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As they round turn one 

It's Mixed Metaphor Week as we take a quick look at the latest thinking in common wisdom among Washington insider-types handicapping congressional races to watch in North Carolina. Here, as Firesign Theatre once put it, is the latest bird's-eye lowdown.

N.C. 11: Dems throw a hail yes

Latest poll: Schuler 48 percent, Taylor 43 percent. Source: OnPoint Polling and Research

Even Republican incumbent Charles Taylor has got to admit that saying he was proud of his Abramoff donations was a wee bit arrogant. As costly as it may have been, Taylor's weathered such storms before. His luck is turning though; new numbers show challenger Heath Schuler, a former Tennessee Vols quarterback, up by five points among likely voters. This is the only contest in the state listed as a "toss up" or "leans Democratic" among the major handicappers.

N.C. 8: Troubled waters on the Old Mill Stream

Latest poll: Hayes 46 percent, Kissell 42 percent. Source: Anzalone Liszt Research

The numbers are a little dubious because they come from Kissell's pollster, but there's no doubt Hayes is trending southward--a previous poll by the same group showed Kissell much further back. Kissell also seems to have gotten back on the national radar. This race is classified as leaning for the GOP but competitive.

N.C. 13: Miller times, they are a-changin'

Used to be even a fellow as daffy as Vernon Robinson could draw a crowd merely by claiming his opponent was a cyborg created for the communist-hippie takeover. In the past month, this race went from interesting to safe Democratic to ho-hum. Vern's ads aren't working for him, but lefty bloggers sure are using them to fire up the base. Note to Beltway press corps: Use this one for amusement purposes only.

N.C. 5: Foxx populi

The anniversary of Katrina reminded folks that District 5 incumbent Virginia Foxx was one of only 11 in Congress to vote against the post-storm aid package. But even though the netroots have discovered the candidacy of Roger Sharpe, he doesn't have anywhere near the dough he needs to mount a strong enough challenge.

Ships still hitting the fan

Organizers and backers of this summer's Pepsi America's Sail 2006 celebration might be headed to court over how to divvy up the money.

The incredibly over-hyped Tall Ships festival, held in Beaufort and Morehead City, was plagued with logistical breakdowns, at some points leaving thousands stranded in the heat waiting for venues to reopen. In early July, it served as the genesis for the VIP ferry scandal. In late July, we found out that taxpayers provided more than $2 million in state and local government spending--mostly for transportation--to support the event. Last week, the national organization that runs the Tall Ships brand said it would take the North Carolina LLC that ran Pepsi America's Sail to court. They say they haven't seen a dime of the booty, and they're due a cut of 20 percent.

That could spell trouble for the N.C. Maritime Museum, whose board members set up the LLC. Asked about the possible legal action, museum officials told WRAL last week that they were still working on the balance sheet. Seems all those refunds confused things. Cue the Jaws theme.

As one of those who spent a sweltering Saturday in Beaufort, I'll be keeping my spyglass trained on the courthouse. There still are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the event. Like why things were so poorly planned, who was responsible, and how much money, if any, the Maritime Museum, which was supposed to be the chief beneficiary of the event, really received.

The nearest Tall Ships 2007 festival, by the way, is just up the coast in Norfolk, Va. Have fun, folks.

Trust never sleeps

Also last week, Gov. Easley signed into law legislation that promises a more vigorous oversight of the state's economic partnerships and the non-profits with which they are intertwined.

As mentioned in an earlier column, several of the entities have gotten into hot water with both the press and state auditors over a lot of blurred lines and fuzzy math. The new legislation, passed in the waning days of the session, puts together a coherent system of oversight--with teeth, thank you.

Correction

A reader reminds me that Rougemont, mentioned last week as a place in close proximity of everyone running or proposing to run for House Speaker, is a good mile and a half into Durham County.

Kirk Ross travels the state for CapeFearMercury.com and writes about state governance at ExileOnJonesStreet.com. He can be reached at editor@capefearmercury.com.

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