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Primary Races Involving Morgan, Miner Could Have Wide-Ranging Implications

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PINEHURST, N.C. — Tuesday is primary day in North Carolina. One of the most controversial races is for the state House seat held by co-Speaker Richard Morgan.

It is not just Republicans in Morgan's Moore County at odds. The controversy has spilled over to other state House races involving friends and foes -- like the race between David Miner and Nelson Dollar.

With the Republican party so sharply divided, observers say the GOP could end up losing some seats in the state House.

After pulling an all-nighter at the legislature over the weekend, Morgan took Monday off as his wife dialed up last-minute support.

"Our telephone calls have gone really well," she said. "We have poeple this time coming out to work that we haven't had work with us before."

After seven terms in the state House and one as co-speaker, Morgan's latest challenge comes from within his own party.

Peggy Crutchfield is mounting her challenge on behalf of party loyalists angered by Morgan's cooperation with Democrats in the House.

"Maybe my opponent has been there too long," Crutchfield said. "He is promoting himself. He is not promoting the people of Moore County."

This Republican primary race is sharply dividing party members in a hugely Republican district.

Morgan's deal with Democrats is impacting several Republican primary races across the state. One is in Cary, where a Morgan supporter has been accused of dirty politics by members of his own party all over a phone call.

A political street fight broke out in Cary just hours before the primary polls were scheduled to open. Republican Nelson Dollar is challenging Republican David Miner for his state House seat. The campaign got ugly over the weekend because of a Miner telephone ad featuring President George W. Bush and a message from Bush left on Miner's voicemail.

Dave Burton, a Republican who supports Dollar, received the telephone ad twice. He said it is deliberately deceiving, "clearly implying President Bush wanted David Miner to win the primary."

Said Miner: "The message from George Bush to me was left on my voicemail. That's my personal property. As long as I don't say it's an endorsement, which I did not, I'm free to say these are things people say about me."

Miner said no one from the White House has called to complain. However, the Republican National Committee sent Miner a letter asking him to "cease and desist" running the ad.

"The Republican National Committee told Miner to cease and desist, and yet he persists beyond that and continues to run the ad," Dollar said.

The heated Republican primary between Miner and Dollar has been brewing a long time. It started two years ago.

"To see ourselves sold out to Democrats by Richard Morgan and Republicans like David Miner, it was really upsetting," Burton said.

Both sides are calling each other liars. But they agree on what's dividing the Republican party.

Miner claims the Republican National Committee is O.K. with his ad. He said the committee sent him the letter to protect Bush against campaign laws.

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