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    Will He or Won't He?

    BY John Wagner
    01/15/2001
    by John Wagner on 1/15/01.

    Overheard:

    'On behalf of the North Carolina Senate, I would like to call on anyone who may have an idea or suggestion as to how we can reduce spending and make state government more efficient to please contact my office.'

    - State Sen. Marc Basnight as the state faces a $ 486 million budget shortfall.

    ###

    Political Scorecard:

    UP: Jimmy Carter. More than 1,000 people waited in line in Raleigh and 2,000 in Charlotte to get autographs on Carter's new book. Will there be similar crowds for Bill Clinton in 20 years?

    DOWN: Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt. Utah is suing the Census Bureau to force it to count 14,000 missionaries working overseas. The move is an effort to take away North Carolina's new congressional seat. Haven't we had enough recounts?

    UP: Mike Easley. Rumors that the governor, an amateur woodworker, had misunderstood his instructions and was working in his basement building a cabinet turned out not be true. Easley named half of his Cabinet last week.

    ###

    Although Sen. Jesse Helms has not yet announced whether he will seek another term, his would-be Republican successors have already begun moving around the state.

    Congressman Robin Hayes of Concord is scheduled to speak to the Onslow County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner next month in Jacksonville.

    The invitation describes Hayes as an "expected candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2002" - a phrase that reportedly caused some indigestion in the Helms camp.

    Meanwhile, Congressman Richard Burr of Winston-Salem was in Raleigh on Friday giving a speech to a conference on local government innovation that was sponsored by the John Locke Foundation.

    Although Hayes and Burr are testing the waters, both have said they will not run for the Senate if Helms decides to seek a sixth term.

    Helms is not expected to make a decision until late this year.

    ###

    A plug for women's history:

    Look for actress Emily Procter, who plays the character Ainsley Hayes on the NBC program "The West Wing," to show up in a public service announcement on North Carolina television stations next month.

    Procter, a Raleigh native, filmed a PSA for National Women's History Month while she was visiting her family over the holidays.

    The ads, which are being sponsored by the N.C. Council for Women, were filmed at NBC-17 and will be distributed to other NBC stations in the state.

    On "West Wing," Procter plays a young conservative who ends up working for a liberal Democratic president.

    ###

    Anti-tax group growing:

    Two years ago, Citizens for a Sound Economy set up shop in Raleigh as a conservative advocacy group that lobbied against tax increases and for less government.

    The group quickly made a big splash when it played a role in defeating a $ 650 million Wake County school bond issue. Last year, it backed a $ 500 million Wake bond issue when it was assured the plan would not lead to tax increases.

    Since then, the group has grown from 2,000 to 14,000 members in North Carolina, according to Chuck Fuller, who heads the state office of the national group.

    The North Carolina staff has grown to five people and includes such veteran Republican campaigners as Alan Page, Jason Saine, Andrew Brock, Jonathan Hill and Linda Williams.

    Fuller has been promoted to national vice president for public affairs, and he divides his time between Raleigh and Washington.

    During the past election, the group collected no-new-tax pledges from 61 state House members and 18 state senators.

    The group's upcoming legislative agenda includes opposing any tax increases, making involuntary annexations more difficult, increasing cable competition and pushing for more charter schools.

    ###

    Clayton visits Taiwan:

    U.S. Rep. Eva Clayton, a Littleton Democrat, led a delegation of Democratic House members on a trip to Taiwan last week.

    Johnny Barnes, Clayton's chief of staff, said her primary motivation for organizing the trip was to expand trade opportunities for North Carolina agriculture.

    "We're just trying to help out our farmers," Barnes said. He said the trip was paid for by an organization in Taiwan.