By James Harrison
Brace yourselves—here comes this week’s Political Hit List!
More changes are in store for the RAD, as City Council members approved the first $2.2 million of a $25 million proposal for long-term improvements to the area. While the measure calls for items like new sidewalks, bike lanes, and greenways, the first phase will pay for detailed surveying and planning. You can read more about the meeting and votes in this report from Mountain Xpress reporter David Forbes.
It took nearly a year, but County Commissioners were finally able to put their backing behind a $40.5 million plan for a new Asheville Middle School. The vote was tallied unanimous. For details on the project, which is expected break ground in July and be ready for students by August of 2016, read this report by Xpress reporter Jake Frankel.
McCrory warms up to Obama
President Barack Obama visited the Tar Heel state this week, and Gov. Pat McCrory took advantage of every minute of it (so he said). McCrory, who has been a vocal opponent to several initiatives put forward by the Obama administration, greeted the president on the tarmac in Raleigh Wednesday. Before the president’s visit to N.C. State, the governor told MSNBC host Chuck Todd he fully supported a plan by the White House to allocate $140 million of federal, state and private monies to build a new tech hub located on the NCSU campus.
Hagan steers clear of Obama
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan had the chance to accompany the president aboard Air Force Once to her home state. But she declined the opportunity, in order to dutifully “attend to Senate business” instead. At least that was the line from her office. It’s easy to see why Hagan, who has taken a beating in recent months for aligning with Obama’s controversial health law, would skip the chance to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the president in her home state in an election year. Conservative critics saw straight through it—pointing out her accompanying Obama for a visit to Asheville in 2011, even though the Senate was in session. And a conservative SuperPAC went the extra mile—releasing an ad accusing Hagan of “hiding” in Washington.
GOP Senate primary
With Hagan seeming more and more vulnerable by the week, all eyes are on May’s Republican primary. This week provided plenty of action. For the first time in this year’s election cycle, a Public Policy Poll found Hagan trailing the field of her potential Republican opponents. The poll didn’t include Ted Alexander, a former Shelby mayor who announced Monday his plans to joining the field of Republicans. That brings the total number of GOP hopefuls to six—with at least 40 percent of the vote being needed to avoid a runoff. Voters can choose from state House Speaker Thom Tillis, Rev. Mark Harris (who was endorsed by Mike Huckabee this week), Heather Grant, Bill Flynn, and Greg Brannon. Five of the candidates participated in a Winston Salem forum this week, with Tillis being the sole candidate to sit on the sidelines.
WNC reps split on funding bill
Lawmakers in Washington easily approved a massive $1.1 trillion funding bill this week to keep the federal government open for the remainder of the fiscal year, but it came without the support of one WNC representative. Freshman Rep. Mark Meadows (R) opposed the legislation, telling one news outlet he had found “a couple things” he took issue with and saw no need to review it further. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R), along with Sens. Richard Burr (R) and Kay Hagan, cast “yea” votes, sending the bill to the president’s desk to be signed.
That’s all for now! See you next week.