

McCrory will likely try to avoid doing anything before election day, so it won’t have an impact on the various campaigns, particularly for fellow Mecklenburg County Republican Thom Tillis, the speaker of the state House of Representatives who is locked in a very close race for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan.

Don’t be surprised when legislative leaders and key budget analysts declare that it is still too early in the process to say whether any trends are in place and that they expect revenues to increase in late October and into November and December with holiday shopping and lucrative year-end bonuses. The major culprits for this latest revenue shortfalls are individual income taxes running $225.5 million behind last year along with franchise fees which are running $51.3 million behind the same point last year. Tax cuts enacted by the legislature have had a major impact that haven’t been made up with predicted economic growth in other areas.

In August 2012 the state collected $816.5 million in personal income taxes. This past August, the total was $680.3 million – a difference of $136 million. Broadening of the state sales tax has, over the same period, brought in additional $124.6 million – still not equal to the income tax cuts, including reductions in the corporate income tax.

McCrory aims to stump for Tillis in US Senate race (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory says he plans to do anything he can to help fellow Republican Thom Tillis' election campaign for the U.S. Senate in November, and will campaign for state legislators as time allows. McCrory said Tuesday he's planning to actively campaign for Tillis. The governor noted he endorsed the top lawmaker in the state House before the Republican primary election in May. Tillis and McCrory are both from the Charlotte area and have been close allies on most legislative issues since the governor took office last year. McCrory says he's getting many requests from legislative candidates to help their campaigns. The governor says he'll try to support as many as possible around his work schedule, but points out North Carolina is a big state.

Daily Dose: OTC edition

Tillis’ over-the-counter birth control plan wouldn’t increase access (Carolina Mercury) -- When House Speaker Thom Tillis was asked during last week’s U.S. Senate debate whether or not he agreed with the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, the Speaker had a neatly packaged response ready. According to the Republican candidate, Hobby Lobby, which said that corporations with religious beliefs can deny employees contraceptive coverage, was not about birth control, but about religious freedom. On the supposedly unrelated topic of birth control, however, Tillis was quick to note that he supports broadening access to contraception

More confusion among GOP leadership on teacher pay after McCrory letter gives yet another ‘average’ increase number (WRAL-TV) -- When Gov. Pat McCrory wrote to welcome teachers back to the classroom, he touted a "substantial" pay raise that amounted to "an average pay increase of 5.5 percent for teachers." That might have been exciting news, except that for more than a month legislative leaders have been touting a 7 percent average pay raise. House Speaker Thom Tillis trumpets that 7 percent figures as "simple math" in a recent campaign ad for his U.S. Senate campaign. For educators like Michelle Pettey, a first-grade teacher at Wake County's Brier Creek Elementary School, that "simple math" doesn't add up; 5.5 percent doesn't equal 7 percent and neither number matches the smaller-than-expected pay bump that showed up in her first paycheck of the year. "No teacher can figure out what happened," said Pettey, a teacher with 16 years in the classroom who said her actual raise worked out to be something like 1.39 percent. Josh Ellis, a spokesman for Gov. McCrory, said the difference between the 5.5 percent number and the 7 percent number is a difference in accounting.

Daily Dose: Tillis-dismisses-his-mansplaining edition

Tillis dismisses 'mansplaining' charges (Politico) -- Thom Tillis, the Republican running for a North Carolina Senate seat that could well decide the majority in the Senate, has been pilloried since last week’s debate by Democrats who see him as a condescending “man-splainer” who played into gender stereotypes. But in his first comments on the controversy, the Republican state House speaker was unrepentant in a sit-down interview on the campaign trail, chalking up the firestorm to Democrats playing gender politics to boost Sen. Kay Hagan.“It’s just silly,” he said during a lunch stop this weekend with supporters over barbecue, fried oysters and chicken livers. “We’re talking about the future of the greatest nation on the earth, and this is what we’re going to?”

Daily dose: McCollum edition

No GOP apologies for nasty McCollum ad (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Unfortunately, politics requires no shame. Or decency. Or apologies. So I suspect no apology will be forthcoming from the N.C. Republican Party to Henry Lee McCollum or former state Sen. John Snow. The party paid for and mailed a particularly nasty flier during the 2010 election that featured a threatening photo of McCollum, who is black and was serving a life sentence at the time for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. The flier, which also featured a white convict labeled “child killer,” said Snow, a former judge and prosecutor — and death penalty advocate — wanted them to get another chance. “These men committed unspeakable crimes,” the mailer stated, “but when they were on death row, liberal John Snow tried to give them a second chance.” Well, not exactly. Snow did vote in favor of the Racial Justice Act, a 2009 law that allowed murderers and other criminals to appeal to have death sentences converted to life sentences if racial bias during the trial could be proved. The Republican-controlled legislature overturned the act last year.

Tillis counting on 'informed electorate' (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- An informed electorate will deliver a second Republican to the U.S. Senate in November, the Republican candidate told an audience of supporters in Greenville on Saturday. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis made the remark during an hourlong stop at the Pitt County Republican Party headquarters in Greenville to campaign against first-term incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. “When people know the choices between the two candidates and understand the consequences of allowing Kay Hagan to rubberstamp Barack Obama for another two years, they want a change to people who will be decisive and get things done,” Tillis said.

Daily dose: Money well-spent

Environmentalists’ campaign spending to see huge jump (Washington Post) -- The League of Conservation Voters will spend $25 million in campaign funding this election season, a fivefold increase over what the group devoted to the last midterm elections, LCV President Gene Karpinski said. … The races LCV is targeting — including Senate contests in North Carolina, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire, as well as the Maine gubernatorial race, where it is opposing Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s reelection, and state legislative races in Oregon and Washington — all involve significant contrasts between the two candidates on climate change and other signature environmental issues.


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