Daily dose: Moffitt's Raleigh chickens coming home to roost

Where the National Climate Doesn't Matter (National Journal) -- If there's a Republican wave, it's broken against the Blue Ridge Mountains that nearly encircle this western North Carolina town south of Asheville. Brian Turner's campaign is proof. The telegenic 40-year-old year-old Democrat is running for a state House seat held by Republican incumbent Rep. Tim Moffitt. It's a race he should lose: Moffitt's district was redrawn after 2010 to give the rising GOP star a friendlier electorate, and Mitt Romney carried it easily in 2012. Yet polls make it plain that Turner could win -- a victory that would come even amid heavy losses for his party nationwide. Because in North Carolina, voters casting ballots in local races aren't just thinking about President Obama, ISIS or liberal overreach. Right now, they're also concerned about the state's Republican-controlled government, whose aggressive budgets cuts and conservative priorities sparked cries that it was out of sync with a Democratic-trending state. "People here are concerned about environmental issues and education," said Turner, a former producer at MTV who ended up a Vice Chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, a job he said gave him an up-close look at North Carolina's education cutbacks. "That's what's driving the vast majority of voters." … North Carolina's state Legislature, which ranks among the country's most conservative since 2013, has created a different political climate here. To some degree, that's bled into the Senate race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and GOP challenger Thom Tillis, who also serves as the state House speaker. Hagan has blamed Tillis for the Legislature's record, particularly cuts to education funding, throughout the campaign. But the dissatisfaction with the state legislature had its greatest effect in state legislative races, where Turner and two other house Democratic candidates near Asheville are all seen as competitive bets to knock off Republican incumbents.

Hagan lead pretty steady in NC Senate race (Public Policy Polling) – Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan is leading at 46% to 43% for Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis and 5% for Libertarian Sean Haugh in the U.S. Senate race. This is the third month in a row that Hagan has held an advantage of either 3 or 4 points. In a two candidate race Hagan still leads Tillis 47/44, indicating that Haugh's potential 'spoiler effect' on the race is waning. Haugh's supporters only say their second choice would be Tillis by a 34/30 spread now, considerably closer than the difference was earlier in the campaign. Both candidates remain unpopular in the closing stretch of the contest, but Hagan at least fares a little bit better with voters than Tillis does. 41% of voters approve of the job she's doing to 50% who disapprove, for a -9 net approval rating. That's not good but it puts her ahead of Tillis who just 37% of voters see favorably to 49% who have a negative opinion, for a -12 net favorability rating. (Full results here) There's nothing very surprising about where the candidates' support is coming from. Hagan is up 49/37 with women, 85/4 with African Americans, and 61/27 with young voters. Meanwhile Tillis is up 49/42 with men, 55/34 with white voters, and 54/37 with seniors. Tillis is ahead 43/38 with independents but in an unusual finding for North Carolina politics, Hagan is getting the same share of the Democratic vote (81%) that Tillis getting of the Republican vote and if you do that as a Democrat in North Carolina you're generally going to win given the party's voter registration advantage in the state.

GOP Aims Terrorism-Themed Ads at Democratic Women (Businessweek) -- More than in any election in the past decade, Republicans are counting on terrorism fears to win votes -- especially in races against women Democrats. At least 60 terrorism- or national security-related ads have aired in congressional contests in such states as Georgia, Kentucky and North Carolina. They’re running with the most intensity since President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, when the airwaves were full of ads depicting Democrat John Kerry as weak on national security, data provided by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group show. Of the top five Democratic targets, four are women.

Manchin in North Carolina stumping for Hagan (AP) — West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is in North Carolina campaigning for Sen. Kay Hagan, who faces a tough re-election.

Weak GOP Candidates May Need More Than a Good Year (Roll Call) -- Republicans have the wind at their backs this year. But not every GOP nominee is taking advantage of that dynamic. As usual, some candidates are under-performing, proving once again that candidates and the campaigns they choose to run actually matter. … while Thom Tillis may end up defeating Sen. Kay Hagan in the North Carolina contest, the Republican challenger’s fundraising has been remarkably disappointing. Being a strong candidate requires the ability to raise lots of money, and that isn’t something Tillis has done. Through June 30, he had raised $3.5 million from individuals and $614,000 from political action committees. In contrast, Hagan had raised $10.4 million from individuals and $2.3 million from PACs. Of course, it’s not entirely fair to compare Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House, to Hagan, a sitting senator who has looked vulnerable for the entire cycle. … Republicans sympathetic to Tillis point out that GOP candidates in the Tar Heel State generally have a tough time fundraising — even Republican Sen. Richard M. Burr raised only $5.1 million from individuals in his (successful) 2010 re-election race against opponent Elaine Marshall — and there is certainly some truth to that.

National issues boost Tillis in N.C. (Washington Examiner) -- On the evening of a recent debate in Durham, N.C., Sen. Kay Hagan was confident and in control, leading Republican Thom Tillis in the polls and steering their televised discussion. But, after the hour-long back-and-forth ended, a reporter asked Hagan whether she had missed a Senate hearing on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to attend a fundraiser for her re-election campaign. “There was one,” Hagan responded, with news cameras rolling. "It was scheduled early in the day, and then that hearing had to be postponed later that day," she elaborated. "So yes, I did miss that one." Suddenly, the discussion in the key North Carolina Senate race turned sharply to national security — and for Tillis’ campaign, after weeks of being weighed down by its ties to a profoundly unpopular state legislature, it felt like a pivotal turning point. Since then, Hagan’s remark has popped up in Republican attack ads as Tillis has hammered the theme on the campaign trail. Last week, Sen. John McCain joined Tillis for a discussion on national security.

GOP bullish with two weeks to go (The Hill) -- Two weeks from Election Day, GOP hopes of capturing congressional control continue to rise. "We are going to win the Senate. I feel very good about that," National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Collins said last week. … Meanwhile, Democrats privately fret that the battle for Congress may be slipping away as President Obama drags his party down. Their hopes of hanging on rest in their sophisticated ground game. Democrats have spent more than $60 million on field efforts, and strategists in both parties say that could net them a point or two on Election Day. … There are some bright spots for Democrats, though. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) has also held a small but consistent lead in most recent public polling, though she’s been on the defensive this week over questions about missed committee hearings and a flip-flop on an Ebola travel ban. Thanks to increased GOP spending on the airwaves, Republicans believe the race is finally tightening.

Unaffiliated registration grows in NC (WRAL-TV) -- More than 100,000 new voters registered as "unaffiliated" during the period between Jan. 1 and Oct 18, representing more than three-quarters of the growth in registered voters.

Learning from rivals, GOP ups ground game (Washington Post) -- In Georgia and other key states, the Republican National Committee partnered with state party operations to deploy paid staffers and millions in new databases, apps, Web sites and phone systems. The new methods emulate the tech-driven approach to draw out voters long dominated by Democrats.

Democrats tout education, student loan issues (Inside Higher Ed) -- In two states with close Senate races -- North Carolina and South Dakota -- education is the issued mentioned most in pro-Democratic ads, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. Its analysis does not distinguish between higher education and K-12 issues. By rough comparison, according to the project, education was not among the top 10 issues mentioned in ads by either party airing during the 2010 midterm election season.

Tillis, by himself for 60 minutes, as only NC Senate candidate on TV debate (AP) — It appears Thom Tillis will get the spotlight to himself on a television show billed as a debate for North Carolina's U.S. Senate hopefuls.

Tillis stumbles during televised debate (Catholic Online) -- Congressional candidate State Legislature Speaker Thom Tillis stumbled badly during a televised debate with his Democratic rival Senator Kay Hagen earlier this month. During the televised debate on October 7, Tillis appeared at a loss for words when it came to equal pay for equal work performed by women.

Judicial candidates pay visit (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- Judicial candidates Eric Levinson and John M. Tyson stopped by the Pitt County Courthouse on Monday to shake hands, meet as many people as they could and let people know they are running in statewide races for judicial seats. Levinson is running against incumbent Robin Hudson for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court. He was elected to the N.C. Court of Appeals in 2002, and in 2006 ran unsuccessfully to be an associate justice on the N.C. Supreme Court.

Cleary faces uphill climb to unseat Holding (Raleigh News & Observer) -- In 2012, Raleigh Republican George Holding promised to go to Washington and cut spending. He won the 13th Congressional District seat by 50,000 votes. Now Brenda Cleary, the Democrat who is challenging Holding’s re-election bid, says he has gone too far. During his first term, Holding voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and supported a budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Both measures failed.

Dueling negatives in N.C. Senate race (Bloomberg News) - If Republicans are in control of both houses of Congress next year -- which is looking probable two weeks before the elections -- House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell could use some guidance from North Carolina: Don't overreach. As of now, in a race that could go either way, the incumbent Democratic senator, Kay Hagan, is a slight favorite over Republican Thom Tillis for one reason: Her challenger is speaker of the Republican-led state House of Representatives, which is about as unpopular in North Carolina as Congress. The Hagan campaign calculates it offsets any national tide favoring Republicans by linking Tillis to the party's rule in Raleigh, the state capital. The senator always refers to her opponent as Speaker Tillis, not Mr. Tillis, Thom Tillis or Tillis. That might be a credential in some states. Not North Carolina.

DNC leader Debbie Schultz rallies students (Daily Tar Heel) -- Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz stressed the importance of the young Democratic vote in North Carolina in a speech on UNC’s campus Monday. Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, spoke in Gerrard Hall to an audience of several dozen students about the importance of voting in what she called a pivotal election for the state. U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., also gave remarks during the event, which was hosted by UNC Young Democrats.

Hagan hits Tillis on education issues during NC State visit (Raleigh News & Observer) -- U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan attacked opponent Thom Tillis’ education record Monday during an appearance at N.C. State University, saying the N.C. House speaker “has the wrong education priorities for North Carolina.”

Sen. Hagan speaks at NC State (Technician) -- Incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan made a campaign stop on NC State’s campus Monday, but to the dismay of some, including a demonstrator dressed as a duck who protested outside of the event, campaign organizers said it was closed to the public. Hagan met with about 50 students, guests and members of the media at the campaign event in Talley Student Union. During the event, an unnamed demonstrator wore a duck costume to make a point that Hagan has been ducking the public by holding invitation-only events and choosing not to participate in additional debates.

Tillis campaigns in Pinehurst, urges supporters to vote early (Fayetteville Observer) -- As the race between Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis comes down to its expected close finish, a South Dakota senator reminded North Carolina residents Monday that every vote counts. U.S. Sen. John Thune, a Republican, spoke at a rally for Tillis at Cannon Park. Thune said he lost his first bid for a Senate seat by 524 votes, which was less than a half a vote per precinct. "That sometimes is the difference between victory and defeat," Thune said. Republicans have a 50-50 chance of gaining control of the U.S. Senate, but they need a victory by Tillis to make it happen, Thune said. Republicans need to gain six Senate seats to claim a majority.

Hagan talks with military spouses about issues (Fayetteville Observer) -- Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan visited Spring Lake for a campaign stop on Monday, but she spent more time listening than speech-making. Eight military spouses and an Air Force reservist met with Hagan at the home of Mayor Chris Rey to share their concerns, problems and fears. During the conversation in Rey's living room, Hagan barely mentioned her opponent in the November election, Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis. Instead, she had her staff take notes of issues raised by the spouses and the reservist.

Columbus County OKs resolution opposing decision on gay marriage (WECT-TV) -- The Columbus County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Monday night opposing the recent federal court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in North Carolina. The measure states that commissioners “strongly request that this ruling be reviewed and reconsidered to protect the foundation that America was established on.” Commissioners passed the resolution 6-1, with Amon McKenize casting the sole no vote. McKenzie said he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, but he said Columbus County should accept the law of the land. The item was added to the agenda Monday morning at the request of Commissioner Ricky Bullard of Cerro Gordo. “I hope it can be stopped to where it doesn't continue,” Bullard said. “It's an embarrassment.” Bullard is the only commissioner on the November ballot who has a challenger. When asked if politics drove the proposal, Bullard said it was his religious upbringing in the Pentecostal Holiness church.

Brannon, Foxx face off in 5th District US House showdown (Lexington Dispatch) -- Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx has held North Carolina's Fifth Congressional District since U.S. Senator Richard Burr left the position in 2005. Her opponent, Democrat Josh Brannon, of Vilas, is working to try and change that.

Fjeld and Walker battle to replace Coble in Congress (Burlington Times-News) -- The race for the 6th Congressional District between Democratic candidate Laura Fjeld and Republican candidate Mark Walker is entering its final stretch with just weeks left for the candidates to persuade voters which of them would best represent the district. The winner in November will replace retiring U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, who assumed office in 1985. The candidates are scheduled to debate Thursday and Oct. 29.

Early Voting Gets Underway Thursday For The November Election (TWCN-TV) -- The state's voting changes have been scrutinized by courts all the way up the U-S Supreme Court and there are some changes to early voting this year

Education key issue in Raleigh House race (WRAL-TV) -- The race for the open House District 49 seat will likely hinge on voters' feelings toward education in North Carolina.

Churchgoer taken aback by political flier's lynching imagery (Fayetteville Observer) -- Dawn McNair said she was surprised Sunday when her daughter pointed out the background on a political flier urging people to get out and vote.

RestoreNC petition renews attention on AFP mailer (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A petition is calling for the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity to comply with the investigation into its voter registration mailer.

Glazier's condemnation of dirty campaigning a unique moment in politics (Fayetteville Observer) -- People who attended the candidates forum Thursday at Fayetteville Technical Community College got to see an original moment in politics.

COMEBACK OR BACKSLIDE? N.C. falls to No. 3 in business climate ranking (Raleigh News & Observer) -- North Carolina’s business climate ranking slipped from No. 2 to a tie for No. 3 in a new survey of corporate executives nationwide. North Carolina was ranked behind Texas and Florida – and tied with Georgia – in the latest survey by Development Counsellors International, which focuses on economic development and tourism marketing. DCI has conducted the survey every three years since 1996. North Carolina ranked No. 2 in the prior four surveys conducted in 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2011. North Carolina recently overhauled its economic development efforts. Earlier this month the nonprofit Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, which has taken over job-recruiting and marketing efforts for the state, opened its doors in Cary.

NC NAACP seeks legislative session on Medicaid (AP) — Gov. Pat McCrory should call legislators to a one-day session to approve Medicaid expansion, the head of the state NAACP said Monday.

NC NAACP seeks legislative session on Medicaid (WRAL-TV) -- Gov. Pat McCrory should call legislators to a one-day session to approve Medicaid expansion, the head of the state NAACP said Monday.

Moral Monday rally stresses importance of voting (Richmond Daily Journal) -- “What the hell is goin’ on in North Carolina?” That’s a question the Rev. William J. Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, said he was asked recently in Mississippi. Barber was in town for a Moral Monday-Get Out the Vote rally in Cole Plaza, the first in Richmond County. The weekly demonstrations started in 2013 in response to what Barber called “wrong policies inflicted upon the state by extremist legislators.” Although starting in North Carolina, Moral Monday has spread to 15 other states, Barber said. The North Carolina rallies have focused on health care, education and — most notably — the state’s voting law. Early voting for the Nov. 4 general election begins Thursday and runs through Nov. 1.

NC seeks sign in September unemployment rate (AP) — A snapshot of North Carolina's unemployment rate is due to be released as a new glimpse into job prospects after the key indicator has gotten worse each of the previous two months.

NC insurers press for higher homeowner rates (AP) — North Carolina's insurance commissioner on Monday began deciding whether to allow homeowners' coverage costs to rise by as much as 35 percent even as more insurers demand even higher rates in agreements with customers.

Insurers make case for big rate hike (WRAL-TV) -- Under the proposal, the price of a homeowner policy in Cumberland County would go up almost 34 percent and by about 33 percent in Wake and Durham counties - although only 25 percent in Raleigh and the city of Durham. Homeowners in Chatham and Orange counties would see almost an 18 percent increase in their insurance policies.

Hearing Held on Proposed Homeowners Insurance Rate Hike (TWCN-TV) -- North Carolina's insurance commissioner is holding a hearing on a request from companies that want to increase homeowner insurance prices by an average of more than 25 percent in January.

DHHS secretary talks ACO's, Ebola in Greenville (WNCT-TV) -- Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos headed to Greenville Monday. She's trying to garner support for a Medicaid reform plan, rewarding providers, and putting patients first. It comes at a time when Wos says the system's in the best shape it's been in five years. There is still plenty of time before anything goes into effect. The legislature must see it and the governor must sign off on it. They didn't take it up this last session. Wos is pushing for the discussion to be had. “We have to change how we pay for Medicaid,” said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Wos. “What we really need to pay and incentivize is value. Are we getting the patient healthier?"

Health care based outcomes discussed (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- Health care providers in eastern North Carolina gathered in Greenville on Monday afternoon to learn more about a new form of care that focuses on outcomes.

NC secretary of state appealing $10K penalty (AP) — The campaign of North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall is appealing a $10,000 penalty from the state elections board issued because officials say they don't have a complete campaign filing.

Several factors key in recruiting new businesses to Rowan (Salisbury Post) -- When N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker was asked what Rowan County needs to do to be successful in recruiting business, she listed five things to focus on: Health, Education, Economic development, Arts, tourism and culture, Quality of life and the environment.

Department Of Public Safety Hosts National Juvenile Justice Symposium This Week (N.C. Political News) – More than 850 people involved in the field of juvenile justice services and programming from across the United States and from other countries are gathering in Greensboro this week for the 20th National Symposium on Juvenile Services, co-sponsored by the N.C. Department of Public Safety and the National Partnership for Juvenile Services. The National Symposium on Juvenile Services brings together the leadership and direct care professionals from juvenile services and other human services professionals for training and the opportunity to share the innovative program service approaches being implemented within the juvenile justice system throughout the country. Pre-symposium workshops get underway on Monday, Oct. 20, at the Sheraton Greensboro Hotel at Four Seasons, located at 3121 High Point Rd. in Greensboro. The symposium wraps up on Thursday, Oct. 23, at noon.

Report says captain daydreaming when ferry ran aground (Wilmington Star-News) -- Capt. Eugene Rodney Melton – whose name was redacted in all but one instance – made no efforts to slow the ferry

Group: NC officials can refuse to marry gay couples (Charlotte Observer) -- The N.C. Values Coalition says registers of deeds can refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses if it violates their religious beliefs.

HondaJet announces expansion plans at Greensboro airport (AP) — HondaJet says it is spending $19 million to expand its world headquarters at Piedmont Triad International Airport near Greensboro.

Rural Practice Fights to Stay Solvent (N.C. Health News) -- For one of the only pediatric providers in Hertford County, providing care to an underserved rural population is the dream.

Companies looking to hire more than 2,000 at Triangle tech job fair (WRAL-TV) -- More than 2,000 high-tech positions will be available at the "Come Tech Out" jobs fair on Tuesday morning in Raleigh. A who's who list of Triangle technology companies and others are looking to fill scores of openings across a wide range of skill sets and experience levels.

Lorillard CEO to get $44M after Reynolds merger (AP) — The CEO of Newport cigarette maker Lorillard Inc. is set to receive more than $44 million following the planned $25 billion merger with Reynolds American Inc., regulatory filings show.

Man who drove burning truck into NC law firm IDed (AP) — Investigators in Currituck County have identified a man who they say drove his burning pickup into a Moyock law firm.

W.Va. couple convicted of stealing to buy NC house (AP) — A West Virginia couple has been convicted of stealing from a 90-year-old woman to buy a beach house in North Carolina.

Rockingham Speedway owners agree on track's sale (AP) — Court records show the owners of Rockingham Speedway have agreed to sell or auction off the track to help avoid foreclosure for default on a $4.2 million loan used to buy the property.

Hunters donate deer catch to feed hungry (Wilmington Star-News) -- N.C. Hunters for the Hungry encourages hunters to donate deer to feed the hungry.

NC review commission says Common Core too hard for some students (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Members of a state commission charged with helping to replace the Common Core argued Monday that the current academic standards are too hard for some students.

Student Loans and Political Ads (Inside Higher Ed) -- Student debt, the Ryan Budget, and the value of the Department of Education are among the higher education issues making their way onto the political airwaves this fall, as Democrats look to hold on to the Senate and keep seats in the House. … In two states with close Senate races -- North Carolina and South Dakota -- education is the issued mentioned most in pro-Democratic ads, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. Its analysis does not distinguish between higher education and K-12 issues. By rough comparison, according to the project, education was not among the top 10 issues mentioned in ads by either party airing during the 2010 midterm election season.

AG wants cameras to make NC school buses safer (WRAL-TV) -- North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper says he wants cameras on school buses across the state to help catch drivers who violate school-bus traffic safety laws.

New Duke scholarship benefits NC Science and Math graduates (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A new $1 million scholarship fund at Duke University will benefit graduates of the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, the residential high school in Durham.

UNC: results of independent investigation into academic misconduct (AP) -- The former U.S. Justice Department official conducting an investigation into academic misconduct at North Carolina will release his report Wednesday, the university announced Monday. Kenneth Wainstein has been investigating the causes of fraud in the school's formerly named Department of African and Afro-American Studies since February, including problems in classes with significant athlete enrollments. The school said that Wainstein will present his findings to the school's board of trustees as well as the board that oversees the state's public university system. Wainstein will then hold a news conference with UNC Chancellor Carol Folt and system president Tom Ross.

Were UNC 'no-show' classes designed to avoid independent study limits? (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Since at least the early 1990s, UNC-Chapel Hill sought to limit the number of “special studies” undergraduate students could take toward their degrees. The limit was the equivalent of four such classes – a small minority of the courses needed for graduation. Those classes usually meant independent studies, which involved meetings with a professor, required reading, and a paper due at the end. But a second type of independent study evolved into a scandal at UNC: classes in the former African and Afro-American studies department advertised as lectures that never met and required only a paper at the end. More details that have emerged about the no-show classes provide evidence that several athletes in men’s basketball and football had taken far more of the two types of independent study classes than the rules would allow. As Kenneth Wainstein prepares to deliver the results of the latest investigation into the scandal on Wednesday, the heavy use in no-show classes by athletes raises a key question: Were they created to help athletes – and perhaps other students – get around the four-class limit?

Law schools revamp for new era and anemic job market (Raleigh News & Observer) -- An anemic job market for lawyers has led to a national downturn in law school applications. In response, some schools are changing the way they deliver legal education.

UNCG Chancellor Brady points to student success, community partnerships (Triad Business Journal) -- UNCG's top official will step down next summer after seven years leading the university to return to teaching.

Davidson quarterback arrested on assault charge (AP) — The starting quarterback for Davidson College has been suspended from the team after his arrest following a fight at his on-campus apartment.

The Rising -Solar -Wave (Policy Watch) -- Looking for some good news on what can seem at times these days to be a rather bleak public policy landscape? Well, here’s some that ought to keep you going for a while and maybe even renew your faith that the construction of a happier, healthier, more equitable and more sustainable planet is actually possible: The prospects for solar and other forms of renewable energy continue to get brighter and brighter. That’s the only conclusion that one can draw from a recent series of news developments, government initiatives and reports from those who know best. To make matters even more hopeful, North Carolina is at the forefront of many of these positive developments. Naturally, however, the carbon-fuel-industry-funded conservative “think tanks” are doing everything within their power to scuttle the progress and momentum. This is from a new report released recently by the Pew Charitable Trusts: “North Carolina has emerged as a clean energy leader in the Southeast because of its high-caliber academic institutions, robust public and private investments, and policies such as the renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standard. The state has climbed nationwide rankings in the solar industry and attracted companies working in smart grid technologies, which use digital communications to allow electricity providers to detect and react to changes in usage.”

10 N.C. Birds Threatened by Climate Change (Coastal Review) -- A warming climate is likely to have these 10 birds leaving North Carolina in search of cooler, more hospitable climate, but there are ways you can help.

NC gas prices plunge into $3 territory; will they go lower? (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Triangle drivers have been paying more than $3 a gallon for regular since late 2010, but the plunge in world oil prices is sending retail gasoline prices down.

Duke researchers identify tracking tool for fracking fluids (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Duke University researchers said they have identified a new method to trace leaks and spills of fracking fluids by using a novel geochemical fingerprinting technology. In a study published Monday, the six scientists write that they are the first to describe the tracer method, which can pinpoint highly diluted remnants of the industrial fluids in waterways and other drinking water sources. The study, appearing in Environmental Science and Technology, is entitled “New Tracers Identify Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids and Accidental Release from Oil and Gas Operations.”

Flawed regulations let billionaires buy senators (Fayetteville Observer) -- Regardless of the outcome of this year's U.S. Senate race between incumbent Kay Hagan and state House Speaker Thom Tillis, North Carolina voters can rest assured that they will have elected the nation's most expensive senator. The billionaires have been anteing up, funneling money through a network of shadowy political organizations with unclear names to pedal their messages.

State judicial candidates and open government (Burlington Times-News column) -- It won’t happen again for eight years. North Carolina voters are about to face the first chance in memory to elect a majority of the state’s highest court and a three judges to open seats on the state’s second highest and enormously important, intermediate appeals court. And with decisions on major legal issues, like public school vouchers and same sex marriage, likely to be made by the judges elected, there could hardly be a more important time for voters to familiarize themselves with the statewide judge candidates on this year’s, Nov. 4 ballot. These races are officially non-partisan.

Endorsements 2014: The ‘bench-trial’ amendment (Winston-Salem Journal) -- This one just makes sense: A proposed constitutional amendment that would give defendants in many cases the right to waive a jury trial, which is now required for felony cases, and be tried by a judge (a “bench trial”). We think the amendment is a good idea.

Profit sharing, appeals and politics (Wilson Times) -- When a power company gets a tax break, are its customers entitled to share in it? Yes, the N.C. Utilities Commission said in May. No, it said last week, reversing itself. http://www.wilsontimes.com/Opinion/Editorials/Story/34307901---Profit-sharing--appeals-and-politics

Money spent on driver education is an investment in safer roads (Wilmington Star-News) -- It is well worth the $26.6 million that North Carolina is spending to teach our teenagers how to drive safely

Democracy in danger: Slide toward plutocracy may not stop until we take our rights seriously (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- By both legal and illegal maneuvers, other democratic leaders around the world managed to create systems of quasi-electoral processes that made certain they would be perpetually in power. I fear that current elected officials have begun a similar campaign

CMPD’s troubling surveillance secrecy (Charlotte Observer) -- The Charlotte City Council needs to ask substantive questions about Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police use of surveillance equipment that collects data from thousands of cell phone users at a time, even if those people are not targets of an investigation.