Commentary by Mark Shiver, Host of the podcast “What Matters in North Carolina“
Governor Pat McCrory briefly pushed the pause button on the leadership he has shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, and took on Roy Cooper in a gubernatorial debate Tuesday night. The contest wasn’t even close. In my opinion, McCrory owned the night with his record and with facts. Cooper was desperate, repeating the liberal mantra “HB 2” and having nothing of substance to say.
Cooper, the state’s attorney general, started with a line from his latest round of television ads, “We need a jobs governor, not an HB 2 governor.” While snappy to some as a catch-phrase, it is nonsensical in light of the fact that under McCrory, the state has added 300,000 jobs. Saying we need a jobs governor in the midst of North Carolina’s job growth is like saying to someone who is sitting, “Have a seat.” North Carolina already has a jobs governor, so this line of attack by Cooper fell dramatically short.
It was clear early in the debate that Cooper was going to read talking points from the Left, making statements that are devoid of factual accuracy, but uttered to incite an emotional response. For example, even though McCrory has not used $500,000 that the legislature moved from the disaster relief fund for attorney’s fees related to the defense of HB 2, Cooper accused him of doing so. The truth again was absent as that money has not been spent, but Cooper tried to hammer away nonetheless.
Cooper also reached back into 2012 for some “golden oldie” leftist blather, saying “thousands of teachers are fleeing North Carolina” because of teacher pay issues. That rhetoric has repeatedly been proven to be false, but it makes for a good sound bite for some. The facts – again on McCrory’s side – are that teachers just received the largest pay raise in North Carolina history, and that the average annual pay for teachers is now up to $50,000. The fact is that North Carolina is a net importer of teachers.
In the midst of flooding, devastation and loss of life, the General Assembly’s and McCrory’s bolstering of the state’s emergency reserves fund has been shown to be prudent. Cooper, however, is on the record as being critical of building up the fund, something that his Democrat counterparts failed to do when the state had a budget surplus right before the recession. When confronted with his criticism Tuesday night, Cooper hemmed and hawed and had no real answer. The glaring truth is that tax-and-spend Democrats are not willing to make wise financial decisions to protect the state. Once again, under the bright lights of the debate, the advantage went to McCrory for providing sound leadership.
Cooper had no answer for his mishandling of the State Crime Lab, which has been bogged down by huge backlogs for a long time. McCrory noted that many county sheriffs are seeking private crime labs for their work because the State Crime Lab is just not able to keep up under Cooper’s watch. Cooper really has nowhere to hide when the light of his mismanagement of the State Crime Lab shines bright.
By the time the debate was over, it was clear that the only clubs Cooper had in his bag were HB 2 and the tired line that McCrory was “distorting his record.” But, it’s hard to distort the truth, and while McCrory outlined the realities of the state’s enormous economic success over the past few years, all Cooper could do was say this was somehow a distortion. Whatever gubernatorial persona Cooper had tried to assume before the debate was left on the stage in a pile of empty bullet points.