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North Carolina - Republicans

01
Governor McCrory and Speaker Tim Moore have two big reasons to worry about the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” (aka, the “Freedom to Discriminate Against Gays Act”): business and politics.
 
It’s bad business for North Carolina. And bad politics for McCrory, Senator Burr and House Republicans.
 
Business first. Indiana shows how such a law can hurt a state’s brand and scare away business. Commerce Secretary John Skvarla vetches about not having incentive money. This could make his incentives moot.
 
Then there’s politics. Republican strategists are worrying, and they should, over how much political money could flood into North Carolina against their candidates because of the law. If they think they saw a lot of independent money flow in last year against Thom Tillis, wait until they see how much money this issue attracts.
 
That could cost Burr and McCrory reelection. It could also take out House Republicans in Wake County like Nelson Dollar, Marilyn Avila and Gary Pendleton.
 
Philosophically, this is a classic American debate. It pits two of our strongest impulses: on one hand, to respect every individual’s sincere religious beliefs and, on the other hand, to knock down all forms of discrimination against any individual.
 
But forget philosophy. This is politics. For Republicans, it’s Business Republicans against Church Republicans.
 
Democrats may hate the legislation. But they can love watching Republicans fight over it – and lose over it.

 

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31
Thanks to a TAPster who remembers the 1980s for this one:
 
 
“(North Carolina Congressman) Patrick McHenry is listed as an organizer of a new joint fundraising committee named – drum roll – Whip It Good PAC.  At first I thought it was a joke, but apparently not.”
 
 
For those not familiar with the Devo song and video “Whip It,” enjoy.
 
 
Whip it, Patrick.

 

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25
Sometimes in politics you have to rise above principle.
 
Republicans vow to resist fight President Obama’s “redistributionist” economic policies. Then GOP legislators plot to redistribute sales tax revenues from urban (Democratic) to rural (Republican) counties.
 
Senator Ted Cruz vows to repeal Obamacare. Then he signs up for insurance under Obamacare.
 
Governor McCrory pledged to end the corrupt, secretive practices of his Democratic predecessors. Then he repeatedly fails to accurately report his financial affairs.
 
Legislative Republicans promised to end the partisan machinations of their Democratic predecessors. Then they gerrymander congressional and legislative elections and then move on to county and municipal elections.
 
John Hood has a timely warning in his blog about the unintended consequences of monkeying with elections: “…my message to today’s North Carolina Republicans is this: change an electoral rule if it makes sense on the merits, but don’t do it assuming that your party will benefit. Back in the day, Democrats checked their swing. Now they’re glad they did.”

 

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23
Pat and Phil don’t gee and haw.
 
Awhile back, after the Coal Ash Spill, Pat went to work cleaning up the mess, then Phil  passed a bill to have a Commission take over the job – which got Pat’s hackles up.
 
Pat said the Constitution was written in black and white and no one could run the clean-up but the Governor – and sued. And a three judge panel agreed: Phil and the leaders of the State House had thrown the Constitution out the window – which got Phil’s dander up.
 
He said that the court was wrecking the way NC government had been run for 100 years then he and House Speaker Tim Moore appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court – then the fireworks started.
 
Senate Rules Committee Chairman and A-force-to-be-Reckoned-With Tom Apodaca cancelled every Senate hearing to confirm Pat’s appointees. He put the hearings for the head of the SBI, the Banking Commission and the Industrial Commission on ice.
 
In the middle of the rhubarb the Secretary of Commerce trooped over to the Senate and testified that Pat urgently, desperately, immediately needed more money for ‘incentives’ – so he could make deals with corporations to bring jobs to NC.
 
Phil sent Pat’s plan straight to Apodaca’s Rules Committee where it may sit until frogs grow wings – then introduced his own plan (a tax cut).
 
Pat fired back that Phil’s plan would “break the bank,” leaving the state in dire financial straits.
 
Phil shot back Pat wanted to give corporations a billion dollars in incentives while he’d only cut taxes $500 million – so how could he be the one ‘breaking the bank?’
 
The number two Republican in the Senate, Harry Brown, then waded in. He said it was time Pat faced the music: He’d drained the incentives fund dry and now he was trying to dodge responsibility. Pat had given 90% of the incentives money to the three richest counties, including Pat’s own county, and it was time to give the other 97 counties some respect.  
 
Across town, the same day, speaking to an auditorium full of mayors and city councilmen, Pat tackled Phil’s ham-handed politics head-on.
 
Last fall Republicans lost every County Commissioner race in Wake County (Raleigh). So, as soon as the Senate got back to town, it passed a bill to redraw every county commissioner’s district. To elect more Republicans.
 
Pat told the mayors and city councilmen that some legislators in Raleigh didn’t just want to be legislators, they wanted to be mayors and city councilmen as well. But if they wanted to run local government they ought to run for city council.
 
The way Phil’s supporters see it he’s the real McCoy. A true conservative. Who doesn’t just talk the talk – he passes bills that cut taxes and spending. While Pat’s prone to trip over his own feet and say, Slow down. Don’t cut too much.
 
The way Pat’s supporters see it Phil’s power hungry – and prone to deal with anyone standing in his way with ham-handed ruthlessness. Which has made the Senate unpopular. Which means fighting Phil makes Pat popular.


 

 

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17
Yes, the Republicans’ Wake County power grab is raw, cynical politics. But it could help Democrats win legislative seats, the Governor’s Office, the U.S. Senate race and even a U.S. Senate majority and the Presidency next year.
 
Wake is the biggest-voting county and the biggest swing-vote county in a big state that could decide elections up and down the ballot, all the way to the White House. Note that last year Republicans nearly lost several Wake County legislative races, even in gerrymandered districts and even in a good Republican year. And a presidential-year turnout in Wake County would have reelected Kay Hagan.
 
The Republicans did lose all four Wake County commissioners’ races. So now they want to gerrymander the commissioners. You know their scheme stinks when an even-handed old hand like Rob Christensen feels moved to observe, “This bill is about rigging the Wake County elections, just as the legislature has previously rigged legislative and congressional elections through gerrymandering.”
 
If legislative Republicans pass the election-rigging bill, they might awaken the Wake County electoral giant and suffer the consequences, both for gerrymandering and for what looks like a war on cities and urban areas.
 
By the way, Governor McCrory could use this bill to separate himself from an unpopular legislature, instead of fighting over his appointments (as a former Duke employee) to a coal ash commission. Speaking out against the Wake bill (he can’t veto it) would help him in precisely the areas where he could lose the election to Roy Cooper. Of course, if the Governor speaks up and the legislature ignores him, he’ll look even more impotent. In the meantime, we’ll assume silence is consent.
 
Democrats may not have made their best case against the scheme yet. They should tell Wake County voters – not just those in Raleigh and Cary, but ALL Wake County voters: The legislature is taking away your right to vote. Last year you voted for all seven commissioners. But Republicans don’t like how you voted. So next year you get to vote for only two commissioners.
 
Republicans are betting voters won’t get mad about gerrymandering and raw politics. Want to bet they get made at politicians taking away their votes?
 
Christensen also captured this gem from Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican: “Let’s get down to it. We’re talking rural vs. city.”
 
You wonder why Republicans want that war in a fast-growing and urbanizing state. But they got it.

 

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10
There’re two sides to every coin.
 
Last year, when the State Senate took away Governor McCrory’s appointments to the Board of Review, the Governor vetoed the bill. Then the Senate overrode his veto. Then the Governor  sued the Senate. Then, this year, as soon as the Senate got back to town it passed another bill to do the same thing.
 
So now, I guess, if the court throws out the Senate’s first bill the Governor’s still stuck with the second one – which sounds a lot like an old fashioned political power play. A battle over appointments.  But there’re two sides to this coin.  
 
The ole Bull Mooses in the Senate believe in their bones less government is right. They look out across Raleigh and want to shrink every program from Medicaid to the ‘corporate incentives’ the Department of Commerce gives away and, since they don’t have much faith in the Governor to get the job done, they figure if it takes a bit of bare-knuckle politics to shove him aside, well, so be it.
 
And that’s the one side of the coin.
 
The other side – the side the Governor’s staring at – is a bit different.
 
He’s more practical. He wants to fix problems. But to do that he needs more corporate incentives not less. And the ole Bull Mooses keep getting in his way. He’s accommodating. They’re power hungry. He’s open-minded. They’re pig-headed. He’s even-handed. They’re heavy-handed. And, even if his own popularity is sagging, the State Senate’s is worse so the Bull Mooses look like a useful foil.
 
So the fight over the Rules Review Commission isn’t just another petty political spat. It’s two sides of a coin: With less government on one side. And fixing government on the other.    


 

 

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05
A TAPster who spent many years as a private-sector economic developer offers this:
 
The myopic, confused and naïve approach of North Carolina Republicans to the state’s business recruitment efforts continues to baffle experts who toil daily to bring good jobs here.
 
Our Republicans are opposed to incentives as “corporate welfare,” and they don’t want taxpayer money going to “subsidize” private business.
 
Fine.
 
Why, then, do Republicans in South Carolina embrace incentives? Why do they give their governor a well-funded incentive plan and authority to aggressively lasso any prospect who comes along? And lure existing businesses from North Carolina?
 
It’s a mystery.
 
The NC House took a baby step this week when it passed a recruiting package, but it’s not enough and too late and even it has plenty of opposition.
 
Our Republicans need to crawl down from their philosophical high horse and take a trip down I-77 from Rock Hill to Columbia, or I-95 through Florence and look at the explosive growth of large businesses and job creators along those corridors. And talk to real people whose lives have been enhanced by a job at one of those places.

 

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05
This is about as good a tale of conniving as I’ve heard: I can’t remember why but forty years ago back in 1976 the state legislature moved our Presidential primary up from May to March – then the unexpected struck and Ronald Reagan whipped Gerald Ford.
 
It was the first time Reagan won a primary. And the only time a sitting President ever lost a primary. And it turned the 1976 election upside down.
 
Down in South Carolina, watching, inspiration struck Lee Atwater and, after a bit of conniving of his own, Lee got South Carolina to move its primary up so in 1980 South Carolina was the ‘first primary in the South.’
 
Atwater’s plan worked better than he ever imagined. The winner of the South Carolina’s primary has gone on to win the Republican nomination in 8 of the last 9 Presidential elections.
 
In fact, South Carolina liked its new status so much, at some point, it got together with Iowa and New Hampshire and persuaded the Republican National Committee to pass a rule saying no other state could hold a primary before March 1.
 
At the same time, after the 1976 election, the North Carolina legislature went back to business as usual – and holding primaries in May – and for the last 40 years the North Carolina’s Republican Primary hasn’t mattered a toot.
 
Which suited Democrats just fine – after all about the last thing, say, Jim Hunt wanted was a liberal like Walter Mondale or Michael Duhakis or Al Gore traipsing across the state while he was running for reelection.
 
But, then, Republicans took control of the legislature and decided we’d been sitting on the Presidential sidelines long enough and moved our primary up to the week after South Carolina’s.
 
Which seemed reasonable.
 
But, oddly, sent national Republican Chairman Reince Preibus into a tizzy – Preibus announced North Carolina would not be allowed to hold its primary before March 1 and, he added, if we tried he’d take away 60 of North Carolina’s 72 delegates to the Republican Convention.
 
Those sounded like fighting words but, rather than calling Preibus out, North Carolina’s Republican Chairman decided to strike the flag and traipsed over to the legislature to ask it to move the primary.
 
The State House played its cards pretty close to the vest and didn’t say much either way about Priebus’s edict. But Republican State Senator Bob Rucho didn’t buy it – Rucho stuck to his guns and he’s got a point.
 
It’s as easy for the National Republican Committee to change its rule as it is for us to change our law – and, after 40 years of playing second fiddle to South Carolina, it’s time to unwind this bit of political conniving.


 

 

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05
It rang a little jarring to open the newspaper and read, Stam Introduces First Bill of New Session – To Limit Eminent Domain.
 
No doubt Representative Skip Stam was right but it was a little like watching a knight errant tilting at a windmill – because, after all, Eminent Domain isn’t one of the burning issues of our time.
 
Then, about two weeks later, Representative Stam was back in the newspaper –announcing the fiscal prognosticators in state government were dead-wrong when they said there was a $270 million revenue shortfall.
 
This time the knight errant had sunk his teeth into a deception– and, it turned out, he wasn’t tilting at windmills. In fact, the state has $586 million more to spend this year than last year.
 
And calling that a shortfall was like calling more less.

 

 

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04
The saga of Tony (Thriller) Tata continues. You can just hear that guy who does the movie trailers: “By day, he’s the powerful commander of DOT. At night, he’s A.J. Tata, mild-mannered novelist.”
 
Tata’s two roles collided last week when icy roads caused thousands of accidents back home while Thriller was in Chicago flogging his newly released novel. (TAP is hoping for a free, autographed copy of said novel in exchange for the extensive publicity we give it).
 
On Monday, Tata sat down with WRAL’s David Crabtree to defend DOT’s performance, both when he’s here and when he’s not. Crabtree pressed him on Sunday morning’s 13-car pileup near RDU. Tata said: "I want people to understand that no amount of preparation is going to make black ice go away. But the crews try. The crews are pre-positioned. We know where the hot spots are."
 
Three PR notes here.
 
First, you know you’re on slippery ground (so to speak) when you’re in a one-on-one interview with the Big Anchor Guy.
 
Two, DOT secretaries would be wise to stay on the job in the winter.
 
Three, many a political career has foundered on storm response, or the lack thereof.

 

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