Two easy primary night wins by Gov. Pat McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper set up what might turn out to be the most hard-fought gubernatorial match in the nation.
It will be a choice between two high-profile leaders. It will also be a referendum on the massive government overhaul crafted by the General Assembly’s first Republican majority in more than a century.
GOP lawmakers have rolled out complex, headline-grabbing tax reforms and other changes. The impact is now settling in. Most of the assembly’s GOP leaders sit insulated in safely gerrymandered districts, but McCrory will face the statewide electorate that Barack Obama narrowly won in 2008 and narrowly lost four years later.
Does that statewide electorate like the lowered personal income taxes more than it hates new sales taxes on home and auto repairs? Does it accept the GOP’s decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, even if poorer residents miss out on care being granted in other states?
Are voters OK with slashing unemployment benefits even as many dislocated blue-collar workers struggle to adjust to the changing economy?
McCrory, with a few notable exceptions – and overridden vetoes – has largely gone along with the GOP program in such instances. This race will be about McCrory’s tenure, and it will be about Cooper’s qualifications.
But the House and Senate leaders have been driving policy in Raleigh the past few years. Make no mistake: their choices are on the line, too.