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North Carolina Campaigns Prepare For Potential Recount

By Alexis Levinson, CQ Roll Call (MCT)

The competitive North Carolina Senate race will cost more than $100 million by Election Day, and that price tag could climb further as both parties prepare to spend even more if the race becomes too close to call.

The campaigns for both Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Republican state Speaker Thom Tillis confirmed to CQ Roll Call they are making preparations in case of a recount in one of the country’s most competitive races. Recent polls show a tied race, and this week the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call moved the race to Tossup from Tilts Democratic.

“It’d be kind of silly for us not to (prepare),” said Todd Poole, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

A recount occurs in the Tar Heel State if the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent of the total votes cast, or 10,000 votes, whichever is less. That is something political observers say could easily happen.

“We put a field program in place early knowing this is going to be a close election, that involves a voter protection and an election protection piece,” said Hagan campaign communications director Sadie Weiner.

A North Carolina Democrat confirmed that includes a recount.

“We’re preparing for all potential outcomes,” including a possible recount, said Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin.

Republicans need to gain six seats to take the Senate majority, and that path cuts through several states — including, most likely, North Carolina. Republican Joni Ernst’s campaign in Iowa is also reportedly pursuing information about a recount.

Photo: U.S. Senator Kay Hagan addresses a welcoming crowd and young campaign supporters at her campaign field office September 19, 2014 in Chapel Hill, N.C. Hagan was in Chapel Hill to rally her staffers and supporters from Orange and Durham counties to get out the vote against her opponent, NC House Speaker Thom Tillis in this November’s election. (Harry Lynch/News & Observer/MCT)


Immigration May Be Factor In Close North Carolina Senate Race

By Renee Schoof and Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau (MCT)

WASHINGTON — The inability of Congress to solve the problem of how to keep immigration legal, orderly and economically productive is rattling through the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina.

It’s a key issue for several important North Carolina industries and institutions, and many backed a bipartisan immigration overhaul bill passed by the Senate last year, but left to wither in the House of Representatives. Among them: the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte, high-tech companies, universities and the North Carolina Farm Bureau.

But when it comes to which party controls the Senate, the marquee question of the midterm elections, politics can trump policy.

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who is seeking a second six-year term, voted for the Senate bill. At the time, she said the it would secure the borders, boost the economy, decrease the deficit and improve the rules governing the issue.

Thom Tillis, her Republican opponent, said the bill would have provided legal status that amounts to “amnesty” for immigrants without documentation, and fail to tighten the borders. He contends that Congress should secure the border before it passes any new legislation that would spell out how to handle the estimated 11 million people now in the country illegally.

Tillis, speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, hasn’t called for deporting them, but hasn’t said what the alternative should be, either.

His views would seem to put him at odds with a pro-business organization and powerful political player like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It supported the overhaul — which included an earned path to citizenship — “because America cannot compete and win in a global economy without attracting and retaining the world’s most talented and hardest workers.”

Moreover, chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue said in January that the group, which scores members of Congress on how they vote on its top policy priorities, would “pull out all the stops” to get an immigration bill through Congress.

Even so, in North Carolina, the chamber has so far spent $4.7 million to defeat Hagan and elect Tillis.

It’s a strategy the chamber has adopted in other states with equally competitive Senate contests that could determine party control. The group is spending money to help defeat Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Mark Udall of Colorado, all of whom backed the immigration bill, as did every other Democrat in the chamber. Fourteen Senate Republicans also voted for it.

The chamber’s campaign spending shows its goal is to maintain the Republican majority in the House and help the GOP gain control in the Senate, and with it power over the committees and the voting schedule on the Senate floor.

“We are not a single-issue organization,” said chamber spokeswoman Blair Latoff Holmes, noting that taxes, regulation and trade also are important issues to the group’s members.

Just as the chamber has been a traditional Republican ally, Latino voters have played a similar role for Democrats. A recent poll shows those who have decided favor Hagan by a large margin, but 45 percent were undecided, not necessarily a good sign for the Democratic incumbent.

Though Latinos only account for two percent of the North Carolina electorate, and fewer than 20 percent cast a ballot in the 2010 midterm elections, a close contest like North Carolina’s Senate race can turn on the smallest developments.

Two billboards, in Raleigh and Durham, went up recently that criticize Hagan for previous votes and claim that she’s no friend of immigrants. The billboards were supported with donations and backed by a coalition of Latino families.

They refer to votes in 2006, when Hagan was in the state Senate, for changes in the law that required a Social Security number to obtain a driver’s license. The measure passed and became law. She voted in 2010 on a procedural matter that killed the DREAM Act, a bill that provided legal status for children of immigrants without documentation who met certain criteria, such as graduation from high school and having no record of serious crimes.

However, the Senate immigration bill in 2013 that Hagan did support included the DREAM Act.

The Senate measure would have increased the number of Border Patrol agents to more than 38,000, added 700 miles of fence on the southern border with Mexico and created a pathway for citizenship for immigrants without documentation who met certain requirements, including paying a fine.

It additionally required a mandatory employment verification system and a system to record the exit of visa-holders at airports and sea ports.

The North Carolina Agribusiness Council thought the bill was a good compromise, but didn’t support it in the end because it felt the cap on temporary farm workers was too low, said Erica Peterson, the group’s executive vice president. Agriculture, the state’s largest industry, has a shortage of legal U.S. workers to plant, tend, harvest and process farm products, she said.

With Congress so divided and no prospects for immigration changes ahead, immigration advocates have expected President Barack Obama to provide temporary legal status for some of the nation’s undocumented immigrants. Tillis has said he would vote against any nominee to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder who did not agree to stop Obama from doing that.

Hagan has said that Obama should not take executive action on immigration, but leave the decision to Congress.
The Candidates on Immigration Policy

1. How should the nation resolve the issue of an estimated 11 million people here illegally?

Tillis: “The president and Senator Kay Hagan have failed on immigration policy and now the president says he’s going to act on his own after the election. I’m opposed to amnesty and any legislation or unilateral action by the president that would give amnesty to those who are here illegally. Sen. Hagan supported President Obama’s immigration bill, which provided amnesty to illegal immigrants and failed to secure our borders. Washington should prove its commitment to securing the border before we pass any other immigration reform. Congress does not even have the credibility to debate immigration reform until it proves it can secure the border. If Congress proves it can secure the border, I predict we will quickly achieve bipartisan consensus on improving our immigration system.”

Hagan: “These individuals should have to pass a criminal background check, pay fines and back taxes, learn English and go to the back of the line before they become eligible for temporary status.”

2. What do you think of e-verify, the Internet-based system that allows employers do determine if employees are eligible to work in the United States? Should Congress support it?

Tillis: “I support e-verify, which helps ensure that employers are not hiring illegal immigrants. While an e-verify system is necessary, we also need to make sure that it doesn’t inadvertently become an unnecessary regulatory burden on some industries.”

Hagan: “Yes. The bipartisan bill improved and updated the e-verify system that will help make sure everyone plays by the same rules.”

3. Should Congress fund a system that lets officials check in foreigners who enter and now if they overstay their visa?

Tillis: “It is imperative that we know who enters and leaves the United States, and an entry and exit system is a useful tool that can help keep our nation safe. President Obama and Senator Hagan have failed to ensure we know who is entering or exiting our country in order to keep us safe and secure. If a 12-year-old can enter across our border, surely a member of ISIS or someone wishing to do us harm can get across our border undetected. Having a secure border means having the ability to monitor border crossings by those who are not citizens.”

Hagan: “The bipartisan bill improved tracking of entry and exit to ensure that people who overstay their visas are not allowed to remain in the country. This is an important step to secure our border.”

4. Should the number of legal immigrants be reduced?

Tillis: “Not across the board. Legal immigration is a source of strength for our country as is respect for the rule of law. We are a nation of immigrants, and we shouldn’t hinder the legal immigration process, which would prevent law-abiding people from achieving their American Dream. But President Obama and Senator Hagan’s failure on illegal immigration is making it more difficult for those who want to come here legally.”

Hagan: “Our immigration system is in need of reform to make it more predictable, fairer, and more responsive to economic needs. We must also be working to ensure that our educational system is producing American graduates for the jobs that U.S. companies need to fill.”

Photo: Mr T in DC via Flickr

Midterm Roundup: Hagan Hanging On In North Carolina

Here are some interesting stories on the midterm campaigns that you may have missed on Monday, October 20:

• Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) continues to lead Republican Thom Tillis by 3 percent, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released Monday. The poll marks the third consecutive month in which PPP has found Hagan ahead by 3 or 4 percent. The incumbent Democrat is up just 1.2 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll average, but she has led in nearly every public poll since the summer.

• Despite Senator Hagan’s consistent lead, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is not relenting on its expensive campaign to discredit Tillis. The group’s latest effort is a TV attack ad blasting the Republican’s “horrifying” record on women’s health.

• The National Republican Senatorial Committee may have given up on Michigan Republican Terri Lynn Land’s Senate campaign, but the Michigan GOP is still airing ads on her behalf. It’s not going well. Their latest effort, titled “Gary Peters Loan Sharknado,” is about as awful as the name suggests — and seems extremely unlikely to turn the tide of the race, which Land trails by 9 percent in the poll average.

• A new KHOU-TV/Houston Public Media poll of Texas’ gubernatorial race finds Republican Greg Abbott pulling away from Democrat Wendy Davis. Abbott is up 47 to 32 percent in the poll, and has opened up a 12.3 percent lead in the poll average. Despite Democrats’ lofty hopes, it appears that Texas isn’t ready to turn blue quite yet.

• And this seems extremely unlikely to help Senator Pat Roberts’ (R-KS) efforts to convince voters that he hasn’t lost touch with Kansas: The senator’s website features images of a field that is supposed to represent the Sunflower State — but is actually located in Ukraine.

Photo: Third Way via Flickr

Senate Race In North Carolina Could Be Nation’s Most Expensive Ever

By Jim Morrill, The Charlotte Observer (MCT)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — From the Koch brothers and Art Pope to George Soros and Michael Bloomberg, wealthy donors are making North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race one of America’s first $100 million contests.

Outside groups continue to flood the state with ads and accusations, forcing Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis to keep scrambling for dollars in the campaign’s final two weeks.

Money spent or committed in the race is poised to top $103 million, according to public records and interviews with donors. Three-quarters of it comes from party and interest groups. More than $22 million is “dark money” from groups that don’t disclose their donors.

The flood of money paid for nearly 80,000 TV ads through Oct. 13, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of CMAG/Kantar Media tracking data. At one point this month, that translated to three Senate ads every five minutes.

And more are coming. On Friday, a conservative group announced a new $1 million TV campaign against Hagan, who responded with her own new ad.

The figures may understate actual spending.

Campaigns and their allies are also spending online and on the ground as they try to mobilize voters in a race that could help determine control of the Senate.

Campaign spending has exploded since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which opened the door to more money from corporations and labor unions. Critics say that gives wealthy donors a disproportionate voice.

“The most affluent donors are calling the shots,” says Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. “They’re picking races to target … that offer an opportunity to flip the Senate and therefore shift the balance of power in Washington. …

“Unfortunately what that means for voters is they’re feeling even less relevant than they otherwise would.”

Spending continues to rise as polls show the race tightening. As an incumbent, Hagan has long enjoyed a significant fundraising advantage. Reports filed last week with the Federal Election Commission show she raised $21.6 million through September to Tillis’ $8.2 million.

As a result, Tillis’ campaign has spent just $6 million. But outside groups have supplemented that.

Together they’re spending $42.8 million on his behalf, according to an Observer analysis. Almost half of that is so-called dark money from political nonprofits such as Carolina Rising, a Raleigh-based group launched in April.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is spending more than $10 million for Tillis. An additional $10.5 million has come from groups funded by Charles and David Koch, conservative industrialists from Wichita, Kan. Nearly $6 million has come from two groups tied to former White House adviser Karl Rove.

Hagan’s campaign has spent $19.6 million, more than half in the past quarter. Outside groups have contributed nearly $35 million.

Her biggest supporter — and the biggest player in the race — is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. It’s putting up at least $17 million.

Only $2.3 million of her outside money has come from dark money groups. But a lot has come from groups funded by some of the nation’s wealthiest donors.

The Senate Majority PAC, for example, has spent more than $10 million on TV ads for Hagan. The PAC, tied to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, whose leadership job is on the line if Democrats lose the Senate, appears to have spent almost a third of all its resources in North Carolina.

Donors to the Democratic Super PAC include Chicago media executive Fred Eychaner and San Francisco billionaire and environmental activist Thomas Steyer. They’ve each given the PAC $5 million. Steyer’s own Super PAC, NextGen Climate Action, contributed to the League of Conservation Voters, which also helped Hagan.

Hagan’s allies include at least three dark money groups and donors, according to published reports. Donors to Patriot Majority USA, for instance, include a group called America Votes. According to the Center for Public Integrity, donors to that group include billionaire investor George Soros.

Those wouldn’t be the only groups fueled by wealthy donors. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, gave $2 million to Women Vote!, a group backing Hagan. And Raleigh businessman Art Pope gave $400,000 to Freedom Partners Action Fund, a Super PAC backed by the Kochs.

“This is going to be a new record year for outside spending,” says Ian Vandwalker, a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU law school.

“North Carolina is from what we’ve seen the biggest target. It’s probably going to be the biggest Senate race ever in terms of outside spending.”

It’s certain to be one of the most expensive Senate races ever. Massachusetts’ 2012 race between Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Republican Scott Brown cost at least $76 million.

It is certain to be North Carolina’s costliest race. For a long time, the 1984 contest between Republican Sen. Jesse Helms and Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt was the state’s most expensive. It cost $26 million at the time. That’s $60 million in today’s dollars.

For weeks Hagan blasted Tillis, the state House speaker, with TV ads criticizing his record on education. Last month, outside money helped Tillis balance the airwaves, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

After trailing her and her allies for month, Tillis ran more ads the final two weeks of September. In the first week of October Hagan and her backers were on top again with 4,579 ads to 3,328 for Tillis.

Marc Rotterman, a Republican media strategist, says recent ads about a controversial business deal involving Hagan’s husband could have influenced some voters. But generally he says most people have made up their minds.

“At the end of the day it’s still going to come down to turnout,” he says. “It’s find ’em, vote ’em, count ’em.”

Photo: Mr T in DC via Flickr