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Longtime Democratic lawmaker challenges his North Carolina primary result

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A veteran North Carolina legislator filed protests Friday in his primary election in which he slightly trails, alleging that ballot distribution and counting mistakes along with unlawful voting-site campaigning cast doubt on the results.

Democratic Rep. Michael Wray, who joined the state House in 2005, filed the protests with elections boards in Halifax, Northampton and Warren counties, which are northeast of Raleigh and compose the 27th House District.

As of Friday afternoon, Rodney Pierce, a Halifax County teacher, led Wray by 35 votes from close to 12,000 ballots cast in last week’s primary. The winner faces no Republican opposition in the fall.

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Wray has been criticized by outside groups and other Democrats for aligning himself at times with leaders in the Republican-controlled House, where he’s been made one of the senior chairmen of the powerful finance committee.

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Pierce called on Wray to concede, saying he “seems to want to change the rules more than a week after the contest ended, just because he lost.” And several groups favoring Pierce’s election put out news releases calling the accusations “bogus” and “dirty tricks.”

The North Carolina state Capitol is photographed in Raleigh, North Carolina. (LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images)

Wray challenges what happened with more than a dozen voters, several of whom received a ballot for the wrong primary, the protests say. He also alleges that a Democratic poll observer at a Halifax County precinct instructed voters to choose Pierce, violating laws against electioneering and coercion.

“We are not challenging any votes that were cast and counted. We are simply asking the county boards to ensure that they did not improperly reject any ballots,” Wray said in a news release. “We simply want to ensure that all valid ballots are counted.”

The boards in each county within the 27th District will meet to determine whether to dismiss each protest or call for a hearing in which evidence is received. The Warren and Halifax boards planned meetings for Tuesday to consider Wray’s protest.

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The current vote margin between Pierce and Wray also would allow Wray to seek a recount — a decision that Wray said Friday would wait until race results are certified.

The protests were filed on the same day elections board in all 100 counties were scheduled to complete the final tabulations of ballot choices from the March 5 primaries. The Warren board delayed the completion of its canvass given the protest, elections director Debbie Formyduval said.

Leading up to Friday’s canvass, the county board examined details related to more than 11,000 provisional absentee or in-person ballots to determine whether they would be added to the initial counts. The State Board of Elections canvass is March 26.

Separate from Wray’s potential defeat, three other General Assembly incumbents lost their primary elections: Democratic Sen. Mike Woodard of Durham County and Republican Reps. George Cleveland of Onslow County and Kevin Crutchfield of Cabarrus County.

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Southeast

Johnson to meet Trump at Mar-a-Lago amid speakership threat

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Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., will meet former President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Friday as the embattled House leader faces a threat to his speakership from Trump loyalist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

Johnson and Trump have already been at odds on the House passing an additional $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, which Johnson has for months declined to allow the House to vote on legislation already passed by the Democratic-led Senate. 

Trump has previously stated that he would end the war within 24 hours should he be reelected, while he has also touted converting the cost of weapons transfers to Ukraine into a loan.

Trump also encouraged GOP lawmakers to successfully “kill” reauthorizing FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a measure Johnson backed. The speaker is set to try again to push the measure through the House.

Left: Former President Donald Trump. Right: House Speaker Mike Johnson (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images | Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

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Meanwhile, earlier this month, Greene authored a resolution to force the House to take a vote of no confidence in the speaker. Greene railed at Johnson for negotiating spending bills with Democrats and forgoing the GOP’s internal rule, requiring 72 hours before voting on legislation.

She is also a staunch opponent of providing more aid to Ukraine. Greene and Johnson met on Wednesday, with Greene saying she is still frustrated with the speaker’s handling of several hot-button issues.

marjorie-taylor-greene

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has authored a resolution to force the House to take a vote of no confidence in the speaker. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

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Nevertheless, Trump is expected to back the leadership of Johnson, who defended the former president in two impeachment trials.

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In fact, Friday’s meeting has been billed as a “major announcement on election integrity,” and to tout legislation that would prevent noncitizens from voting, although no further details have been provided.

The joint appearance will also give Johnson an opportunity to publicly showcase his close ties to Trump.

Early voting in NYC

Friday’s meeting has been billed as a “major announcement on election integrity,” and to tout legislation that would prevent noncitizens from voting. (Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“It’s about Trump embracing Johnson,” former Speaker Newt Gingrich said of Friday’s joint appearance, per the New York Times. “This is Trump saying, ‘He is the speaker, I am his friend, we are together.’ That’s a pretty important thing for him. He just has to endure.”

The high-profile joint appearance comes days after Trump met with former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron at Mar-a-Lago.

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Warning for parents after Florida mom finds AirTag in son's sneaker

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A Florida mother had a scare after finding an AirTag in her son’s shoe in what she called “every mother’s worst nightmare,” according to a report.

Jackie Giurleo realized her son was being tracked through the device, but a subsequent investigation revealed a bizarre mix-up, Fox 35 reported.

Giurleo told the outlet that she did not own any AirTags when she began getting the alerts of places her son had been at a Christmas parade on Satellite Beach. 

She searched through all of her son’s clothing and toys, and said her “heart dropped” when she found the device in a quarter-sized hole bored into her son’s shoe. She said it had been tracking him for nearly a month. 

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Jackie Giurleo, pictured, told Fox 35 that her “knees gave out” when she found an AirTag in her son’s shoe. (Fox 35)

Seven-year-old Aidan told reporters that although he “[goes] a lot of places,” he never felt the AirTag in his travels. 

Panicked, Giurleo brought the device to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, where deputies subpoenaed Apple to get the address of the person who owned the offending tracking device. The answer brought them outside state lines. 

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Jackie Giurleo's son Aidan, 7

“I go a lot of places,” 7-year-old Aidan told Fox 35. He said he never felt the mysterious AirTag in his shoe.

“Luckily, it just turned into a happy coincidence of a tale of two moms,” Giurleo told Fox 35. 

Her son had taken off his shoes at a Christmas parade bounce house. Apparently, he accidentally switched shoes with another boy. 

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Jackie Giurleo's son Aidan's shoes and the AirTag hidden inside

After Brevard County Sheriff’s deputies subpoenaed Apple for who owned the AirTag, Jackie Giurleo learned that her son had simply switched shoes with another boy at a bounce house by accident. (Fox 35)

“I can remember that I saw one of the kids had the same shoes as me, and I think we put them in the same places, and then we just swapped,” Aidan told Fox 35. “I took his, and he took mine.”

The other child was visiting Florida from his home in Oklahoma on vacation. His parents had attached an AirTag to the inside of their son’s shoe to track him in the case of an emergency. They were the ones “tracking” the Florida boy, but had no clue why or how, Giurleo said. 

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AirTag in Jackie Giurleo's son's shoe

Jackie Giurleo shows the hidden compartment in the shoe while her son looks on. (Fox 35)

The mother was relieved that the AirTag mystery was a misunderstanding rather than something more insidious.

“We were really lucky that we had a happy ending,” the mom said, according to Fox 35.

Jackie Giurleo showing the compartment in her son's shoe

Jackie Giurleo said she was relieved that another mother, rather than a criminal, was responsible for the AirTag inside the compartment. (Fox 35)

Giurleo said that, after all this, she learned more than she lost and just might use AirTags herself at theme parks or other crowded places.

“We have never had AirTags,” she said. “I knew about them with luggage and keys and things like that – I never thought about them when it came to tracking your kids.” 

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Mississippi anticipates slight budget growth in coming year

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Budget writers in the Mississippi Legislature will have slightly more money to spend during the coming year than they did in the current one.

Top members of the House and Senate met Friday and set a revenue estimate of $7.6 billion for the year that begins July 1. That is an increase of 1% from the current year.

The estimate is experts’ best guess of how much money the state will collect, based on economic trends including employment rates and consumer spending patterns.

MISSISSIPPI STATE BUDGET IS EXPECTED TO SHRINK SLIGHTLY IN THE COMING YEAR

Legislators are in a four-month session that is scheduled to end in early May. During the next few weeks, they are supposed to finish writing the budget for the coming year, deciding how much to spend on schools, prisons, health care and other services.

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Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said Friday that legislators will be prudent with money.

FILE – This Sept. 2, 2020 file photo shows the magnolia centered banner chosen by the Mississippi State Flag Commission displayed outside the Old State Capitol Museum in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

Mississippi is in the process of reducing its personal income tax under a law that Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed in 2022. In his budget proposal released in February, Reeves said he wants to erase the tax by 2029. Hosemann said Friday that he does not expect movement in that direction this year.

“I can’t speak for the House. But for the Senate side, I don’t think we’re going to have any income tax cuts,” Hosemann told reporters.

It has been months since state agencies submitted the budget requests for the coming year. Legislators rarely give agencies all the money they seek, and House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Read said that’s likely to be the case again this session.

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“I’m going to do as much as I can,” said Read, a Republican from Gautier. “We get requests. There’s no way I can do 100% of requests, so I tell people to give me a priority list, and that’s what I go on. We try to help everyone.”

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