Publisher's note: The authors of this post are the CJ Staff of the Carolina Journal, John Hood Publisher.
Reps. Butterfield and Price also remained in Washington
RALEIGH - Media reports of President Obama's Wednesday visit to the Triangle highlighted the absence of Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, whose support of the Affordable Care Act has led political analysts to conclude she's at risk in her first re-election campaign. But the other two Democrats in the state's congressional delegation who will face voters in November were no-shows as well.
Even though retiring Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-7th District, flew with the president to the Triangle and returned to Washington Wednesday afternoon, Reps. G.K. Butterfield (1st District) and David Price (4th District), who represent portions of the Triangle, remained in Washington, along with Hagan. Spokesmen for Hagan and Butterfield cited important congressional votes as reason for their absence. Price's office did not respond to a request for comment.
In a 19-minute address at the J.W. Isenhour Tennis Complex at N.C. State University, Obama announced that N.C. State would be the lead research institution for a new high-tech public-private partnership known as the Next Generation Power Electronics Institute
. The consortium of 18 business and seven universities and labs will receive $70 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and consortium members, North Carolina state government, and additional private investors will be expected to match that funding. Gov. Pat McCrory said in a Wednesday press release that the state will commit no less than $10 million over five years to the project.
The consortium will focus on developing and producing faster-operating and more energy-efficient microchips
to power electronic devices.
Before the talk at N.C. State, the president and his entourage toured the Vacon USA facility in Research Triangle Park. The company manufactures variable-speed AC drives, mechanical systems that control the energy consumed by large electric motors. The drives are used to reduce energy use, and Vacon says its drives are well suited to handle renewable energy, which Obama wants to encourage.
Wednesday morning, state GOP Chairman Claude Pope noted Hagan's absence from the day's events. But he said Hagan can't run from her record of supporting Obama's policies.
"It's not surprising then that Kay Hagan is the one person who did not want President Obama to be here today," Pope said during a news conference at the state party headquarters. "I'm sure it was an easy decision for her to stay in Washington, rather than make the quick flight to North Carolina with the president on Air Force One."
Flanked by a photo of Obama embracing Hagan, Pope continued, "The last thing Kay Hagan and her campaign consultants need right now are more photos of her standing next to the president."
Calling Hagan a "rubber stamp" for Obama, Pope said, "She can't hide from the fact that she voted with Obama 96 percent of the time."
"What we're doing here in North Carolina, is we're trying to clear the table, so to speak, from a regulatory environment and a tax environment and give businesses a flexible, level playing field when it comes to being able to invest in the state and invest in growing jobs in the economy," Pope said.
Despite vocal opposition from liberal activists and state Democrats, some of whom have filed litigation trying to block policies enacted by North Carolina's Republican leaders, Obama offered praise for the direction of the economy in the Tar Heel State. "Here in North Carolina, you're doing your part to create good jobs and pay good wages," the president said.
Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-2nd District, took note of the president's remarks.
"While I support [the consortium], I'm dismayed by [Obama's] implication that he is responsible for the positive economic trends currently taking place in North Carolina," Ellmers said in a statement.
"Over the past year, North Carolina has seen its unemployment rate drop over two points, from 9.5 percent to 7.4 percent after declining to extend federal unemployment benefits for nearly 70,000 people in July. In the three months following this decision, civilian employment in our state rose by 39,400. This was no accident. ... McCrory and the Republican-led General Assembly have instituted important economic reforms that have led to the successes President Obama is trying to take credit for," she said.
Carolina Journal Associate Editor Barry Smith and Managing Editor Rick Henderson provided reporting for this story.