McCrory Legal Bills Mount in Voter ID Case

RALEIGH—The legal bills keep mounting for outside attorneys to defend North Carolina election law changes that critics call the strictest in the country.

Gov. Pat McCrory last year hired his own lawyer to represent him in a federal lawsuit alleging Republican-backed voting changes are intended to suppress minority voter turnout. Invoices show South Carolina lawyer Karl “Butch” Bowers Jr. has billed the state $300,000.

McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said Tuesday that Bowers was hired after state Attorney General Roy Cooper last year opposed the changes and said he was “appalled” it was made law. Tronovitch says Bowers was needed to defend a law protecting the integrity of elections.

State attorneys from Cooper’s office defended the law before a federal appeals court last week.

Bowers didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Capital Tonight Sept. 29: Political tension in Moldova

On Capital Tonight: A delegation from Moldova visits North Carolina this week as part of a political exchange program through the Secretary of State’s office. We speak with two political bloggers about tension in their country and the region in Eastern Europe. Erik Spanberg of the Charlotte Business Journal and Lynn Bonner of the News & Observer of Raleigh join the reporter roundtable. Watch the program here.

Seventh Congressional District Up for Grabs in Upcoming Election

JOHNSTON COUNTY — With Congressman Mike McIntyre retiring this year, his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is up for grabs.

David Rouzer hopes to take it for the Republicans, while Jonathan Barfield Jr. wants the win to keep the seat under Democratic control.

North Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District includes Robeson, Cumberland, New Hanover, Johnston, Bladen, Columbus, Brunswick and Sampson Counties.

David Rouzer, a small business owner in Johnston County and former state senator, says national security is his top priority.

“The biggest issue that people are concerned about is the future of America,” Rouzer said. “You take a look at what’s happening around the world. People are concerned about our national security.”

Jonathan Barfield Jr., a realtor and New Hanover County commissioner, says his top priority is the economy.

“Our focus is on jobs and economic development, creating more jobs within our district,” Barfield said. “I find we’ve been exporting jobs as opposed to importing jobs into the Seventh Congressional District.”

In 2012, Rouzer almost beat incumbent Mike McIntyre, losing by just a few hundred votes. That year, it was the most expensive Congressional race in the country, with Republicans desperately trying to take the seat from Democrats.

“We need to pick up as many seats as we can in the [U.S.] House [of Representatives],” Rouzer said. “The main thing though is not necessarily the numbers per say, as it is in doing the right things to get America moving again.”

Rouzer is favored to win this time around, having raised significantly more campaign money and having much more name recognition than Barfield throughout the district.

But Barfield says he’s not the underdog, and plans to keep the congressional seat for the Democrats.

“People don’t care who you are, what your title is,” Barfield said. “People want to know that you care about their situation, that you understand their needs and the things that they’re dealing with, and that’s something I’ve prided myself on as a county commissioner.”

J. Wesly Casteen is also running for the District Seven seat, as a Libertarian. He hasn’t been polling at a competitive rate, so Time Warner Cable News didn’t invite him to be part of this story.

Election Day is Nov. 4.

Early voting runs Oct. 23 through Nov. 1.

- Heather Moore

Money for NC Private School Vouchers Begins Moving

RALEIGH—The first of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds have been sent to private and religious schools across the state while an Appeals Court considers a judge’s ruling about the constitutionality of a new scholarship program for low income public school children.

State leaders said the money was disbursed a week after the Court of Appeals allowed funds for students who qualified for the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The Appeals Court blocked the rest of the program pending a court ruling.

NC Democrats’ Leader Files Complaint Over Mailers

RALEIGH–A North Carolina Democratic Party leader has asked the State Board of Elections to investigate inaccuracies in voter registration application mailers sent by a conservative-leaning advocacy group.

Party Executive Director Casey Mann filed a complaint Monday with the board, alleging the Americans for Prosperity Foundation must have known details on the mailer were false or conflicting and would discourage voting this fall. Mann’s complaint suggests the mailers could be subject to a felony.

Americans for Prosperity said later Monday it’s contacted the elections board to fix complications related to the errors and apologized some families mistakenly received the mailer. The group says it expects the complaint to be dismissed and looks forward to registering more voters.

The mailers gave conflicting information on the registration deadline and where to return applications.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

NC Ranks Low in National Report on Best States for Teachers

RALEIGH — A new report shows North Carolina is still one of the worst states in the country for teachers.

Wallethub analyzed all 50 states to help educators find the best job opportunities. North Carolina ranked last on their overall list.

The report examined 18 categories including:

• average starting salaries
• median annual salaries
• 10-year change in teacher salaries
• public school spending per student.

North Carolina ranked in the bottom 10 in each of those categories.

 

Fact Check: Did Thom Tillis cut $500,000,000 from NC’s education budget?

RALEIGH — If you’ve turned on the TV lately, it has been impossible to miss the U.S. Senate race ads.

With just six weeks left before the General Election, Time Warner Cable News is fact checking political ads, this time examining whether U.S. Senate challenger and House Speaker Thom Tillis actually cut nearly $500 million from the North Carolina education budget as two similar ads claim, paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Senate Majority PAC.

“You want to make your opponent look as bad as possible, so you take a piece of information and spin it,” said David McLennan, a political analyst for Meredith College.

After analyzing whether Tillis actually slashed funding from North Carolina’s public education budget, McLennan said the answer is not simple.

“Yes money has been cut from projected budgets, the per pupil expenditures have gone down. But the actual money given through K through 12 education has risen slightly, so where that leaves voters is very confused,” said McLennan.

Policy analyst Tazra Mitchell did her own fact checking and found Tillis and the General Assembly allocated $481 million less than called for in the continuation budget, which is a proposal suggested by the Office of State Budget and Management.

“They put together this budget to say, ‘Look, governor and other lawmakers, this is what’s needed just to maintain current service levels,’” said Mitchell.

“You can spend more money, as lawmakers did, but you can still fall short of what’s needed. That’s where you have to read in between the lines when you see a lot of these commercials,” said Mitchell.

Dallas Woodhouse and his public policy organization Carolina Rising put out their own ad where a teacher refutes the claim of Tillis slashing $500 million.

“We spent $1.3 million to tell her (the teacher’s) story. She voluntarily came forward, she’s not compensated anything,” said Woodhouse who said Tillis did not cut education funding.

“The only way you can get to that is to be a bald face liar,” said Woodhouse.

According to Woodhouse, Tillis would have liked to fund education even more, but says his opponent Sen. Kay Hagan prevented that from happening because of decisions she made as the state Senate’s budget writer before going to Washington.

“When you had to clean up a $3 billion deficient left behind by (former) State Sen. Kay Hagan, a lot things had to be fixed, and that’s what Speaker Tillis had to do.”

Mark Jewell, vice president of the North Carolina Association of Educators calculated all the cuts lawmakers made to different segments of education during the two year budget cycle.

“And you come up with a cost of over $503 million,” said Jewell. “This is why you see school boards and local superintendents having to make the very tough decisions to cut teacher assistant positions, cut teacher positions.”

With so many different explanations over the math in one ad, voters want to think twice before making any Election Day decisions based off the claim in this commercial.

“It is completely difficult to have a straightforward yes or no,” McLennan said.

- See more at: http://centralnc.twcnews.com/content/712243/fact-check–did-thom-tillis-cut–500-000-000-from-nc-s-education-budget-/#sthash.t01zx8hZ.dpuf

Capital Tonight Sept. 12: Bow Tie Caucus

On Capital Tonight: What happens when politicians go wild and get caught in sticky situations while in office? The Bow Tie Caucus convenes to sort that out and more. Profs. Michael Bitzer and Scott Huffmon join us from Charlotte. Watch the program here.

Falling Global Oil Prices Could Push Gas Under $3 a Gallon

The price of gas in much of the nation, as many as 30 states, could fall below $3 a gallon this fall.

Experts say while the cost gas typically dips this time of year, falling global oil prices are pushing them down even further.

Right now, the average gas price is $3.35 a gallon nationally, about 10 cents cheaper than this time last year. In 2013, gas dropped nearly 30 cents per gallon from Sept. 1 through the end of the year.

A drop in gas prices could spur more consumer spending as goods would be cheaper to ship and drivers would be spending less out of pocket on filling up their tanks.

 

President Obama Calls Holder’s Resignation ‘Bittersweet’

WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation at the White House Thursday.

It was one of Washington’s open secrets: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wanted to leave his post before he could be locked into serving for the rest of President Obama’s second term.
And in an emotional White House ceremony Thursday, President Obama said that saying goodbye to Holder was bittersweet.

“He believes, as I do, that justice is not just an abstract theory. It’s a living and breathing principle,” said President Obama.

Holder is one of the longest-serving members of President Obama’s Cabinet. The 63 year old is also the first African American to serve as the nation’s chief law enforcer.

Holder developed a reputation for being an unapologetically liberal voice in the Obama administration, starting with this blunt assessment of race relations in a 2009 speech:

“In things racial, we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”
Under Holder’s leadership, the Justice Department filed suit against restrictive voting laws in Texas and North Carolina, paved the way for the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages and developed programs to reform the criminal justice system.

“I have loved the Department of Justice ever since, as a young boy, I watched Robert Kennedy prove during the Civil Rights Movement how the department can and must always be a force for that which is right,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

But Holder’s style and ideology generated a lot of controversy on Capitol Hill.

Congressional Republicans once held him in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over documents related to a gunrunning scandal known as Fast and Furious. He was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing in that case.

Holder says he’ll stay on the job until his successor is named and confirmed by the Senate – a process that could stretch into next year.

- Geoff Bennett