An ally of the Governor’s – The Civitas Institute – sued to stop the State Board of Elections counting 90,000 ballots cast by people who’d registered and voted on the same day; normally the State Justice Department would have defended the Board but, since those voters cast ballots in Attorney General Roy Cooper’s race against McCrory, the specter of a ‘conflict of interest’ reared its head.
Now if you think it over, that conflict was more visceral than real. The Board wanted to win the case. And Roy Cooper wanted the Board to win. So Cooper and the Board saw eye to eye. But how would it look if Roy Cooper’s Justice Department were defending a case about counting votes in Cooper’s campaign against Pat McCrory?
The problem wasn’t the conflict – it was the way it would look.
It wasn’t a simple choice but Roy Cooper – and the Board – agreed they, like ‘Caesar’s Wife,’ should avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
Next the Board chose three outside attorneys from the Brooks Pierce law firm in Raleigh – but to hire them it needed Governor McCrory’s approval.
Now, if you think that over, the Governor had a conflict of his own: If his ally, Civitas, won the lawsuit it could help him in his race against Cooper. And worse, if he turned the request down he would be telling the Board it couldn’t hire the lawyers it wanted to defend itself – in a lawsuit against his ally.
Governor McCrory didn’t have a ‘Caesar’s Wife’ conflict. He had a ‘smelly’ conflict.
But then, amid the turmoil and throbbing nerve-endings in the Governor’s office, with McCrory trailing Cooper by 10,000 votes, an agitating complication arose 60 miles away: Another attorney with the Brooks Pierce firm, who worked in the law firm’s Greensboro office, had agreed to serve as Co-Chairman of Roy Cooper’s transition team.
The Governor’s response to the Board was short and blunt: His legal counsel sent a three-line note telling the Board No.