The Beat

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Hunt leads pre-election fundraising among Council candidates

The latest campaign-funding reports show that two candidates have raised more than $20,000 as of Oct. 4.

Marc Hunt led the field with $22,946, but Mark Cates was close behind at $20,011. Some candidates had more than doubled their war chests since the last report in early September. TJ Thomasson and Tim Peck agreed to keep their total spending under $1,000, so they’re not required to file reports.

Here are the current totals (September figures in parentheses):

Marc Hunt
$22,946 (up from $20,641)
Mark Cates
$20,011 (up from $12,269)
Chris Pelly
$11,054 (up from $9,841)
Jan Davis
$9,875 (up from $3,591)
Lael Gray
$9,784 (up from $6,734)
Saul Chase
$8,740 (up from $7,880)

Funding sources noted in the reports vary. Hunt got most of his money from individual donors, including a number of local business owners. Cates, meanwhile, self-financed most of his campaign, though individual donors and some organizations (such as the Republican Men's Club) pitched in.

This is the last funding report required before the Oct. 11 primary. On Oct. 31, the last report before the Nov. 8 general election will be due.
David Forbes

Tillis touts business at CIBO breakfast

When asked what the GOP-led state Legislature has done to create jobs, House Speaker Thom Tillis touted bills reforming workers' compensation rules, addressing overregulation and cutting taxes. "That's creating the underlying environment for businesses to grow," asserted Tillis during an Oct. 7 breakfast meeting of the Asheville-based Council of Independent Business Owners.

Speaking to a mostly conservative group of business owners at the Biltmore Square Mall food court, Tillis also quipped that journalists "who ask 'Where's your jobs bill?' don't understand business."

Republican bills dealing with such issues as medical malpractice and workers' compensation — combined with the $1.5 billion Tillis says the GOP budget saved taxpayers — will produce private jobs instead of growing government, he continued.

Tillis, who represents the 98th District (primarily Charlotte and Mecklenburg County) in the Statehouse, kept up the pro-business beat during the meeting: He slammed Gov. Bev Perdue, calling her an obstructionist on Republican efforts to cut regulations that hurt business owners and blaming her lack of business experience on the state's failed bid to get Continental Tire to locate a plant in North Carolina. "She's never had to sign a paycheck," he said.

Tillis also cited the record number of bills Republicans pushed through the Legislature this year as evidence that they're running the government with businesslike efficiency.

But his responses to certain questions from CIBO members demonstrated more complexity.

Asked about rumors that the state may hand over ownership and maintenance of secondary roads — a potentially expensive challenge — to local governments, Tillis suggested an almost Democratic notion. Only Texas has more state-owned roads than North Carolina, he explained, adding, "We do not raise enough money to invest in our infrastructure." To avoid merely dumping the cost of maintaining secondary roads on cities and counties, creative ways of raising revenue, including toll roads, must be explored, said Tillis.

As for federal health-care reform, Tillis declared, "Anyone who supports it needs to be [put] out of office." The federal government, he continued, shouldn't force a one-size-fits-all system on states. Yet, he added, "We still have the obligation to fix health care.”

Republican legislators, said Tillis, are looking at how health-care-related competition is fostered (or not) in the state, particularly among hospitals and insurance companies. He cited BlueCross BlueShield's dominant position in North Carolina as something he's "willing to take a look at."

Another CIBO member referenced the recent controversy over possible misconduct on the local Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. After a report indicated he may have improperly received gifts, CEO Curtis Canty stepped down. There’ve been a number of similar controversies across the state in recent years.

Tillis acknowledged that the way North Carolina regulates alcohol creates a conundrum by intertwining government, political and business interests. There are also moral challenges, as some question whether the state should be involved in alcohol sales at all. In short, the ABC is "one heck of a political, financial hairball."

On another front, when asked if the state pension fund was assuming overly large returns, Tillis replied that State Treasurer Janet Cowell is one of the most competent elected officials he knows. “I don't believe all Democrats are incompetent," he added.
Margaret Williams

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