Most North Carolinians enjoy holidays as political stormwinds swirl in Raleigh

by WorldTribune Staff, December 27, 2016

As most North Carolinians enjoyed the end of campaign attack ads and basked in above-average temperatures on Christmas Day, a political storm continued to churn in Raleigh.

Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, before even taking office, has been swept up in crosswinds along with the veto-proof Republican majority in the state legislature.

Democratic senators vote not to table an amendment to Senate Bill 4 during the North Carolina General Assembly's fifth special session on Dec. 21 in the Senate chambers in Raleigh. /AP
Democratic senators react during the North Carolina General Assembly’s special session on Dec. 21 in the Senate chambers in Raleigh. /AP

A deal Cooper helped broker for the repeal of House Bill 2 collapsed, leaving both sides bitter.

“There’s a complete lack of trust between the legislative leadership and Cooper at this point in time,” longtime state Democratic consultant Brad Crone said. “That does not bode well for an incoming governor.”

Another longtime Democratic strategist in the Tar Heel State, Gary Pearce, said the failure to repeal HB2 is evidence of a divided Republican Party in the state, and revealed pressure points Democrats might use to defeat them in the future.

“House Bill 2 got through [to voters] enough to elect Cooper and (Attorney General) Josh Stein,” Pearce said. “Maybe the lesson in all this is when you have absolute power the tendency is … to go too far.”

The GOP points to segregationist Democrats of the 20th century, “whose leaders often restricted the power of Republican governors and used their positions for patronage and cronyism,” Jonathan M. Katz wrote for Politico Magazine on Dec. 27. “Democrats respond that Republicans today are going much farther.”

Andrew Reynolds, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wrote in the Raleigh News & Observer that, in terms of freedom of electoral laws and fairness of party competition, North Carolina now ranks “alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. I love North Carolina … [but] the state has really been leading the way in restraining democratic principles.”

Republicans are determined to stick with a conservative agenda they say has produced one of the top economic recoveries in the nation.

Republican state Rep. David Lewis, chairman of the legislature’s powerful House Rules Committee, said “relationships have changed between the legislative and the executive branch, but that doesn’t mean …. we can’t work together.”

Cooper, who defeated GOP Gov. Pat McCrory by just 10,000 votes, has vowed to keep his campaign pledge to shift what he believes is the rightward course of the state.

The HB2 repeal fiasco was not a good jumping off point for the governor-elect.

“My future negotiations with them (Republicans) are certainly going to have to be instructed by this (HB2),” an angry Cooper told reporters last week after the deal to repeal the law known nationally as the “bathroom bill” fell apart.

Katz concluded that “two December special sessions, one of which saw raucous protests against Republicans and dozens of arrests, have created further strain in a divided state that chose Republicans Donald Trump for president and Richard Burr for U.S. Senate but went with a Democrat for governor.”

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