Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory is the first Republican governor in North Carolina to have veto power, but many political observers didn't expect him to use it on a Republican-controlled legislature.
McCrory has called lawmakers back to Raleigh on Sept. 3 to give them a chance to consider overriding his vetoes on bills that would require people applying for welfare to pass a drug test and would ease the requirements for employers to check the immigration status of seasonal workers.
He has urged lawmakers to sustain his vetoes, even taking to Facebook to rally public support for his positions.
The fact that legislative leaders had held power for two years in Raleigh before McCrory was elected makes it harder for his voice to be heard, said David McLennan, a political science professor at William Peace University in Raleigh.
"He entered saying things about certain pieces of legislation – abortion, several other pieces – and he hasn't gotten his way. So, at least right now, it would appear the legislature has, you know, one up on the governor," McLennan said.
Although McCrory was able to work with lawmakers on tax reform and other issues to reach a compromise, Republican consultant Carter Wrenn agreed with McLennan that the governor hasn't had much say in a lot of big issues this year.
"The veto is a power move. He's saying to the legislature, 'You can't count on me to go along with everything,'" Wrenn said.
House and Senate lawmakers say they're ready to rebuff McCrory – they got plenty of practice overriding vetoes issued by former Gov. Beverly Perdue in 2011-12, and both the drug testing and immigration bills passed with bipartisan support – and that could cost him precious political capital.
"If they override him, then in one sense, he's even weaker than he was before the vetoes," Wrenn said.
In the big picture, though, he said what the voters outside Raleigh think matters most to McCrory's political fortunes.
McLennan said he doesn't think the overrides will hurt the governor with voters, as long as he's made his case.
"Even if he loses, he stated why to the public he doesn't want these two bills," he said. "There's some problems – could be legal challenges to one, if not both of them. So, he may ultimately prevail, even if he loses the veto (vote)."