GOP legislature makes Cooper's job more difficult

Posted December 5, 2016
Updated December 6, 2016

— When it comes to sheer power, North Carolina's governor ranks as one of the weakest in the country. The governor has no line-item veto – a veto of any kind wasn't allowed until 20 years ago – and no say over redistricting.

Democrat Roy Cooper will take over as governor next month facing Republican super-majorities in the House and the Senate, and he is expected to face the toughest test of his political career in trying to work with lawmakers to move the state forward.

"It's going to be difficult," North Carolina State University political science professor Andy Taylor said. "It's not the most enviable strategic position, but the office has a great deal of value politically."

Taylor defined that value in terms of powerful political appointments and the governor's bully pulpit.

"I'd suspect he's going to spend a lot of time trying to change K-12 education, at least as far as resources are concerned," Taylor said.

Cooper recognized the likely scenario of a divided state government during the campaign, but he told WRAL News in an interview that he was prepared to work with Republican lawmakers.

"What we have to do is roll up our sleeves and say, 'All right, we're going to ignore all of the partisanship during the campaign. We're going to ignore the personal insults.' All of that stuff is, unfortunately, now par for the course," Cooper said. "You can't take that into policymaking with you. You have to roll up your sleeves and find where you can agree."

Lawmakers usually set the policy agenda, but the governor takes the lead on the state budget.

"Working with legislators, there's a lot of give and take on legislation and the budget," said Gerry Cohen, a longtime legislative staffer who now works on the government relations team for the Nelson Mullins law firm.

Cohen said Cooper's 30 years as a lawmaker and state attorney general should help him work with the General Assembly.

"I think you've got to have a lot of political savvy to get elected to the state House when you are, when he was 29," he said. "(To) never lose an election and beat an incumbent governor, you have to have some political savvy. How that translates into being governor, we'll see."

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger set an aggressive tone Monday when he issued a statement congratulating Cooper on his election after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory conceded.

"We hope Gov.-elect Cooper is willing to work with us to continue improving public education and cutting taxes on families and job creators – policies championed by Gov. McCrory that have generated budget surpluses, robust economic growth and hundreds of thousands of new jobs," Berger, R-Rockingham, said in the statement. "Given that Gov.-elect Cooper won his new office with a razor-thin plurality, it is clear there is no ground swell of public support for his campaign pledge of a massive income tax increase on our state's citizens and businesses."

Finding common ground will be the challenge, but one opportunity could be President-elect Donald Trump's plan to invest in infrastructure. Cooper and lawmakers have championed improving the state's infrastructure to boost the economy.

Lawmakers also face the pressure of possibly running in another election next fall after federal judges ordered them to redraw legislative district maps, observers said, so they may be amenable to having successes they can point to when they hit the campaign trail.

"It's a tough position, but it's not unworkable," Taylor said.


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  • Kyle Clarkson Dec 7, 2016
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    The budget surplus is an illusion, which is the result of avoiding other budget expenses. Mainly, skipping out on state employee salary adjustments. Not saying this is all McCrory's fault, as this started with Easley, and continued through Perdue's tenue. I hope Cooper takes a leadership roll, and re-implements fair state government market wages for state employees. (career banding, etc. )

  • Teddy Fowler Dec 6, 2016
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    Beverly Purdue was basically useless really and could only veto and veto and veto.... I expect Cooper will be pretty much the same....

  • Paul Donovan Dec 6, 2016
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    This is why the powers in the house didn't mind sacrificing McCrory. They viewed him as too much of a moderate and were afraid of what he might push in his second term. They got what they wanted in his first term and were willing to do nothing the next 4 years in hopes of getting one of their own in during 2020. The voters got rid of the wrong person

  • Steve Smith Dec 6, 2016
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    Should not the headline read: "GOP Legislature makes Copper's job irrelevant." I'm just saying.

  • Clarence Hill Dec 6, 2016
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    We have a problem. It just got worse.

  • Alfred Barnes Dec 6, 2016
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    And why Paul, Trump, and Sanders ran within the system. Paul paved the way for Trump. I support the Tea Party and Occupy movements. Both populist efforts, and a common enemy in the status quo, which obviously is alive and well in this state and federally. We'll see how much longer it lasts. Government, especially the state and urban areas, steal from the people and give to themselves. The federal government enforces their will with the greatest military power the world has ever seen.

    How long will any of it last?

  • Alfred Barnes Dec 6, 2016
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    So, the GOP wants it both ways. Cry over spilt milk, and defend gerrymandering.

    No different from the Dems, and makes be glad to say I've never been affiliated with either party and never will. Pay for your primaries and put up you best man.

    Our society reflects a failure of the two party system. Still the best the world, but a failure nontheless.

    Shame on both parties.

  • Wayne Rossignol Dec 5, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    No....Really. DAH

  • Pete Muller Dec 5, 2016
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    The first step to restore democracy in NC again is taken. If the will of the people would be proportionally reflected in the GA, we would have a narrow Republican majority, not this gerrymandered total control shutting out half of NC's population. I have great hopes that next year the veto proof Republican majority will find its end.

  • Jacob Young Dec 5, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    It's always gerrymandered. Stop crying.