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NC Dem hopefuls for governor in 2016 fill coffers

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Two North Carolina Democrats primed to take on Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016 both raised six figures for their campaign coffers in the second half of last year in a showing of early financial muscle to challenge the Republican incumbent.
    
Attorney General Roy Cooper's campaign finance report released Friday - a filing deadline for both state and federal offices - said that he brought in $589,000 in the six months ending Dec. 31 and has $989,000 in his campaign's coffers. And Durham attorney Ken Spaulding told the State Board of Elections he raised $102,000 since becoming a gubernatorial candidate in late August and has $86,000 in cash.
    
Cooper's cash on hand compares with the almost $1.3 million in cash that McCrory's committee said Friday was in his account a month ago. The Pat McCrory Committee reported $190,000 in revenues during the same period, but most of it came from refunds from his campaign's hired advertising consultant.
    
Cooper has said he's planning for a gubernatorial race but hasn't yet confirmed he will run. He rolled out a web video message this week asking supporters to join in his opposition to Republican policies, reinforcing public comments he's made since the summer.
    
"In the weeks and months ahead, we'll be building an organization from the ground up to take back North Carolina from those who are doing so much harm," Cooper said in the web message. "Your voice and involvement are critically important to this cause."
    
State Republican Party spokesman Daniel Keylin said after the video's release that Cooper wants to push "liberal big-government policies that will raise taxes, increase unemployment and stifle economic growth."
    
Spaulding said he's building an organization, too, and raised an amount, which includes some personal funds, that shows he's a viable and serious candidate. He said his campaign is aiming to "return and enhance the quality of life for all North Carolina citizens."
    
McCrory benefited separately from $800,000 in television ad buys starting in September from the Renew North Carolina Foundation. The outside group doesn't have to disclose it donors but is led by McCrory's political allies. It ran a commercial featuring McCrory talking about his accomplishments and plans while governor.
    
Friday's deadlines also apply to the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, where filings by the Rev. Mark Harris and Dr. Greg Brannon of Cary still show state House Speaker Thom Tillis ahead in fundraising for the Republican primary in May.
    
Harris, a Baptist minister from Charlotte, reported raising $278,000 in the fourth quarter and $406,000 since he got into the race in September. Brannon, an obstetrician, reported a little more than $250,000 raised in the quarter and almost $525,000 to date, according to numbers he's filing with federal election officials.
    
The amounts are still less than what Tillis has raised - his campaign said last week he had received more than $700,000 in the fourth quarter and $1.7 million overall since getting in the race last spring.
    
For cash on hand, Tillis said he had nearly $1.3 million as of Dec. 31, while Harris reported $256,000 and Brannon $142,000. Brannon, whose campaign has emphasized email fundraising appeals to tea party backers and opening seven campaign offices, said he's got more than 7,000 individual contributors.
    
Harris also highlighted an expanded support base that's "fired up" for the primary. At least six Republicans are seeking to take on Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in the fall.
    
Brannon used his report's release to poke at Tillis, who hasn't attended candidate forums with his rivals, including one Thursday night not far from Tillis' home in Mecklenburg County.
    
"We can't afford to nominate a candidate to take on Kay Hagan that hides from the grassroots conservatives in his own party by dodging candidate forums," Brannon said.
    
Hagan's campaign said last week it brought in almost $2.1 million in the fourth quarter and had $6.8 million on hand.
    
Several third-party independent expenditure groups already have spent millions of dollars involving the Senate candidates. One of the groups, Americans for Prosperity, has said it spent $4.2 million since October related to three ads critical of Hagan. The Senate Majority PAC has run ads praising Hagan and criticizing Tillis.
    
Grow NC Strong, a super political action committee organized by Tillis supporters, said Friday in a federal filing it had raised $159,000 through Dec. 31.

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