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Tense North Carolina Gubernatorial Race Rages On


The incoming governor of North Carolina has been stripped of some of his power before he even takes office. After a tense couple of days in the North Carolina legislature, outgoing governor, Republican Pat McCrory, signed a bill that removed some of the incoming governor, Roy Cooper's, authority. In a surprise special session, the Republican-led legislature is holding onto its power but not without a fight. Protesters rallied inside the Capitol building, and Governor-elect Cooper has threatened to sue.

Michael Bitzer joins us now. He's the provost and a professor of political science at Catawba College. Professor, thanks so much for being with us.

MICHAEL BITZER: My pleasure.

SIMON: What power have they taken away from the next governor?

BITZER: Well, certainly it has been controversial, but I think, within the grand scheme of things, this is not unheard of. They have taken away certain powers in terms of appointments. When now Governor Pat McCrory came into office, he had a little over 400 appointees that the legislature had deemed at will for the governor to appoint. They actually increased that to 1,500. They are now returning it back to when Governor McCrory came in, and that's a little over 400. So folks are saying that that is stripping the governor's ability to shape the administration the way that he would want to.

There's also been some changes in terms of shifting some appointees from the governor's control to the new superintendent of public instruction, which just so happens to have had a newly elected Republican come in, and then also issues about appointments to things like board of trustees of the UNC system. And also another major one is that they are invoking a constitutional provision to confirm Cabinet secretaries for the incoming Cooper administration, something that the state Senate has not done.

SIMON: How did North Carolina become so divided politically?

BITZER: Boy, I would have to point back to the elections of 2008 and 2010. We used to be - North Carolina, in 2000 and 2004, was a very heavily presidential Republican state. George W. Bush won the state by 13 percentage points. Come 2008, Barack Obama, with a massive ground game operation, really shifted the dynamics, won this state by less than half a percentage point. That got Republicans basically irritated and fired up.

The tea party revolution in 2010 allowed the Republicans to capture, for the first time, complete control of the legislature. And I think that dynamic has played out. We have been a very competitive state, but we have also been a very partisan-driven state. And I think you're seeing this play out in these special sessions in the waning days of the McCrory administration.

SIMON: Yeah. Changing demographics counts for a lot, too?

BITZER: Very much so. And the in-migration of residents from outside of North Carolina, along with a tectonic shift in both urban politics and generational, particularly with the growth of millennials, is going to continue to make North Carolina very competitive going into the future.

SIMON: Where Cooper is currently, the attorney general, can he overturn everything with a lawsuit?

BITZER: He can certainly try, but I think that these - a lot of these provisions are within the parameters of the legislature. Governors typically have been very weak in North Carolina. I think that this is going to be pretty much the dynamic of what we're going to see moving forward with a Democratic governor and a super majority status of Republican control in the legislature.

SIMON: Professor Michael Bitzer at Catawba College, thanks so much.

BITZER: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.