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Monday, May 28, 2012

Jeb Bush Endorses Pat McCrory For NC Governor; Pat Challenges Dalton Over Negative Ads


On Monday, April 30, Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush endorsed Pat McCrory’s bid for North Carolina Governor at the historic Angus Barn restaurant in Raleigh


Pat McCrory: I just want to let you know as I’ve not only got a chance to travel across this state, but I’ve also had the opportunity to meet a lot of Governors throughout the United States of America. There’s no doubt in my mind in observing Governor Christie, Governor Mitch Daniels and Governor Jindal and other Governors throughout the United States, it’s Governors who – I think – who are initiating policy which will help get our nation out of this very, very deep recession.

And North Carolina, of course, is feeling this recession with the fourth highest unemployment rate in the nation.

But, another Governor that has actually been a mentor to many of those existing Governors and a mentor of mine is Governor Jeb Bush of Florida. And I have been watching not only his leadership as a Governor but also his leadership since being Governor.

And he clearly understands many areas – especially two. And that is how to create jobs and also how to reform education.

And I am using his advice during this past year and I actually used it as Mayor of Charlotte also in getting his input on ideas on both economic development and education. And Jeb Bush has become very much of an expert in the area of reforming education and not accepting the incredible high dropout rates that we see in states throughout the United States of America.

Both Governor Bush and I clearly understand that we must reform and change education so we can get our kids to learn the basics and then get good quality higher education or vocational education in addition to getting a job. And right now so many of our kids who are graduating aren’t getting jobs and we have over 20% of our children who are clearly not even graduating from our high schools in North Carolina. And this is clearly unacceptable.

And that’s one of the reasons I have a great partnership and I appreciate Governor Bush’s endorsement of our candidacy because we both firmly believe in reforming education. And I’m going to take many ideas that he has initiated in Florida, both as a current Governor and a former Governor and bring them to North Carolina so we can improve the outcomes of our education and our major investments in education.

So with that, I welcome Governor Bush to say a few words and then we’ll answer a few questions. Thank you very much.

Governor Jeb Bush: Thank you, Mayor. It is a joy to be here, to endorse your candidacy, and to provide whatever support I can for that cause. Governor’s lead. It’s amazing to see what goes on in Washington these days, with the gridlock, where people kind of feel, correctly, that nothing can get done, but I can guarantee you that with your leadership here in North Carolina, you’ll hit the ground running, and develop, build on a good business climate, and make it a great one.

And build on an education an education system that should have no tolerance for failure, and sadly in our country we have way to much of it, and thank goodness there are reform minded governors across the country that are prepared to take on the status quo to improve things, and I know you’re one of those and I look forward to doing whatever I can to help you get elected, and as Governor, you count on me to provide whatever support that you need. God bless you and good luck.

Pat McCrory: Thank you very much.

In 2012, NC campaigns heat up earlier than usual

The final weeks of statewide general elections in North Carolina are usually marked by perceived shadowy third-party groups spending big money to soak the airwaves with television commercials and campaigns suing or threatening to sue over an ad that strikes a nerve.

That all got a head start in 2012.

The governor's race didn't let up after the May 8 primary christened Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and Republican Pat McCrory as nominees. National governors' groups already have been recognized for more than $1.4 million in TV ads designed to negatively portray the opposing candidate.

McCrory's campaign and political committees favoring Dalton filed competing lawsuits over one commercial last week. McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor, called the ad "garbage." Dalton, while pointing out the ad wasn't produced by his campaign, retorted the commercial "checks out by fact pretty well."

Add the millions of dollars in presidential ads already being dropped on North Carolina and loosened campaign finance restrictions nationwide, and the old political adage that Labor Day marks the beginning of the fall political season sounds old-fashioned.

Make that Memorial Day.

"In the past, there's been a little hiatus after the primaries," said Carter Wrenn, a Republican campaign consultant who worked for years with the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms' political organization. This year, he added, "they just put the pedal to the metal."

The early overall surge in television advertising in North Carolina is attributed to the state being considered competitive again in the presidential race. President Barack Obama narrowly won in North Carolina in 2008, ending a GOP winning streak dating to 1980. Holding the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte highlights Obama's interest in retaining North Carolina's 15 electoral votes.

Wrenn said North Carolina didn't become a battleground state until later in the 2008 election season. This time, he said, "we're kind of at a different status then we've ever been before."

North Carolina TV viewers already are hearing from the campaigns of Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, as well as from a new kind of political action committee. The so-called "super PAC," born following a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, can receive unlimited amounts of money from corporations and individuals.

In May, the Obama campaign launched a $25 million ad buy running in North Carolina and six other states. The GOP-leading super PAC Crossroads GPS, which is advertising against Obama in North Carolina and nine other states, quickly matched that amount. The Romney campaign also said it was spending $1.3 million in four states, including North Carolina, on a TV ad.

The Supreme Court's "Citizens United" ruling will make TVs even more congested with political commercials than they would have been, said Gene Nichol, a professor at the University of North Carolina law school.

"We're all going to become so sick of watching TV and the commercials that spew forth that people will just beg for the election to be over," said Nichol, a former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Colorado.

Eight statewide or congressional primary runoffs set for July 17 will keep politics in the news. Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue's decision not to seek re-election also has intensified the campaign to succeed her.

The Republican Governors Association spent $5.6 million in 2008 working unsuccessfully for McCrory to defeat Perdue, but it didn't start spending that year until September. This year, it got on the air a week after the primary and began to label Dalton as Perdue's "right-hand man."

Two RGA ads have tried to join Dalton and Perdue at the hip and highlight their support for raising the sales tax by three-quarters of a cent. The sales tax revenue would go to public education.

As of last week, the RGA had spent $1.3 million in North Carolina, according to campaign finance reports. More than $1 million was for TV spots, RGA spokesman Mike Schrimpf said.

"North Carolina is one of our most important pickup opportunities," Schrimpf said Friday.

On the day the RGA ran its first ad, the Democratic Governors Association gave $1 million to North Carolina Citizens for Progress. The Raleigh-based independent political group spent more than $430,000 on commercials questioning McCrory's ethics. They suggest McCrory lobbied for Charlotte-based real estate and lending business while mayor. McCrory is now on the board and has received fees and stock options.

McCrory pounced on N.C. Citizens for Progress last week, and his lawyers sent letters asking TV stations to stop running a commercial they say is false. McCrory has never been a registered lobbyist for, but N.C. Citizens for Progress says the ad is factual.

The DGA and N.C. Citizens sued McCrory and his campaign committee and threatened to depose McCrory before November. McCrory's campaign began litigation against DGA and N.C. Citizens.

Bob Hall, executive director of the campaign finance group Democracy North Carolina, said organizations such as the DGA, RGA and N.C. Citizens have more leeway since the Citizens United ruling to directly support or oppose candidates in television ads. They also have a greater pool of donors compared to 2008. The two candidates have no direct way to rein in the outside groups.

Hall said the early influx of ads is an early taste for voters until Election Day: "This is the harbinger of what's to come."

Governor's race heats up with litigation over TV ad

Pat McCrory's campaign and the political committees behind a television commercial McCrory says is false filed competing legal actions that raise the ante in North Carolina's gubernatorial race.

The Democratic Governors Association and the group North Carolina Citizens for Progress filed a complaint in Wake County court asking a judge to rule the commercial about McCrory's connections to a Charlotte-based business as true and constitutionally protected.

The complaint, which names McCrory and his campaign as defendants, was filed Thursday morning, hours before the Pat McCrory Committee initiated civil action against the two groups. It has until mid-June to file its complaint, according to the paperwork.

"I think they were bluffing. We're calling their bluff," Michael Weisel, attorney for N.C. Citizens for Progress, said Friday.

McCrory and his campaign also have been threatening lawsuits against TV stations that air the ad, which started last week, and asked the Federal Communications Commission to get involved. McCrory is most angry about an accusation that he lobbied for real estate and lending business while mayor of Charlotte and three years before he joined the company's board.

"It's a total lie and misrepresentation of the facts. It is deceiving, it's deceptive," McCrory said. "We're going to challenge these ads that are unfactual and that are character assassinations."

Weisel suggested that he would seek to question McCrory under oath in the weeks before what's expected to be a competitive election with Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton.

"The facts contained within the ad are absolutely accurate. We stand by them," he said. "There's a past history of perhaps making threats of lawsuits and then not actually doing so because it has its desired effect, which is to intimidate the press and your political opponents, their campaigns."

The competing litigation comes less than three weeks since Dalton and McCrory won their respective primaries. The DGA and the Republican Governors Association have spent more than $1.4 million combined on advertising since then.

The RGA began running another ad Friday, seeking to firm up Dalton's policy ties to Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue, who isn't seeking re-election.

Perdue is the vice chairwoman of the DGA and is listed as a likely defendant in the McCrory's campaign lawsuit.

McCrory said he's never been a registered lobbyist for The 2006 letter McCrory wrote as mayor and cited in the ad asked the state commerce secretary to boost state economic incentives to discourage LendingTree, a business, from going to South Carolina.

N.C. Citizens for Progress produced the ad but the Democratic Governors Association paid for it. Campaign finance reports show N.C. Citizens have spent more than $430,000 on its ad campaign. The commercial has been airing on Triangle, Triad and Down East television stations.

The group has made some changes to the attack ad, and the latest version clarifies the timeline of events. They said it makes the ad stronger, but the lawsuit still goes on.

McCrory's campaign said Friday the legal matters would be handled by the lawyers and that McCrory is focused on the economy and who is best prepared to be governor.

"We're not going to be sidetracked with a back and forth with a third-party group," campaign spokesman Brian Nick said.

Dalton's campaign lit into McCrory, saying his public pledge Thursday to run fair campaign ads this election rang hollow as the RGA ran another ad accusing Dalton of voting repeatedly for higher taxes while in the state Senate. The RGA has spent more $1 million on running a pair of anti-Dalton ads this month, RGA spokesman Mike Schrimpf said.

"For McCrory to stand before the media and call for a clean campaign on the same day that his political hatchet men launch yet another misleading attack is a new low," Dalton spokesman Ford Dalton said.

Nick said the RGA ads are based on voting records, not attacking someone's character.

Campaign rules prevent third-party groups from coordinating activities with candidate committees.

As the McCrory and Dalton campaigns blast away at each other, Libertarian candidate Barbara Howe planned to quietly launch her gubernatorial campaign on Saturday. The Granville County homemaker has run for governor twice before.

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Sources: ABC News, AIP, Facebook, McClatchy Newspapers, Newsobserver, Pat, WRAL, Youtube, Google Maps

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