Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory will give his first State of the State speech in front of a joint session of the General Assembly on Monday night. Although not quite as well watched as the president's State of the Union address, McCrory's speech will be a chance for the Republican to lay out the big goals for the coming two years.
"Today, we are setting a new strategy and vision to unleash the strength of our industries and the entrepreneurial talent and energy of our citizens. We will lead the way once again right here in North Carolina," McCrory said during inauguration festivities in January.
Since then, he has often talked about the problems he is encountering in state government, continuing the campaign theme of a "broken" bureaucracy.
WRAL.com asked a variety of political watchers what they expect or hope to hear Monday night. Many of those who responded said they hope McCrory uses his State of the State address to build on those themes by laying out specific policy goals and ideas.
"Particularly with this being his first (State of the State), you're looking for themes. Who is this guy? What are the next two years going to be about?" said Eric Heberlig, associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Jonathan Kappler, research director at the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation, said that, rather than the inaugural address, McCrory's recent speech to the Institute for Emerging Issues might give a flavor of what he'll say Monday night. During that presentation, McCrory announced the creation of a Commerce Department position to work with manufacturers, and he gave detailed thoughts on higher education.
McCrory faced a relatively easy run for office that did not force him to spell out specific policy proposals, Heberlig said. Now that he has been in office for nearly two months, he said, both lawmakers and the public will be looking for specific direction.
"Particularly on the issue of tax reform, one that he campaigned on, it wouldn't surprise me if he were to set out some guidelines and different goals he would like to see," said John Dinan, professor of political science at Wake Forest University.
Here's what political watchers said they were expecting to hear:
Jack Hawke, longtime GOP strategist and McCrory campaign adviser
"I would expect to hear some recitation, maybe not lengthy, of the bigger problems that he has found since he has become governor, things no one has talked about or wanted to talk about," Hawke said. "I think he'd make a mistake if he did not mention the problems he has run into ... You can't move on to where you want to go until you fix your big problems first."
Eric Heberlig, associate professor of political science, UNC-Charlotte
"His campaign in the fall didn't really have to get into the specifics of public policy, so people are wondering ... what really is his agenda? What really are his most important priorities? What are the detailed directions of how he can achieve those?" Heberlig said. "Second, and related, is how his agenda will align with the legislature's. Is he going to identify areas where he separates himself from them, or is he going to stick to areas where they line up."
Jonathan Kappler, research director, N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation
"My expectation really is an extension of the main campaign themes he's talked about in the past, however with more specificity about the actions he's going to take," Kappler said. Likely subjects will involve higher education, natural gas drilling and perhaps some specific pieces of legislation that are moving or are on the General Assembly's agenda.
"I would be very curious to hear what he has to say about tax reform," her said. Even though McCrory campaigned on the general topic, Kappler said the governor has not gotten involved in the debate over specific plans. Rather, "he has kept the issue at arms' length," Kappler said.
Sen. E.S. "Buck" Newton, R-Wilson
"I expect he will give us a report about basically the state of our state government, which I expect him to report to us is in worse shape than he expected," Newton said.
The Republican said he also was expecting McCrory to lay out his vision for the state and his policy goals.
"I'm very anxious to have him lay out publicly what his vision is for energy development and energy jobs," Newton said, pointing to a bill that he has filed that would allow for land-based natural gas drilling to begin in 2015. "I hope he finds that to be an attractive piece of legislation."
Pope "Mac" McCorkle III, former Democratic strategist and Duke University public policy professor
"I think the hope would be for him to start showing, developing, demonstrating a positive governing philosophy, one that's no longer trying to blame Democrats or be adversarial," McCorkle said.
McCrory campaigned on a theme that government was broken, he said, and has continued that into the first month of his administration. Now, McCorkle said, it is time to "demonstrate what he plans to do for the state."
Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham
"I hope he'll hang some meat on the skeleton of ideas he laid out during the campaign and the first month of his administration," Woodard said. "I'd particularly like to hear what his ideas are for tax reform, given the different plans we're hearing about at the General Assembly."
Woodard added that he'd like to hear McCrory talk about transportation projects, such as light rail, and how the governor plans to help people struggling with the economic downturn.
"And given the kerfuffle with Dr. Lightfoot, what is his vision for North Carolina Pre-K?" he said.
Dallas Woodhouse, state director, Americans for Prosperity
"I think it would be nice to hear a little more specifics about what he thinks about tax reform, if he's formulated a direction he wants to go," Woodhouse said. "I think there will be a lot of people listening to hear what he has to say about education reform. We know he's generally supportive, but does he have a specific direction he wants to go?"