[Reposted from The Voter Update: The magazine of the North Carolina Center for Voter Education]
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory sat down with Mike Collins of WFAE radio in Charlotte on Friday for a wide-ranging, hour-long interview, which is definitely worth a listen for North Carolina political watchers.
In the wake of Tuesday’s vote, which saw nearly half of all winning state legislative candidates elected without opposition, McCrory’s comment to WFAE about gerrymandered districts was illuminating.
“I think the gerrymandered districts where we have no competition in the general election makes all of our jobs difficult, especially the executive branch,” McCrory said. “I have to represent the whole state. Legislators, both Republican and Democrat, tend to now represent a more monolithic population.”
While McCrory expressed concern about a lack of competition and partisan balance in legislative districts, he stopped short of supporting any particular fix for the problem. But McCrory’s statement does highlight a stark difference in political calculus between state lawmakers and the governor’s office.
House members represent districts with a population of about 80,000. Members of the Senate come from districts of roughly 190,000 residents. McCrory governs a population of nearly 10 million North Carolinians.
The governor faces a statewide electorate where Democrats outnumber Republicans, while the number of independent voters is on the rise. Meanwhile state lawmakers face an electorate largely stacked in their favor, thus the widespread dearth of competition in legislative races and little motivation to move to the center.
That disparity in political realities has led to some tension between the Republican-led legislature and the governor. As McCrory told WFAE, “I’m a conservative, but there are people that are more conservative than me in the legislature representing their districts of North Carolina.”
Among other highlights:
McCrory said that even after Thom Tillis’ U.S. Senate win and the GOP holding its super majority in the legislature, North Carolina remains a politically divided state. “I don’t think it’s time for we as Republicans to spike the ball in the end zone. We’ve got to understand our differences and try to find viable solutions to very complex problems.”
The governor defended the state’s more restrictive voting laws, which include a repeal of same-day registration and a reduction of early voting days (while maintaining the same number of early voting hours), contending that they “may have even helped the turnout.”
McCrory expressed concern about attack ads in North Carolina politics, including a spotthat ran this year criticizing him for his handling of a coal ash spill. He said that he did not air a single negative ad during his runs for governor in 2008 or 2012, a claim that opponents are likely to explore.
The governor said his top three priorities for the upcoming legislative session, which kicks off in mid-January, are Medicaid reform, energy exploration and career opportunities for teachers.
He said he has “not closed the door” on Medicaid expansion in North Carolina.
McCrory said the state wouldn’t know if it has a revenue shortfall or surplus until April, May or June. “We base our future revenue on assumptions, and we hope our assumptions are correct. If they’re not, I have a very tough job ahead of me.”
The governor said North Carolina “can’t afford” to compete directly with Georgia when it comes to recruiting film production, saying that neighboring state essentially pays film companies to make movies there. He pointed to film grants in the latest state budget and said he is looking for a more long-term, sustainable way to promote the film industry in North Carolina.
Listen to the full interview here.