Raleigh, N.C. — Gov.-elect Roy Cooper is assembling a talented team to lead various state agencies despite a new law that requires confirmation by the state Senate of all cabinet-level appointments, according to a top Cooper adviser.
Less than 10 days after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory conceded North Carolina's gubernatorial election to Cooper, the Democratic attorney general, the Republican-controlled legislature passed two laws stripping Cooper of some of his appointment powers, including the sole ability to name his own cabinet.
"The legislature has worked overtime to put obstacles in front of the governor-elect, but we’re putting together a great team that is going to work to enact Gov. Cooper’s agenda that the voters elected him on," Ken Eudy, executive director of Cooper's transition team, said Tuesday. "It’s nothing that we can’t overcome with a little time."
The confirmation process "does pose a little bit of a challenge for people who depend on a paycheck to make a living," Eudy said, but most of the people Cooper and his advisers have talked to about leading agencies such as the departments of Health and Human Services, Environmental Quality, Transportation and Public Safety are up for the challenge.
Two potential appointees have withdrawn their names from consideration because they did not want to go through a vetting process in the Senate, he acknowledged. Still, he expressed confidence that nominees would face little opposition during their confirmations.
"It’ll be a cabinet that the legislature will look at and will say, 'This is a great team that will move North Carolina forward,'" he said.
Cooper has already arranged for state Chief Justice Mark Martin to swear him in to office shortly after midnight Jan. 1 in a private ceremony at the State Capitol. The formal inauguration will be held Jan. 7.
"Gov. Cooper is ready to get started. We’ve had a lot of delays," Eudy said, referring to McCrory's four-week fight before conceding on Dec. 5 and two subsequent special legislative sessions that were unexpected.
McCrory's outgoing administration has been helping ease the transition for the last two weeks, Eudy said.
"I believe that they want what we want, which is a better North Carolina," he said.
Cooper isn't to the point of deciding how to dole out the 425 political appointments lawmakers provided to him, Eudy said. McCrory had about 1,400 political appointments spread across several agencies, but lawmakers said that was too many and scaled it back to levels previous governors had.
Lawmakers also said they took action to protect hundreds of McCrory appointees because they believed Cooper might fire them all when he takes office. Eudy said such speculation is completely false.
"It’s never been a topic of conversation," he said.