Monday, May 30, 2016

North Carolina Republicans suffering from a rural-urban divide as governor's race heats up

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (AP photo)
When Pat McCrory became governor of North Carolina in 2013, "Republicans controlled state government from top to bottom. But it quickly became apparent that they weren’t all the same sort of Republicans," Joe Killian reports for the Greensboro News and Record, citing Catawba College Professor Michael Bitzer. "The state Senate, largely elected from more rural parts of the state, has been aggressive in pushing a strong conservative agenda that benefits rural areas while targeting cities, Bitzer said. The comparatively moderate House often has pushed back, slowing or even stopping strikes against urban and suburban areas from which some House Republicans are elected. But even representatives within the House GOP caucus have found themselves at loggerheads, further illustrating this urban-rural divide."

"Both chambers have feuded with McCrory, who came into office a moderate Republican and former mayor of Charlotte, the state’s largest city and one of its most progressive," Killian writes. "The governor has vetoed legislation from the General Assembly but repeatedly has seen his vetoes overturned. He has taken state lawmakers to court, accusing them of attempts to usurp his executive powers. But even when he has won those battles, he has found the war continues," even as he seeks re-election against Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper.

The current debate focuses on the law, passed in a special session called over McCrory's objections, that "excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from new statewide anti-discrimination protections and bars local governments from passing such protections," Killian notes. "It also prevents people from filing employment discrimination suits in state court. Perhaps most controversially the law requires people to use bathrooms and changing rooms in government buildings and schools that correspond with the sex on their birth certificates." Advocates of the law are hanging tough.

McCrory and the legislature are also at odds about its effort to reconstitute a coal-ash commission that he shut down through a lawsuit. He has said he would veto the House bill if passed by the Senate, but his fellow Republicans said they would override him, and both sides are talking about going to court again. Killian sums it up: "A Republican governor's facing off with Republican lawmakers, each arguing the others’ approach to dealing with an environmental disaster could prove too lenient toward the major corporation responsible." That's Duke Energy, where McCrory worked last.

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