District 2 Conversation with Clay Aiken

The 2nd District includes parts of nine counties, including Wake, Cumberland, Alamance, and Moore counties. According to the US Census, it covers roughly 780,000 North Carolinians.

The leading candidates for the 2nd District congressional seat are Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers, a registered nurse before her election, and Democrat Clay Aiken, an entertainer who is new to politics.

Rep. Ellmers declined to participate, so Clay Aiken joined us in studio.

Watch the conversation here.

Early Voting Begins Across NC

RALEIGH–Registered voters who can’t wait until Election Day to decide on U.S. Senate and down-ballot races now have the opportunity to vote in person across North Carolina.

The 10-day early voting period was slated to begin Thursday morning in all 100 counties. It runs through midday Nov. 1. Some counties also are offering Sunday voting this weekend.

There is no longer same-day registration during early voting. There was an Oct. 10 deadline to register. Mail-in absentee ballots must be turned in or postmarked by Election Day.

But one thing that is not changing is people will not need to have a photo identification in order to vote. Under law, that requirement does not begin until 2016.

Election officials say with the high interest in this mid-term election cycle they are encouraging as many people as possible to get to the polls during this early voting period.

Candidates and groups are using early voting’s first day to draw attention to election contests and issues. The North Carolina Association of Educators and a group of black pastors scheduled separate events.

Voters this fall also are choosing legislators, judges and local leaders.

Candidate Thom Tillis Voices Opinion During Hour-Long Debate

Watch the program here.

RALEIGH — Republican candidate for U.S. Senate and current State Speaker of the House Thom Tillis gave his opinion on a number of topics during a conversation hosted by Time Warner Cable News Tuesday night.

The House Speaker spoke for an entire hour about how he will do business differently should he take incumbent Kay Hagan’s Senate seat in November.

An empty chair remained beside Speaker Tillis the entire hour since Sen. Hagan kept her word and did not attend Tuesday night.

“It was in fact just an unfiltered Thom Tillis speaking to the audience, making it possible for him to say exactly what he wanted to say on the issues he wanted to talk about, “said Joe Stewart with the NC Free Enterprise Foundation.

Ben Ray with Forward NC and a Hagan spokesman said after the show, “Sen. Hagan is going to be out and about. It’s just a matter that we agreed to the number of debates in recent precedent in North Carolina and having completed those, believe it is time to go out and meet some voters.”

Tillis closed with a final plea to voters, saying, “We need a senator that will go to Washington and not be a rubber stamp for Harry Reid and President Obama, an independent voice that is advocating for North Carolinians. If you want to change President Obama’s policies, you have to change your senator,” he said.

- Amy Elliott

Hagan Blasts Tillis On Medicare, Social Security

WILMINGTON — Sen. Kay Hagan used a Port City campaign stop to criticize Thom Tillis over issues facing senior citizens, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Hagan was in town for the third day of her statewide “North Carolina First” tour. Hagan is the incumbent in a tight race with Tillis for her U.S. Senate seat.

“Speaker Tillis would authorize privatization of Social Security and a voucher system for Medicare,” she said. “That is not what the people of North Carolina want.”

In prepared remarks to about 100 supporters, Hagan vowed to put senior citizens first and to never support a plan that privatizes Social Security.

Herb Harton, an attendee, said Hagan is the best advocate for the state’s seniors.

“The idea of Thom Tillis going to the Senate, I shudder to think,” Harton said. “He will get there and he will help them kill Medicare, cut Social Security, make it a voucher program.”

Sam Ibrahim, chair of the New Hanover County Republicans, disputed those claims.

“Thom Tillis, from the beginning, said that he would not make any cuts to any of these programs,” he said in a phone interview.

Ibrahim contended that Hagan had effectively harmed the programs by voting for the Affordable Care Act.

“[That] takes almost $850 billion from these very specific programs,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tillis’ campaign also criticized Hagan for declining to participate in a fourth debate, which would have taken place Tuesday evening.

An email from the Thom Tillis Committee suggested Hagan refused to participate because of “lackluster” performances at previous debates.

“Hagan’s absence would provide a striking visual of an empty chair in her stead, an appropriate symbol for her tenure in office,” the email said.

Senator Hagan fired back.

“Once again, he is distorting the facts. Back in the summer, our two teams agreed to three debates,” she said. “We conducted those three debates.”

Hagan’s other tour stops on Tuesday included Goldsboro and Wilson.

She will make stops in Greensboro and Greenville on Wednesday, according to Chris Hayden, her press secretary.

- Amara Omeokwe

Supporters of Former Rockingham Co. Magistrate Feel Resignation was ‘Forced’

ROCKINGHAM–After last week’s resignation of a Rockingham County magistrate, officials are calling attention to it.

On Tuesday, Sen. Phil Berger held a news conference with former magistrate, John Kallam. Outside the Rockingham County courthouse were hundreds of supporters for John Kallam.

“I explained to the judges that I could not continue to perform as a magistrate if it included doing something that was against my sincere religious beliefs,” said Kallam.

Last week and after almost 12 years in the seat, Kallam handed in his resignation after he explained performing same-sex marriages was against his religious beliefs.

“There were no offers to make any accommodations,” said Kallam. “I basically was told that you either do this or you will be suspended without pay and will then be dismissed.”

So, local politicians and area residents came out to support his beliefs.

“But it shouldn’t be that way, we shouldn’t have to allow people who have sincerely held religious beliefs lose their jobs or be threatened with losing their jobs and being charged with a crime just to follow their religious beliefs,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of N.C. Values Coalition.

“I think our Constitution means a whole lot, and I think if we have the right for the freedom of speech,” said Rockingham County resident Maria Coleman.

Sen. Phil Berger encouraged Rockingham County leaders to meet with Kallam along with introducing legislation that will protect the First Amendment and religious rights of those who are in similar situations like Kallam’s.

“People who are employees of register of deeds, and who are magistrates have the opportunity to do their jobs and do their jobs consistent with their religious beliefs,” said Berger.

Berger said he will also ask fellow Senate leaders to respond to this situation in writing.

He plans on introducing his new legislation in January.

- Katie Husband

Capital Tonight Oct. 20: State Medical Examiner system

On Capital Tonight: The State Medical Examiners system has been under fire after a media investigation found deficiencies. We talk with the chief medical examiner and two legislators about challenges and changes. Jim Morrill of The Charlotte Observer and Gary Robertson of the AP join the reporter roundtable. Watch the program here.

In Same Sex Marriage Debate, Federal Authority Is Clear, Law Dean Says

GRAHAM — An elected official in Alamance County said a federal judge had no legal standing to overturn North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage. Ten days ago, U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn struck down North Carolina Amendment 1, passed by voters in 2012, but a law school dean says Cogburn was on firm legal ground.

“I didn’t say whether I agreed with the decision or not not but he doesn’t have the right to say that about our constitution, North Carolina’s constitution, and an amendment that was passed by two-thirds of the voters,” said Hugh Webster, Alamance County Register of Deeds.

Webster admittedly is conflicted over the issue of same-sex marriage but as to U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn’s authority to strike down the state ban he’s unequivocal.

“I’ve read the U.S. Constitution numerous times, and I’ve never seen anything in it that says, that gives a federal judge in Asheville the right to overrule North Carolina’s constitution,” Webster said.

The interim dean at Wake Forest University School of Law says the U.S. Constitution speaks clearly on the issue.

“Article III of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to constitute federal courts, to name a Supreme Court and to name lower federal courts,” said Suzanne Reynolds. “It also gives all of those courts the power to decide whether a state statute or a state constitutional amendment complies with the federal constitution.”

Webster also opposes the lifetime appointment of federal judges as proscribed in the Constitution. Reynolds said Webster’s criticisms had the ring of a claim that Cogburn is an activist, or rogue, judge.

“I think what the real definition is of an activist judge is a judge who’s made a ruling that you don’t like,” she said.

In Greensboro, U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen, Jr. also ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

The attorney representing Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis says federal rules allow for an appeal to be filed within 30 days. John Eastman said he was prepared to take the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

- Ed Scannell

NC Campaign Flier Has Background Lynching Photo

FAYETTEVILLE–Neither Republicans nor Democrats say they know anything about fliers on the windshields of cars at a Fayetteville church that included a background photo of a lynching.

Multiple media outlets reported the fliers showed up Sunday at Kingdom Impact Global Ministries.

The flier read “Kay Hagan doesn’t win! Obama’s impeachment will begin! Vote in 2014.”

Sen. Hagan is a Democrat locked in tight race with Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis.

The flier did not endorse any candidate and said it was paid for by Concerned Citizens of Cumberland County. There was no contact information for the group.

Dawn McNair at Kingdom Impact Global Ministries says she doesn’t know if the flier was meant to encourage her to vote or discourage her from voting.

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

Congressional Debates TV Schedule

Capital Tonight will be airing debates with congressional candidates this week and next week. Different debates will air in different markets. We invited all the major candidates in the races participate, but not all of them agreed to attend.

The modified schedule is as follows:

Monday, Oct. 20:
- District 13 (Triangle)
- Regular Capital Tonight (Charlotte/Triad/Coastal)

Tuesday, Oct. 21 (All Markets)
- 6:30 p.m.: Pre-debate program
- 7 p.m.: U.S. Senate debate
- 8 p.m.: Post-debate program

Wednesday, Oct. 22 (No regular Capital Tonight)
- District 2 (Triad/Triangle/Coastal)
- District 10 (Charlotte)

Thursday, Oct. 23
- District 6 (Triad/Triangle)
- Regular Capital Tonight (Charlotte/Coastal)

Friday, Oct. 24
- District 8 (Charlotte/Triad/Triangle)
- Regular Capital Tonight (Coastal)

Monday, Oct. 27
- District 12 (Charlotte/Triad)
- Regular Capital Tonight (Triangle/Coastal)

Tuesday, Oct. 28
- District 7 (Triangle/Coastal)
- Regular Capital Tonight (Charlotte/Triad)

Wednesday, Oct. 29 (All Markets)
- At home with U.S. Senate candidate

Thursday, Oct. 30 (All Markets)
- At home with U.S. Senate candidate

Friday, Oct. 31 (All Markets)
- Regular Capital Tonight

- See more at: http://centralnc.twcnews.com/content/news/in_the_spotlight/713080/congressional-debates-tv-schedule/#sthash.zn1yijKP.dpuf

Academic Standards Review Commission Modifies Common Core Standards

RALEIGH — The Academic Standards Review Commission has started the process of modifying the state’s Common Core Standards.

On Monday the group looked at the English Language Arts standards and will analyze the math standards at their next meeting.

The group said they share the same goal of wanting to enhance education for students across the state.

“We don’t need them being discouraged by school, discouraged by education, but we need them to know that there is a tremendous opportunity, but they need to be prepared to have that opportunity,” said Commission Co-Chair Andre Peek.

Over the next 10 months, the commission will work on a proposal that will be given to the State Board of Education.

- Amy Elliott