Loretta Boniti

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Absentee ballots sent out as first round of voting begins

RALEIGH — If you are a voter in North Carolina, the polls are open — at least if you want to take part in early or absentee voting. The first round absentee ballots have been sent out.

There were about 65,000 requests made for them, and 6,500 have already been returned. State election officials said this is a strong start.

“So the process is just starting,” said Gary Bartlett with the North Carolina State Board of Elections. “but at the moment if you compare 2008 mail absentee voting, for the beginning of the period, we are about 7 or 8 percent up on what we were in 2008.”

North Carolina was the first state in the nation to start mailing out absentee ballots. But it is the battle to be the first state in the nation to hold a presidential primary that has some political strategists concerned.

“I think it is ludicrous when you start running ads right before Christmas,” said Republican strategist Marc Rotterman.

Rotterman said as a strategist you have to pay attention to the fact there is voting as early as September, and make sure their message is out and clear by then.

But he said the election cycle has gotten too long for most voters to pay attention to.

“If we don’t fix the process, which I believe is broken,” said Rotterman, “I think you are going to have less voter participation…. (because) they are just tuning it out.”

Political observers said that may be more noticeable this year in a state like North Carolina because it is still getting used to being considered a swing state. This status means more attention, more ads, more campaigning.

“We have had this attention lavished on us,” said N.C. State political science professor Andrew Taylor, “and we are not used to it. And it happens to be in the election where more money will be spent than any other election in the past.”

Even if some potential voters may be turned off by all this attention, election officials said they still suspect it won’t be noticeable at the polls this fall.

“Every presidential election we have voted more people than the presidential election before,” said Bartlett.

Dalton tells state unions he is the right man to be governor

RALEIGH — Representatives of the 110,000 members of North Carolina’s labor unions were in Raleigh Thursday kicking off their annual convention and getting fired up for this fall’s elections.

“Our folks, a lot of them are struggling,” said Marybe McMillan of the AFL-CIO. “They have family members that are unemployed. They want to elect candidates who are going to create good jobs.”

“Safe work place: Good for workers, good for business,” James Andrews with the AFL-CIO told the crowd. “Education: Good for workers, good for business. Our candidate Walter Dalton understands that.”

The AFL-CIO endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Walter Dalton, who told the group Thursday he is ready to put up a fight this fall. Dalton said that started when he launched his first TV ad this week, joining his Republican opponent Pat McCrory on the airwaves.

“He had about two and a half months of clean air,” said Dalton. “Well, yesterday, the caution flag came out.”

Dalton said he believes he has put forward a plan that will put folks back to work in North Carolina. He also said he believes recent republican leadership in the general assembly has moved the state in the wrong direction.

“I do think this legislature has taken a step back,” he said. “They cut economic development money when we need that money to recruit business. The Republican governor of Virginia was asking for more money while we were cutting that money. That’s a formula for disaster.”

The AFL-CIO agrees and said they believe Dalton and other Democratic candidates can helping rebuild the economy.

“Instead of trickle down we need to build the economy from the bottom up,” said McMillan, “not on the backs of workers. But in partnership with them. That’s how we create an economy that works for everyone.”

Gubernatorial ad campaigns hit airwaves

RALEIGH — Walter Dalton is trying to make up for some less than desirable numbers.

His Republican opponent, Pat McCrory, has held a lead in polling since the campaign season kicked off and has out-raised Dalton nearly four-to-one.

More money means more airtime for campaign commercials.

“The candidates sort of need to cut through the clutter of presidential candidates and super PACS, and the sort of need to introduce themselves more than you would expect,” said William Peace University Professor David McLennan.

That’s because polling numbers and fund raising numbers aside, there are still a lot of undecided voters when it comes to the gubernatorial race, which is why getting your face on TV could help.

Political observers said what is said in these ads is often just as important as how many of these ads actually make it on to the airwaves because often these messages are unique for the candidates.

“You can’t really be subtle in a campaign ad,” says Jonathan Kappler, with the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation. “You have to be direct, because you have attention spans of thirty seconds or less with voters when you are doing a campaign ad like this. And with a stump speech you can be a little bit more nuanced. You can hit on a few more points.”

Dalton now has one ad on TV, McCrory has put up six since the general election season began.

With less money and less time, Dalton will have to hone his message. Political observers say McCrory could face the opposite problem.

“I think he has got to try not to do too much,” said McLennan. “The fact that he has a monetary advantage, he could conceivably come out with another half dozen ads. The problem is you could water down your message if you try to do too much with each ad.”

The most recent polling numbers by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling show McCrory with a six-point lead over Dalton.

NC delegates pause from president to rally for Dalton

CHARLOTTE — North Carolina delegates had a busy day on Wednesday, which included a surprise visitor at their delegation breakfast and trying to keep certain issues at the forefront of the convention.

They took a short break from cheering for President Obama to get a victory in November to rallying behind Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Walter Dalton at their Wednesday morning breakfast.

“To build back we need leadership that is going to be investing in job recruitment, investing in worker retraining, refocusing on 21st Century jobs, and investing in education. That is how you bring this economy back,” said Dalton.

The group also had a surprise visit from civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.

“We won the last election here by 14,000 votes. There are 500,000 blacks in North Carolina that are not registered. You mean you are going to go to A&T or JC Smith as the case may be, and you are going to register for class and not register to vote and you need a Pell Grant,” said Jackson.

For a group of young Democrats who are serving as North Carolina delegates at the DNC, they say they stand behind Democratic ideas on the economy and education and believe Republican ideas are too partisan.

NC delegation fired up to campaign for Romney back home

TAMPA, Fla. — North Carolina’s delegation is getting ready to head home after spending most of the week in Tampa at the Republican National Convention.

They have been surrounded by pomp and circumstance all week, but have been getting a clear message to take home with them.

It will be up to party faithful to get Mitt Romney a win in North Carolina this fall.

North Carolina’s delegation in Florida is fired up and ready to fight hard for their presidential pick.

Delegates said that means they will have to take their energy from this week at the RNC back home for the fall.

Delegate Joyce Cotton has been doing her part to get out the Republican message this election season, doing everything from attending campaign events to taking part in phone banks.

This week she has been in Tampa, getting excited for fall election push.

“Most important is encouraging people to go vote,” she said. “It always astounds me every time we have a national election, a presidential election, how many people do not go vote.”

The North Carolina delegation has been getting a very clear message this week at delegation breakfasts and on the big stage.

It is not enough to be fired up for the fall. It is more important to pass that excitement on, said state chairman Robin Hayes.

“As I travel the state I listen to the level of interest, the level of engagement, which leads to enthusiasm, real enthusiasm for change. Obama is a disaster,” he said.
Hayes said he believed it will be easy for the party faithful to sell their message for Mitt Romney to Tar Heel voters.

“Like Eisenhower said, ‘Have you had enough?’ They’ve had enough, they can they will and they are going to translate that to people back home,” he said.

State delegates agreed and said this week has given them the extra energy to head into the tough road to November.

“A lot of what we heard this week has really been preaching to the choir, but you know why you preach to the choir? So they sing and we’re ready to sing. We’re ready,” said Rep. David Lewis, RNC committee member.

North Carolina is considered a swing state for this fall’s election. Republicans said they will be fighting hard to win over the voters.

Most polls shows that currently Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are neck and neck in North Carolina.

NC delegation anticipating Romney’s acceptance speech

TAMPA, Fla. – Republican nominee for president Mitt Romney is set to take the stage later this evening to accept his party’s nomination for president.

This will be the final act of a busy week for national Republicans who have been meeting in Tampa for their convention.

When Mitt Romney accepts his party’s nomination Thursday night, many people said his speech will be the most important one of his life – a chance to have the national stage, with no filters on what he can say.

For the members of North Carolina’s delegation here representing the state at the RNC, they said they expect big things from their nominee.

All eyes have been on Tampa this week as one Republican star after another has taken to the stage to talk to party faithful about why November’s vote is so important.

But tonight, its main attraction and for North Carolina’s delegation, they said they believe if Romney stays true to his vision, he can and will win over voters tonight.

I think that with his vision, people will begin to believe again,” said Rep. David Lewis, RNC committee member, “that the government isn’t the answer, that the central planning that Paul Ryan referred to the answer is the entrepreneurship answer that I believe is inside almost all of us.”

Political observers point out that winning over voters won’t only be about Romney hitting all his talking points tonight. He also has to show that he is a leader.

“A challenger also has to convince people who are skeptical that he is fit to take over the job in a way that people may have concerns about,” said Jon Dinan of Wake Forest University.

North Carolina’s delegates said they believe Romney and Ryan have the leadership and ideas america needs.

“He cannot stand the government waste in Washington and he is going to go after Washington,” said Steve Malay, a delegate from Carteret County, “and Paul Ryan is going to do the same thing. They are not going to let four years go by and not take responsibility.”

North Carolina is clearly a swing state this election season and North Carolina’s delegates said they hope Romney’s speech tonight will help to win over some undecided voters.

North Carolina party leaders have been hearing from top Republicans at their delegate breakfast’s all week, who have told them it will be important for party faithful to help recruit Republican voters in North Carolina.

Young Republicans taking center stage at RNC

Young Republicans are headlining this year’s Republicans National Convention. Senior Political Reporter Loretta Boniti talks with four of the "young guns" from North Carolina’s delegation.

Sen. Marco Rubio touts Mitt Romney at NC delegation breakfast

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — On Thursday night, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce Mitt Romney as he gives his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination.

Wednesday morning, Rubio was with the North Carolina delegation in Florida talking about why he is thinks the Romney-Ryan ticket is the best bet for the Tarheel state.

Rubio is said to have been on the short list when Mitt Romney was picking his running mate. However Rubio said even though he is not on the final ticket, he is fighting to get the Republicans in the White House.

Rubio spoke at the delegate breakfast in St. Petersburg Wednesday morning and acknowledged that North Carolina is turning into one of the toughest battlegrounds this election season. He called it a toss up for November.

However he says when you take the time look at what Romney stands for, on all issues from fiscal issues, to immigration stances, to social issues as well; he believes the RNC this week will help convince voters that Romney is the right man for the job.

“Mitt Romney understands that the economy grows when people take their own money and use it to start a business and so the job of government is to create conditions that incentive and encourage people to do that. Mitt Romney is uniquely situation to advocate for those policies because in his business life he evaluated those thing that turned into dreams for others,” said Rubio.

Rubio is a new face to the Republican Party on the National level, as he was elected to the Senate all of two years ago.

Republicans approve national platform with fiscal, social issues

TAMPA, Fla. – As Republicans got down to work in Tampa, one of the first orders of business was to decide what issues they want to campaign on this year.

The platform committee brought a big proposal to the table on Tuesday, which concentrated on fiscal issues, but also touched on social concerns.

Republicans delegates said clearly the economy will be the top issue this election season, but when they passed their platform planks on this first day of season, there were plenty of social issue will now be considered through November.

“This is your platform, and urge its adoption, said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the platform committee chairman.

One of the first orders of business for the convention was Republicans to decide what issues will be their priorities this fall.

“My friends, we have outlined a conservative vision of governance,” said McDonnell, “a document that is many things: It’s an indictment, it’s a blue print and it’s a declaration of values.”

Republicans said issues like the economy and military concerns should be top concerns, but social issues will also be part of the conversation – including a strong right to life stance.

“I don’t think there is a lot debate that the federal government shouldn’t be using its power and our tax dollars to promote and perform abortion,” said Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “Historically, there have been consensus on that, and under Obamacare, tax dollars would be used to pay for abortion.”

In North Carolina, the issue of whether or not to allow same-sex marriage was on the table in May.

A strong showing of opposition to the idea was vocalized by voters and is now a national plank.

In Tampa, the widow of the state senator who sponsored the bill to ban same-sex marriage in North Carolina said this is day her husband would have loved to see.

“Of course I am going to feel pride, maybe choke up a little bit, because I know this is what Jim wanted so much, and I am there to see it happen,” said Mary Francis Forrester, widow of former Sen. Jim Forrester.

On issues such as same-sex marriage, these are similar platform issues to the ones were are going to here from the Democrats, as they are expected to be taking an opposite stance on this issue.

NC congressional candidates speak at RNC

TAMPA, Fla. — Some of North Carolina’s Republican hopefuls got their moment in the national spotlight.

Three congressional candidates each got a chance to speak at the Republican National Convention, which kicked off its activities this afternoon in Tampa.

Try condensing you thoughts, political positions, and proposal into 200 words or less. It’s not easy, but that is exactly what three of North Carolina’s congressional candidate did when they took the national stage

The excitement were finally filing the halls the Tampa Bay Times forum Tuesday, as the pomp and circumstance got under way at the Republican National Convention.

North Carolina had its moment to shine near the top of the program, when three Republican congressional candidates took the stage to talk quickly lay out their plans for office.

Up first, 7th District congressional candidate David Rouzer, who said this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I think there is a lot of enthusiasm at this convention, and rightfully so,” said Rouzer. “We’ve got a great ticket and we’re going to get behind them wholeheartedly and win this thing in November.”

Rouzer was immediately followed by 8th District candidate Richard Hudson.

“It was definitely a great experience. The North Carolina delegates were cheering loudly and I was just honored to be able to do that,” said Hudson, “and to shed some light on some real North Carolinians who are struggling right now.”

Rounding out the group, 11th District congressional candidate mark meadows spoke. He said he had a clear message during his speech about the nation needing change.

“Really, are we going to do something different than what’s been done?” said Meadows. “Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.”

This was just the beginning of the speeches for the day, with a lot of big names coming later. But for these candidates, this is the highlight of their day.