Governor Pat McCrory’s first 100 days in office have been largely uneventful, except for a few highlighted, loosely-worded interviews, press dodges and misspeaks. Large raises for his cabinet, loosely phrased expressions about education, several pre-announcement videos and some plans lacking specific details against an ever-spoken desire to “rebrand North Carolina” have certainly given fodder for political play as Democrats test the waters of messaging for 2014. But overall the first 100 days of the Republican Governor’s term have been pretty uneventful.
Early on his position and signing of legislation to reduce unemployment benefits and not expanding Medicaid drew criticism, but that criticism seems to be broadly applied to the General Assembly and will certainly be a focus of 2014 elections. McCrory has escaped most of the negativity of the legislation. McCrory faces difficulty in his plan to re-brand our State while the legislature is in session creating national headlines daily with unusual and sometimes poorly-thought-out legislation.
The Governor’s budget and more recently privatization proposals for Commerce and Medicaid will be thoroughly reviewed and debated against the Legislature’s budget, and in this process, we are likely to hear more about the specifics of the Governor’s priorities. Plans for Commerce and Medicaid are not completely ironed out, but these plans are sure to get their share of discussion and debate as well. I note the oddity of the enormous scope of the Commerce and Medicaid proposals which appear to have been prepared and presented without a great deal of public legislative support up-front but I believe that to be the case because the details are just not in the plans.
Rightly so, McCrory has not allowed himself to get pulled into the legislative debates over religion resolutions, city-state battles and the myriad of obscure bills on the table. However, there are issues upcoming where he will undoubtedly be pulled in – Dorothea Dix agreement, renewable energy, voter identification, education, tax reform. I believe he is in close discussion with Speaker Thom Tillis on all of these issues as Tillis deals with the social conservative wing of the House and tries to focus on these core issues. Front and center will be the choice issue in education as well as corporate and individual tax rates and the taxing of services. Besides the Charlotte-connection, both Tillis and McCrory approach their roles from a pragmatic, business approach that is moderate compared to the Republican base and social conservatism of many House legislators elected in 2012 and the Senate Republicans.
McCrory has yet to put forth any specific education or tax reform proposals, has waffled some on voter id details and has been clear he has some interest in renewable energy. He has said he thinks the Dorothea Dix contract can be resolved. By not getting pulled into the extreme measures debated at the legislature, McCrory has good approval ratings from North Carolinians and has stayed above the fray. AsTillis guides and moderates voter id, Dorothea Dix and renewable energy, McCrory can sign more reasonable bills and avoid contentious debates.
Upcoming issues on education choice and the debate between Senate and bipartisan House bills, as well as tax reform will provide more insight into the ideology, approach and demeanor of the Governor. Education and taxes are clearly policy discussions where a Governor typically uses the bully pulpit to lead because these are the spending and revenue issues that dominate the State budget.
Overall, McCrory has shown discipline and restraint in policy-making and political process, scored well on public relations outside Raleigh and bumbled a bit in Raleigh with both timing and content of interviews and off-the-cuff remarks. His idea for re-branding has been tarnished by a legislature drawing fire, fury and national press. But, he will get his shot as he moves forward on economic development, education and tax reform, all of which are central to the campaign he ran about the economy.
Jeanne Milliken Bonds is a PR Consultant, former Mayor, Political Analyst and NC Spin panelist.
Cross-Post: NC Spin