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Inside Politics: Fayetteville developers form super PAC

Organizers of a new super PAC say they hope to influence the outcome of Fayetteville’s fall elections.


Supporters of the Fayetteville First PAC include developers and builders who have been quietly meeting this year to develop a political strategy.


They say they may endorse candidates for Fayetteville mayor and the City Council.


The group’s lawyer, Lonnie Player, said the PAC will not be allowed to donate money to the candidates’ campaign coffers, but the committee can spend money on issues and endorsements of candidates.


Player said the committee’s goals include promoting “common-sense leadership for Fayetteville” and candidates who espouse a growing municipal tax base, a rising standard of living and good land development.


“Fayetteville First believes strongly that responsible, sensible residential and commercial development is the best means of attracting investment in and to our community,” Player said in an email.


Although organizational paperwork for the PAC was filed in February at the Cumberland County Board of Elections, the committee has not yet had to file spending or fundraising disclosure statements.


According to sources familiar with the PAC, its organizers or backers include such prominent and well-known commercial and residential builders as Joe Riddle and Ralph Huff.


Their names often appear as donors on candidate campaign reports, which are public.


Huff acknowledged that he would contribute money to Fayetteville First.


Riddle declined to comment.


Riddle, whose family has built several shopping centers around town, has been at odds with the city’s unified development ordinance, a complex overhaul of zoning and building codes that took effect July 1, 2011.


The City Council periodically has made minor adjustments to the ordinance in response to complaints from builders.


In January, Huff signed a letter on behalf of home builders and commercial developers who had several concerns about the unified development ordinance.


Player said the PAC has not adopted any specific platforms or taken positions on city policies.


Other builders and developers contacted for this column said they were vaguely aware of the PAC and its mission for the Fayetteville fall elections.


“I’m sure if they approached me, I would have some interest in it,” said Fayetteville developer Murray Duggins, another campaign contributor of local elections.


Tommy Bradford, a commercial builder, said he liked the sound of the PAC’s goals for development.


“I’d be for that, whatever that is,” he said.


Larry Strother, chairman of ERA Strother Real Estate, said he wasn’t sure yet if he would financially back the PAC.


“It depends on what direction the PAC takes this fall,” Strother said.


Applewhite support


Fayetteville mayoral candidate Val Applewhite has picked up some endorsements following her campaign fundraiser this month:


Fayetteville City Councilman D.J. Haire, who is not seeking a ninth term this year.


James Mitchell, a long-serving Charlotte city councilman running for Charlotte mayor this year. He is the past president of the National League of Cities.


Former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, a Democrat from Lexington. He was a U.S. Senate candidate in 2010.


Vikki Andrews


Vikki Andrews, chairwoman of the Cumberland County Democratic Party, said she wants the public to know she is not endorsing anybody in the Fayetteville mayoral race, which is nonpartisan on the ballots.


Andrews attended two fundraisers earlier this month – one by Val Applewhite and another by Kirk deViere. Andrews lives in Birch Creek, an unincorporated neighborhood off Lakewood Drive.


Hagan leads rivals


By double-digits, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat, is leading eight potential Republican candidates next year when she seeks a second term, according to a new poll.


Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning pollster in Raleigh, reported last week that Hagan leads – by at least 10 percentage points – eight potential candidates in a survey of 600 voters taken July 12-14.


Among the potential Republican rivals, she leads U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn; House Speaker Thom Tillis; and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.


The pollster said that the survey included an oversampling of Republican voters and that all of those surveyed were evenly split, at 48 percent, on whether they voted for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney last year.


In other findings, 45 percent of those surveyed said they disapproved of Hagan’s job performance, while 43 percent approved. And 49 percent approved of Obama’s job performance, compared with 47 percent who disapproved.


The poll found that U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina continues to be the top choice, with support from 16 percent of those surveyed, for the Republican nomination to challenge Hagan next year. Ellmers received 11 percent.


Forum rescheduled


A community forum in which candidates for Fayetteville mayor will be able to speak and answer questions from the public is being rescheduled for next month.


Cumberland County Citizens United had to reschedule the forum from Saturday to 10 a.m. on Aug. 17 in the fellowship hall at Galatia Presbyterian Church. The church is at 8800 Galatia Church Road, off Gillis Hill Road.


Drilling opposition


A June poll of 621 North Carolina residents conducted for the Natural Resources Defense Council found overwhelming opposition to fracking.


The poll, released last week, found that 55 percent opposed the state of North Carolina allowing fracking, while 37 percent approved of lifting the ban.


Nearly two-thirds of fracking opponents said they were “strongly opposed” to the idea.


Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a process to extract natural gas or oil deep below the earth’s surface by using high-pressured water mixed with chemicals to fracture shale deposits and release the energy.


Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation that eventually would lift a ban on fracking and allow drilling permits by 2015.


The legislation is controversial.


Opponents worry about environmental risks, among other issues, while proponents say fracking would create jobs and new tax revenues in North Carolina.


The N.C. Mining and Energy Commission has been tasked with drafting a new regulatory system for fracking in the state.


The Defense Council is an environmental watchdog group based in Washington.


New board members


The three new board members of the Cumberland County Board of Elections were sworn in Tuesday and elected James Baker as chairman.


Baker and Jonathan Wright, the board secretary, are Republicans.


The third new member, Harvey “Butch” Raynor, is a Democrat.


Democratic Men’s Club


The Cumberland County Democratic Men’s Club will meet Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. at Luigi’s Italian Restaurant. The scheduled guest speaker is Judge Mark Davis of the N.C. Court of Appeals.