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Local North Carolina news and political pundits are awaiting for Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis to announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan might have an announcement date set:


"It's something I'll deal with after June," Tillis told the Charlotte News & Observer when asked about his potential bid, ruling out an official decision until after the State Legislature adjourns.

"You can't not think about what you are going to do, because I term-limited myself," he said. "It would be disingenuous to say you are not thinking about what you do, but there is a lot of opportunity out there that [is] just not political, professional opportunities and other things." - The Hill, 1/10/13

Yes Tillis has other things that he's focused on, like keeping North Carolina as a "right to work" state:


House Speaker Thom Tillis pledged to keep North Carolina a union-free state in his opening address at the legislature Wednesday.

The Cornelius Republican said the Republicans in the super-majority "will continue to be the least unionized state in the United States," spurring applause from Republicans and blank looks from Democrats.

Tillis started his remarks after formally being sworn-in as speaker telling Democrats "we will work together and at times that we disagree we will ensure civil respective discourse." But he soon outlined his vision for the state, saying lawmakers need to consider overhauling the state's education system by giving teachers more flexibility, revamping the tax code and cutting regulations. "Regulatory reform is truly the key ... to job creation and economic development," he said.

In an interview afterward, Tillis acknowledged he is interested in putting a so-called right-to-work provision against collective bargaining in the state constitution. "We want businesses in North Carolina make no mistake about it -- we will continue to be a right-to-work state," he said. - Charlotte News Observer, 1/9/13

Tillis also has to focus on how he can screw teachers and push for more education cuts:


NCACC keeps the county commissioners informed
What an ugly piece of lawmaking it was, last January, when Republican legislators, angry because some teachers had criticized their education budget, acted in the dead of night to prohibit the teachers from having their N.C. Association of Educators dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. The action was nothing more than high-handed revenge, something that was clear when Republicans accidentally left the microphones on in a meeting room and House Speaker Thom Tillis was heard to say of the move, “We just want to give them a little taste of what’s to come.”

Republicans thus answered the question: Just how petty can they be?

Now Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner has ruled that the law was retaliation against teachers, and ordered that it could not be enforced. - Charlotte News Observer, 1/19/13

Yeah, Tillis has shit to do like constantly kicking organized labor and teachers in the balls some more.  And with Republican Pat McCrory now as Governor and the Republican majority in the state Senate and House in control, that shouldn't be too hard to do.  Tillis, McCroy and the GOP Legislature have to to keep their sugar daddy, Art Pope happy:


Mr. McCrory first ran for governor in 2008 but was beaten by Ms. Perdue, then the lieutenant governor, who became the state’s first female governor. As a mayor on the moderate side of his party, Mr. McCrory had bipartisan support and was perhaps best known for revitalizing Charlotte with projects like a light-rail system and the Nascar museum.

His large transition team is being studied for signs of whether he will turn more conservative. It is heavy with Republican politicians and business leaders, including former members of President George W. Bush’s administration and former governors. The most controversial figures on the team are the billionaire businessman Art Pope and some of his allies who are connected to the John William Pope Foundation. The group, which is dedicated to conservative and free-market ideas, has given millions of dollars to libertarian and conservative groups, including the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity. - New York Times, 12/11/12

Well if you want to know which direction McCrory would be going, his deputy budget director should give you an idea which direction he'll go:


Gov.-elect Pat McCrory expanded his cabinet selections by three on Thursday, and named a trio of key staffers that includes controversial political financier Art Pope.

Pope – whose network of organizations promotes a limited-government agenda – will be the new governor’s top budget-writer. A multimillionaire, he will take a leave from his retail chain store business, as well as from his family foundation and all public and nonprofit boards he serves on in order to take the job without pay. - Charlotte News Observer, 12/21/12

Pope is the ringleader in McCrory's circus of a cabinet.  Here's a run down of the other cronies that are running North Carolina's local government:


First there's science skeptic, John Skvarla, who is now the head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources:

In 1978, with a law degree from UNC, Skvarla founded the Raleigh, N.C.-based law firm of Skvarla, Wyrick and Robbins, specializing in corporate taxes and capital formation -- the same firm where Pope served as an associate attorney from 1982 through 1984.

After leaving the firm in 1984, Skvarla went into business, running a variety of companies. Since 2005, he has served as president, chief operating officer and then CEO of Raleigh, N.C.-based Restoration Systems, a "mitigation banking" firm that restores wetlands for credits it sells to developers to make up for those destroyed elsewhere, as required by the federal Clean Water Act.

Environmental advocates greeted Skvarla's appointment with cautious optimism given his experience and statements that his agency's work would be grounded in science. But that hope turned into shock after an interview with WRAL reporter Laura Leslie in which Skvarla expressed unscientific and poorly informed views.

For one thing, Skvarla rejects the scientific consensus on the reality of human-caused climate change, dismissing Leslie's observation there was such a consensus as "misleading." The problem of climate change is a major concern for the North Carolina, which is in a hotspot for sea-level rise related to global warming.

"I have studied this every day for almost 10 years, and I know there's great divergence of opinion on the science of climate," Skvarla said. "I'm not ready to say which is right and which is wrong."

Skvarla also questions whether oil -- which McCrory wants to drill for off North Carolina's coast as soon as possible -- is a finite resource. He pointed to the discredited Russian theory of abiotic petroleum, which holds that oil is not a fossil fuel formed from ancient zooplankton and algae but instead comes from deep carbon deposits that date back as far as the earth's formation. It's a theory popular among creationists who want to believe the earth is only 6,000 years old.

But at the same time Skvarla has been studying fringe ideas about climate and oil, he was ignoring a very real problem facing coal-dependent North Carolina: poorly regulated disposal of coal ash waste, which has resulted in groundwater contamination at 14 power plants across the state owned by Duke Energy, where McCrory worked for 28 years.

Asked about coal ash by Leslie, Skvarla replied, "It's not something that I'm overly familiar with at this point, so to opine on it would not do justice to the topic." - The Institute For Southern Studies, 1/13

Then there's Tony Tata, the new head of the the Department of Transportation, who was fired as superintendent of the state's largest public school system following a transportation fiasco:
A retired brigadier general in the U.S. Army who served as the deputy commander of the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, Tata attended The Broad Superintendents Academy, a 10-month program founded by billionaire businessman and education reform advocate Eli Broad to train non-educators to run urban school systems.

In 2009, controversial former D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee recruited Tata to serve as her chief operating officer. The following year, he was picked to serve as superintendent of the public schools in Wake County, N.C. -- hired by a school board that had recently been taken over by Republicans in an electoral effort for which Art Pope served as a financier and chief architect. The Republican board moved quickly to scrap a longstanding desegregation policy designed to prevent concentrated poverty in schools, sparking a wave of protests and a political backlash that resulted in Democrats taking back board control in 2011.

The new Democratic board majority kept Tata on as superintendent despite complaints about his educational inexperience and reportedly bullying management style. But the last straw was the chaos that ensued at the start of this school year, when Tata's decision to take 52 school buses off the road to save money led to a weeks-long debacle where buses arrived late or not at all, stranding children and inconveniencing parents. The board fired Tata last September after less than two years in office.

In naming Tata to lead the state Department of Transportation, McCrory said, "If he can do it in Afghanistan, he can do it here" -- apparently ignoring the fact that Tata was unable to do it in Wake County, N.C. - The Institute For Southern Studies, 1/13

We also have Aldona Wos who was chosen to lead the Department of Health and Human Services after  questioning McCrory's pledge to reject pay-to-play politics:
A Polish-born physician who grew up on Long Island, Wos left her home in New York City for Greensboro, N.C. in 1997 when her husband, Louis DeJoy, started a private logistics company there whose clients include the U.S. Marine Corps and the Postal Service. Wos soon became one of the top Republican fundraisers in North Carolina, resulting in her 2004 appointment by President George W. Bush as ambassador to Estonia.

Wos and her husband have contributed generously to McCrory's gubernatorial campaigns -- the maximum of $16,000 in his failed 2008 campaign, and at least $13,000 in the latest election cycle (final reports are still being tallied). Altogether, Wos, her family and employees of her husband's company have contributed over $216,000 to McCrory's campaign and the state Republican Party since 2008, according to an analysis by the liberal advocacy group Progress NC. Wos also served as co-chair of McCrory's recent campaign.

Though Wos has no experience in state government, McCrory appointed her to run the state Department of Health and Human Services, a massive agency with 17,000 employees and an $18 billion budget. That has led Progress NC and other critics to question the sincerity of McCrory's campaign promise to end the political patronage system that flourished under the Democrats.

"Pat McCrory isn't shy about rewarding big campaign donors with plum jobs in his administration," Progress NC said about the Wos appointment. - The Institute For Southern Studies, 1/13

And last and least, there's Department of Public Safety, Kieran Shanahan, who was found guilty of assaulting a neighbor's children:
A graduate of East Carolina University and UNC law school, Shanahan spent over five years as an assistant U.S. attorney before launching his private law practice in Raleigh, N.C. He's long been involved in Republican Party politics, serving as counsel for the state GOP and four terms on Raleigh city council. He's also been mentioned as a possible Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D) in 2014.

But in 1996, while still on city council, Shanahan was found guilty of two counts of misdemeanor assault for an incident in which he roughed up two neighborhood boys, ages 11 and 13, who were involved in a fight with Shanahan's children. Instead of being formally convicted, though, Shanahan won a "prayer for judgment continued" from the sympathetic judge -- essentially, a warning without a penalty.

"I believe in my heart that I did the right thing," Shanahan told The News & Observer at the time. "I think this will enhance my stature and reputation." - The Institute For Southern Studies, 1/13

Emphasis mine.

I shit you not, this guy has been talked up as a serious challenger to Hagan in 2014:


Top GOP prospects include state Speaker Thom Tillis; former ambassador to Denmark Jim Cain, a lawyer; and four-term Rep. Patrick T. McHenry.
Among other names floated: Rep. Renee Ellmers, Rep.-elect George E.B. Holding, Raleigh lawyer Kieran Shanahan and state Sen. Phil Berger. - Roll Call, 11/13/12
So Tillis has to spend the rest of his term breaking up unions and cutting local spending to essential programs to push the McCrory/Pope/Tea Party agenda.  He has to in order to get more name recognition to seal the Republican nominee for Senate.  He's been hyped up by local pundits and Republican officials as a serious opponent to Hagan.  But despite campaigning the NC GOP's agenda around the state, the base doesn't know who he is and he needs to step up his crazy:


Nevertheless Hagan leads all the potential Republican opponents we tested against her by margins ranging from 6-10 points. The ones who come within 6 points are Renee Ellmers (46/40) and Patrick McHenry (45/39). Virginia Foxx trails by 7 points at 47/40. Coming in 8 points behind are George Holding (45/37) and Robert Pittenger (46/38). Phil Berger is down by 9 points at 47/38 and performing the worst is Thom Tillis with a 10 point deficit at 47/37.

A big part of why the Republicans fare so poorly is that they're pretty much unknown at this juncture. Foxx at 49% has the highest name recognition, followed by McHenry at 40%, Ellmers at 37%, Berger at 35%, Tillis at 33%, Pittenger at 31%, and Holding at 29%. There's a good chance this race will get closer as Republicans settle around a candidate and that person builds up their profile across the state. - PPP, 1/15/13

This is the second poll to confirm that despite having one of the most powerful positions in the local legislator, Republican voters still don't know who he is and prefer a wing nut like Virginia Foxx over him:
Virginia Foxx tops the wish list of North Carolina Republicans for who they'd like as their Senate candidate next year: 17% pick her to 14% for Sue Myrick, 13% for Patrick McHenry, 11% for Renee Ellmers, 9% for George Holding, 6% for Richard Hudson, 4% for Mark Meadows, and 2% for Thom Tillis. 25% say that they prefer someone else or are unsure.

Foxx is at the head of the line because of her appeal to the 'very conservative' wing of the party. 21% of those voters prefer her to 17% for Myrick and 12% for McHenry. She has very strong support in the Triad. Moderate voters prefer McHenry with 14% picking him to 12% for Foxx and 10% for Myrick. He has strong support in the western part of the state. - PPP, 12/11/12

What's even more pathetic is the GOP's other top candidate, State Senate Leader Phil Berger (R), another Pope/McCrory/Tea Party crony does poorly in the latest PPP poll only getting 5% among Republican voters for who their ideal candidate for 2014 should be.  Berger has yet to announce his candidacy but he didn't waste any time attacking Hagan:


“There is a significant amount of disappointment on my part by virtue of federal legislators, particularly Sen. Hagan, to make sure North Carolina had a grandfather provision that would have allowed us to craft a state solution to the unemployment insurance problem that would have actually been better for those unemployed and better for employers and better for the job climate in North Carolina.''

“That failure is actually going to end up costing businesses in North Carolina about $200 million and maybe as much as $400 million,'' Berger said. - Charlotte News Observer, 1/16/13

Here's a look at the type of agenda Berger will be pushing in the State Senate by the way:


Berger has decided to go all in with the far right agenda and appears to see it as his pathway to seeking the GOP nomination to take on Kay Hagan in 2014. Moreover, his legislative “agenda” was/is an utterly predictable recitation of Locke Foundation/Civitas/Art Pope priorities:

A new round of state budget cuts;

Education “reform” that focuses on turning most public school teachers into, effectively, “temps”;    

Unemployment insurance “reform” that slashes benefits and eligibility for out-of-work people;

Mandatory photo ID for all voters;

Complete resistance to implementation of Obamacare;

Abolition of the state corporate and personal income  taxes and re-institution of the state sales tax on food;

No new laws on guns, except perhaps, an examination of whether we might be able to move ahead with arming teachers and hiring armed guards for schools;

No movement on the legislation passed last year by the GOP-controlled House to provide compensation for eugenics victims. - The Progressive Pulse, 1/16/13

Tillis and Berger have a long way to go if they want to win the GOP nominee and build up their images to GOP voters.  Tillis and Berger will have McCrory and the Pope Foundation on their side though to help them with campaigning because they are loyal servants to the radical GOP/Tea Party agenda.  And it a state like North Carolina, that could backfire.

So Hagan and both local and national Democrats will have their hands full when it comes to this election.  That's why Hagan is taking every step necessary to put together a winning campaign:


U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan added Lindsay Siler as a senior adviser to oversee constituent outreach and engagement -- a possible sign the former Obama campaign director for North Carolina may play a key role in the 2014 re-election campaign. Siler, who is based in Raleigh, is also a former Planned Parenthood strategist. Sadie Weiner also returned to the Democratic senator's office as communications director, a title bump from her days as deputy. Weiner took a leave in 2012 to work on Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown's re-election campaign. - Charlotte New Observer, 1/8/13

With the GOP pretty much taking over North Carolina, they will be gunning hard to knock out Hagan, especially during a mid term election:


For Hagan, a Shelby native who lives in Greensboro, 2014 will be a very different year.

Unlike 2008, she’ll run without Obama at the top of the ticket. She outpolled Obama by 100,000 votes that year but benefited from the turnout that helped him carry North Carolina.

In 2014, she’ll run in an off-year when many Democratic voters typically stay away from the polls – and in a state fresh off Republican triumphs that saw Pat McCrory win the governorship and Mitt Romney carry the state’s electoral votes.

“I would say she’s going to have quite a battle to hang on to her seat,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. “We have her in the ‘endangered’ category.

“North Carolina was one of the two states in a presidential year to move to the Republicans. And presidential years are now always more Democratic than Republican.” - Winston-Salem Journal, 1/12/13

But a crowded primary could work in Hagan's favor, especially with Tea Party and establishment Republicans tearing each other a part to win the nominee:
“Despite the GOP victories in 2012, North Carolina is still a purple state trending blue,” said Paul Shumaker, a top North Carolina Republican consultant who helped craft GOP Sen. Richard M. Burr’s solid re-election effort in 2010.

One early advantage for Hagan: She’s almost certain to avoid a serious primary, leaving her time to stockpile resources for the general election.

Republicans probably won’t have that luxury, with a wide bench of credible candidates who could jump into the contest.

“The key to success for Republicans is going to be avoiding a divisive primary,” Shumaker said.

Particularly important, Republican insiders said, will be avoiding a nasty, resource-depleting runoff, likely in July 2014, that would limit the amount of time the victor would have to focus on the race against Hagan. - The Hill, 11/13/12

Hagan knew that in a swing state like North Carolina, she has had to do two things to secure her re-election victory.  First off, she's made herself available to her constituents by holding Town Hall meetings known as "Conversations With Kay" where she has held one on every county:
In 2008, Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, whom Hagan defeated, suffered from a perception that she spent little time in North Carolina. One report found she’d only spent 13 days in the state in 2006.

Hagan seems determined to avoid a similar label. She’s been back to the state every week, holding her “Conversations with Kay” community meetings in all 100 counties.

“It gave me a great opportunity to see people here in North Carolina,” she said.

On Thursday she visited a Charlotte-based nonprofit called Charlotte Bridge Home that helps veterans and their families. It was Hagan’s 65th visit to Charlotte and its media market since being elected.

She spoke to leaders of the agency and met a client, Angelique Mitchell, who lost her husband to injuries suffered in Iraq.

“We as a country have got to step up for these men and women and their families,” Hagan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said as news cameras recorded the meeting.

Later Hagan talked about some of the constituent cases her office has been involved in. One involved helping an American aid worker injured in Sudan get to Chapel Hill for medical treatment. The worker’s father, Hagan said, thanked the senator for “helping save my daughter’s life.”

“I call these my ‘Oprah moments,’?” she said. - Winston-Salem Journal, 1/12/13

The other thing Hagan has done well is paint herself as a moderate:


She has kept a moderate profile during her time in the Senate. In votes where a majority of Republicans oppose a majority of Democrats, she voted with her party 90 percent of the time in 2011, 88 percent of the time in 2010 and 91 percent in 2009.

While Hagan voted in favor of the health care overhaul and the 2009 stimulus bill, she already has marquee occasions to point to when she bucked her party.

The senator cast her vote in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline this year; against free-trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama last year; and against the 2009 Food and Drug Administration tobacco bill.

“She is good at appealing to independent voters,” Rep. David E. Price, D-N.C., said. “She has a good way about her out in the community. She’s always out there. She’s all over the place. - The Hill, 11/13/12

Hagan has also been very vocal in her opposition to North Carolina's Amendment One, which by law bans gay marriage and civil unions in the Tar Heel state:


“In today’s hyperpartisan political environment, I view any attempt to alter our state constitution with a critical eye. Amendment One has far-reaching negative consequences for our families, our children and our communities. North Carolina is one of the most business-friendly states in the nation, and this amendment would harm our state’s ability to recruit the innovators and businesses that are driving our economic recovery. Jobs are my number one priority, and we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball and give businesses a reason to grow and expand elsewhere. The people I hear from every day — the families that make up the fabric of the Old North State — tell me they are sick and tired of watching their jobs and their livelihoods fall victim to divisive partisan posturing. In North Carolina, we say our state is ‘Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.’ Amendment One harms our state’s resolve to make all people and all families great, and as a proud daughter of North Carolina, I urge all North Carolinians to join me in opposing it.” - U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D. NC), The Advocate, 2/22/12
Hagan has also made herself a fighter for both women's heath, equality and safety.  She has been endorsed by EMILY's List and Planned Parenthood and she has been instrumental in helping the Violence Against Women Act fully renewed and voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  You can read more about Hagan's plans to protect women's rights here:


Hagan has stated that she is focused on deficit reduction but her main goal is to bring in more jobs for North Carolina.  She has also stated that she plans on fighting for military bases, national parks and federal forests from across-the-board spending cuts put off in the “fiscal cliff” deal passed by Congress:


Jan 27, 2009 - Washington, DC, United States - Sen. KAY R. HAGAN &nbsp;(Newscom TagID: zumawirewestphotos815374) &nbsp; &nbsp; [Photo via Newscom]
“The planned cuts to defense spending would have a serious impact in North Carolina because of our large military footprint,” Hagan said.

But the junior senator also acknowledged the effect sequestration would also have on Western North Carolina’s national parks and forests, which could be forced to reduce services, staff or hours if sequestration isn’t avoided with a long-term agreement to reduce the federal deficit.

A 2012 study by Michigan State University found the Great Smoky Mountains National Park tops the nation’s parks in visitor spending, generating $818 million per year for gateway communities. A 2010 study found Blue Ridge Parkway visitors spend almost $300 million in towns and cities bordering the scenic byway, supporting 4,000 jobs.

“I think states around the country have a vested interest in these federal lands and parks,” Hagan said. “I think it’s critical. They’ve been saved for our generation and generations to come and I think it’s imperative that we uphold the commitment that we have to the current population, but certainly the population yet to come.

“It’s very important that we do everything possible to protect the staffing and the forest. And once again, this is just another example that indiscriminate, non-prioritized cuts across-the-board is not the way to conduct government.” - Blue Ridge Times-News, 1/3/13

One jobs plan that she has proposed, that I personally like a lot, is the The Community Parks Revitalization Act, S. 3583:


The Community Parks Revitalization Act (CPRA) would authorize matching federal grants to create new and rehabilitate existing parks and recreation infrastructure in communities across the country.  This measure will help revitalize neighborhoods, create jobs, enhance local and state economies, protect the health and well-being of our citizens, and contribute to a higher quality of life for hard-working Americans and their families.

As our nation works to find solutions for growing our economy and creating jobs, we must continuously examine additional ways to help sustain long-term economic growth and put Americans back to work. Grants provided through the Community Parks Revitalization Act would provide such a solution.  Research demonstrates that investments in parks and recreation projects positively affect our economy through the creation of jobs.  For instance, the Political Economy and Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts estimates that 20 jobs are created for every $1 million invested in park projects, a higher rate than many other sectors.  Additionally, the Outdoor Industry Association estimates that outdoor recreational activities annually yield about $646 billion in spending, and supports 6.1 million jobs.

Parks and recreational spaces also attract businesses to communities, and help increase commercial and residential property values.  Supporting public parks and recreation infrastructure is a smart, efficient way to leverage limited resources and provide for economic development in communities throughout the nation.

The Community Parks Revitalization Act will not only provide jobs and help grow our local economies, it would also help improve the health of our nation.  Chronic obesity has rapidly increased as Americans have become more sedentary.  Providing community parks and other recreation spaces encourage active living.  Studies have found that creating parks and recreational trails near where people live can lead to a 48% increase in physical activity. - American Society of Landscape Architects, 9/24/12

Hagan's bill has received the endorsement from the North Carolina Recreation & Park Association:
Michelle Wells, Executive Director of the North Carolina Recreation & Park Association said, “North Carolina is excited to see Senator Hagan introduce this bill. Parks are great places for all of our citizens and offer a variety of benefits including improved physical and mental health, assist with providing clean air and water and offer a place in the community for socialization for all ages and backgrounds.” - Imagine Brevard, 9/25/12
If Hagan can mainly focus on a pro-job platform with a little focus on deficit reduction, she can secure her re-election.  However, I do wonder if her vote against the DREAM Act could hurt her:
Morgan Jackson, an influential North Carolina Democratic strategist, said Hagan begins her run well-positioned for victory, but he stressed it will be hard fought.
“By no means is this gonna be an easy win,” he said. “North Carolina is a very purple state, so it’s gonna be competitive no matter who the Republican candidate is. But the sweep of demographics favor her.”

Jackson also noted the growing urbanization of the state and an increasing number of Hispanic voters, both trends that favor Democrats. And there are other election numbers that buoy Democratic hopes. - The Hill, 11/13/12

However, with President Obama pushing to make immigration reform like the DREAM Act a reality in his second term, Hagan will have a chance to redeem herself on this issue.  Even Newt Gingrich himself is advising his party to start appealing to minority voters:


The RNC is scheduled to holds it winter meeting the Westin in Charlotte from Jan. 23 to 26.

Gingrich said the party must closely scrutinize the Democratic playbook from its ability to build coalitions, to its micro-targeting, to its ability to reach urban voters, to its greater Internet savvy, to its better ability to connect with Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and African Americans, to better polling, to an ability to reach voters through infotainment. - Charlotte News Observer, 1/12/13

I'll be interested to see what the North Carolina GOP's "infotainment" strategy looks like but McCroy and Tillis might be showing a sign that they're taking Gingrich's advise somewhat seriously:


GOP leaders are softening their stance on legislation to require voters to show a photo identification card at the polls after seeing a new analysis from state election officials showing that it may hinder nearly one in 10 voters.

Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis said they favor allowing voters to show other forms of identification that don’t include a photo, such as a registration card or other government documents. “I would still like a photo on it, but I would also be willing to accept other options,” McCrory said. “I’ll let the legislature work to develop those bills. I expect a voter ID bill to be passed in the very near future.”

The shift on a voter ID bill is a significant development on a major campaign promise Republicans made after Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed a photo ID requirement in 2011. Tillis vowed to make it one of the first bills approved this legislative session, and McCrory pledged to sign it.

Conservative activists overwhelming favor such a measure to guard against voter fraud, while Democrats warn that it would disenfranchise people, particularly minorities and the elderly, two points confirmed in the state’s analysis. - Winston-Salem Journal, 1/10/13

Emphasis mine.

But McCroy and Tillis don't deserve any high praise for showing their willingness to compromise on voter ID laws.  Democratic House leader Larry Hall warned his fellow lawmakers that Tillis ordered his party to reject a similar compromise to voter ID laws last year.  So yeah it is suspicious that Tillis and McCroy are now ready to compromise on this.  Especially from the guy who proposed the voter ID legislation:

Tillis said the numbers released by the State Board of Elections – showing that as many as 613,000 registered voters may not have valid driver’s licenses or state-issued identification cards – changed the game.

“There are a number of people who do not appear to have IDs,” Tillis said. “We need a treatment for that.” - Winston-Salem Journal, 1/10/13

However, State Senate Leader Berger isn't on the same page as Tillis and McCrory regarding voter ID laws:


He also restated his support for an unnecessary and disenfranchising mandatory govern ment-issued photo ID requirement to vote, though he wasn’t clear if he would support funding an effort to make sure than the hundreds of thousands of people without photo IDs could obtain one. - Winston-Salem Journal, 1/19/13
If Tillis and McCrory fail to get Berger on the same page and to loosen up on voter ID laws, not only will it welcome an ugly riff in the state party, it would become a winning campaign issue for Hagan.  Democracy Initiative, a large coalition of civil rights organizations, unions and environmental groups, has made North Carolina's voter ID laws a top issue:


On money in politics, Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign, a pro-campaign-finance-reform advocacy group, singled out Kentucky, New York, and North Carolina as potential targets for campaign finance fights. In a recent interview, Nyhart said the Kentucky battle would likely involve trying to oust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Public Enemy No. 1 for campaign finance reform, who faces reelection in 2014. In New York, Nyhart said, activists are pressuring state lawmakers, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to pass a statewide public financing bill in 2013. And in North Carolina, the fight is more about countering the influence of a single powerful donor, the conservative millionaire Art Pope, whose largesse helped install a Republican governor and turn the state legislature entirely red. - Mother Jones, 1/9/13
Emphasis mine.

I think McCrory and his Pope cronies understand that they have a real shot at winning this seat as long as they don't nominate someone like Virginia Foxx.  Conservative strategists understand that better than anyone:


Sen. Kay Hagan (D) rode Obama’s original wave into office in 2008 to defeat incumbent Elizabeth Dole, but North Carolina swung Republican in 2012. The votes are definitely there and it looks to be a crowded field on the GOP primary side in 2014. They’ve already started polling for this race and the fact that every poll has Hagan below 50% this early on is definitely a good sign for Republicans. This almost looks like a 2012 Missouri or Indiana Senate race – the GOP can easily win this as long as they don’t nominate a nut in the primary that screws up a sure win. - Policy Mic, 1/19/13
It will also be interesting to see which way Hagan will vote on President Obama's recent control proposals.  There's some indication she might not be one of the red state Democrats to defect on this issue:


Hagan might be one of the only Southern Democrats up in 2014 that could break the White House’s way. (Mark Warner would be the other.)  She represents a state with a high concentration of gun owners, but also one that’s becoming more urban and diverse.  Obama won the state in 2008, and only narrowly lost it in 2012.  If Obama can effectively remobilize his diverse coalition to pressure politicians, Hagan would be one of OFA’s top targets.  Hagan has cultivated a centrist voting record in the Senate, but is a shade to the center of Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, also up in 2014.

She made a carefully worded statement recently, making clear that gun owners in North Carolina should not worry about their firearms being confiscated. “I think we need to look at access to guns. I think we need to have a common-sense debate. ... We are not taking your weapons away," she told the News & Record. - National Journal, 1/17/13

It's still to early to tell how this race could turn out.  The national GOP knows this race is a golden pick up but with McCrory and Pope's two leading foot soldiers lacking in name recognition to the base, they have their work cut out.  Plus with the Tea Party being as spontaneous as it is, someone like Foxx could very well be their nominee and no amount of unlimited campaign cash from Pope can convince North Carolinans that a nut like Foxx or whoever the chosen one of the Tea Party movement is worth voting for.  Just look at the past Senate races in Missouri and Indiana for proof.  Plus, how far right are guys like Tillis and Berger willing to go?  It looks like Berger is willing to go risk being accused of disenfranchising voters to please Art Pope.  So it could very well be an ugly battle between Tillis and Berger and it's not a good idea for Pope and McCrory to have two dogs in this race.  The Tea Party and the Club For Growth split on their preferred candidate in the Wisconsin 2012 U.S. Senate primary.  The Tea Party was behind Eric Hovde while the Club For Growth supporter Mark Neumann.  The ugly infighting ended up helping former governor Tommy Thompson win the primary and we all know who ended up winning the general:
However, the way Hagan votes between now and the 2014 election can also be a factor.  There's no doubt that she could end up being the Claire McCaskill of the 2014 election cycle but could she also go the same route as someone like Blanche Lincoln?  Personally, I think Hagan is smarter than Lincoln and is better at picking and choosing when to distance herself from Obama but if she agrees to votes that would make harsh cuts to the programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the GOP will campaign heavily against her.  Hagan seems to be taking all the right steps to gear up for brutal and expensive re-election campaign but if she wants to win, she needs to be ready to take some tough votes and rile up the base.  She has some great ideas about job creation and protecting jobs and for her sake, it's a good idea to keep her main focus on that.

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Originally posted to pdc on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 02:33 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, North Carolina BLUE, and The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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