Five former North Carolina governors could take their campaign against a pair of constitutional amendments to the airwaves this fall.
“We think it’s up to us to try to put a focus on these two amendments,” former Gov. Jim Martin told the Observer Tuesday.
Martin joined fellow Republican Pat McCrory and Democrats Jim Hunt, Bev Perdue and Mike Easley at a rare news conference Monday to denounce the amendments they say would weaken the power of the governor. The five led the state for four decades.
Martin called the amendments a “power grab” by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
One amendment would curtail the governor’s ability to fill judicial vacancies. The other would allow lawmakers to appoint the state elections board and members of 400 other boards and commissions that have traditionally been made by the governor.
Incumbent Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, is currently fighting the amendments in Wake County Superior Court. Last week his attorney, John Wester of Charlotte, said the amendments “would take a wrecking ball to the constitution’s separation of powers principle ... and would strip the governor of core constitutional powers.” A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday on the suit.
On Tuesday the former governors submitted a brief in support of Cooper’s suit. In it they said the ballot proposals “seek to destroy separation of powers by misleading voters.”
misleading voters and are therefore contrary to constitution
misleading voters and are therefore contrary to constitutional requirements and the
interests of the Former Governors in preserving the power, status, and dignity of the
Office of Governor and the executive branch of our State government
On Monday the five former governments held a private strategy meeting after the news conference. Martin said they’re waiting to see the result of Cooper’s challenge and whether the proposed amendments remain on the November ballot. If they do, he said, the five will fight them.
Martin said they discussed mounting a campaign that could include TV ads. They floated a figure of $250,000.
“It depends if we can raise some money,” Martin said. “It won’t be easy raising money because a lot of businesses will be intimidated by the General Assembly.”
Martin said the governor would make calls and raise money for a referendum committee. Such committees can raise unlimited amounts from individuals and corporations.
An ad campaign could include digital ads, social media and targeted cable TV ads. The governors could reassemble or take part in other creative ways, Martin said.
“Here’s an idea,” he said, describing a possible ad featuring McCrory and Cooper, who faced off in 2016.
They could say there’s a lot we disagree about, Martin said, but we agree on this.