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An opportunity, and a choice, for McCrory

GOP can steamroll Democrats, but would be wise not to

Strange but true: The last time Republicans controlled both the legislature and the governor’s office in North Carolina was the 1800s. So for Pat McCrory, an historic opportunity awaits.

Once sworn in as governor, the Republican McCrory will work with heavy Republican majorities in the state House and Senate. How he does so will define his legacy, shape the state and, perhaps, dictate the future of the Republican Party in North Carolina.

Truth be told, McCrory and legislative Republicans are in position to do pretty much whatever they want. But they shouldn’t.

McCrory has a chance to ensconce the GOP in North Carolina’s halls of power for many years. If he governs in a broad, inclusive way; if he serves the 80 percent instead of the 20 percent; if he avoids social agendas and ideological warfare and leads the state to better economic times, his and Republicans’ reign could endure.

The man who was a centrist as Charlotte mayor for seven terms faces a choice: He and legislative Republicans can enact a far-right agenda focused on hot-button issues, one that seeks to isolate minorities, appease the Tea Party and check the special interests’ boxes. Or they could drive a center-right agenda that keeps taxes low, modernizes the state tax code, improves the economy and makes smart investments in education, transportation, job training and other critical areas.

As we’ve seen over and over, the former path of overreaching based on a very qualified mandate ensures a bruising political fight. The latter approach would give McCrory four more years in the mansion.

We’re optimistic that McCrory gets all this. We endorsed him because his record demonstrates he does. At his first press conference as governor-elect on Wednesday, he indicated he’s attuned to the downside of steamrolling the Democrats.

“I don’t want to make the mistake of (becoming) arrogant with ... power or majorities,” he said. “I think that’s a huge mistake that both parties have made in the past. I don’t want that to occur in the future.”

He said he would reach out to both Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate in coming days even though Republicans hold even more impenetrable majorities than they did before Tuesday. That diplomacy, he said, “is going to be very, very important to me,” McCrory said.

McCrory said any ideological split within the GOP didn’t affect his campaign. “We did not have that division. I had people from all over the political perspective because they appreciated our tone and building of relationships and we agreed to disagree on issues. That’s what we need to learn at the national level and I can’t forget that also when I govern.”

Asked about Senate leader Phil Berger’s declaration that voters gave Republicans a mandate, McCrory demurred, again giving a nod to Democrats: “We have a mandate to fix our broken government and fix our economy and we’re going to do it together and I think we’re still going to have to do it in a bipartisan way as much as possible.”

Sounds like a man who was forced to work with the opposing party for much of his 14 years as mayor. Now the question is how he will lead when circumstances don’t so starkly compel a centrist’s approach.

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