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In My Opinion

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Let’s try talking the gov’s language

Peter St. Onge
Peter St. Onge is The Observer's associate editor.

For Pat McCrory, being governor of North Carolina is a series of political considerations. This is not an uncommon nor a horrible thing. McCrory, like most politicians, would like to get elected again in a couple of years. He has a lot of people to please.

Problem is, some of these people are not sufficiently appreciative of the challenges McCrory faces. This includes the state’s moderates, many of whom are disappointed we did not get the moderate governor McCrory promised to be. We’re inconsiderate that way.

Take abortion, for example. During his campaign, McCrory said he wouldn’t sign restrictive abortion legislation. Six months after he was sworn in, he broke that promise. How about Common Core? McCrory publicly supported the rigorous academic standards more than once. In June, he said eliminating them was “not a smart move.” In July, he signed a bill that replaces them.

Each time, as with other issues, McCrory thought he found a seam that allowed him to be everyone’s friend. With abortion, he said he was signing legislation that protected women’s health. With Common Core, his office assured voters the new standards will be “as high or higher.”

Those quotes probably sounded good at the governor’s strategy session, but moderates know better. The abortion law restricts abortions. The Common Core law jeopardizes N.C. standards when some structural tweaks were all that was needed.

By signing both laws, McCrory retreated from moderate positions. Each time, he sold out to extreme conservatives.

So let’s try something new. Instead of hoping the governor might become the moderate he keeps saying he is, let’s look at things through the same lens he does. In other words: How does he play politically?

Here’s a hint: A new Public Policy Polling survey this week shows U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan with a seven-point lead over Republican N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis. If you’re skeptical about a poll from a firm that works for Democrats, the Washington Post reports that internal polls for both Democrats and Republicans also show Hagan pulling ahead.

Conservatives surely wonder how this is possible. After all, Hagan voted for an unpopular health care law. She appears incapable of staking out firm positions on controversial issues. Yet here she is, winning in a state that gave its electoral heart to Mitt Romney.

But North Carolina isn’t really a state of conservatives. It’s a state with populations that are fiercely left and right, but with a substantial center of moderate Democrats and Republicans. Those moderates, many of whom live in the state’s large cities, helped elect McCrory two years ago. Now they’re turning away from Tillis because he sheperded far-right legislation through the House – the same bills the governor is signing again and again.

That’s going to be tough for McCrory to escape. He can start by saying no to bills that make moderates cringe – like radical charter school legislation passed Friday that allows for-profit charter management representatives to be on the charter boards that pay their salaries. The bill also exposes LGBT children to discrimination, and it shields some charter salaries from public view.

McCrory opposes that last part – or at least he said so earilier this month. Will he oppose it again? After all, everyone likes a leader they can believe. Politically speaking, of course.

Email: pstonge@charlotteobserver.com
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