The Party Line
12:25 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

McCrory's First 100 Days

Michael Bitzer

Now that we have reached the first 100 days of Governor McCrory’s administration (the mythical standard of time to pass judgment, based on FDR’s break-neck pace of New Deal legislating), some early thoughts on how the unified Republican state government, especially the state’s chief executive, is doing.

One primary issue that typically confronts newly-elected governors is the challenge of understanding the complexity of leading state government.  Typically, governors come from a variety of positions before ascending to the state’s chief executive officer, but the most common routes for governors is to either have held statewide office or have served in the state legislature or Congress.

Through either legislative or lower-level executive offices, governors-to-be usually have a firm understanding of what they are getting themselves into, both good and bad.

But the first few weeks seemed to be more of a collective “it’s really this bad?” from the governor’s mansion.

While McCrory was the “executive officer” of the state’s largest city, he wasn’t necessary the “chief” executive, due to N.C. cities having weak mayors and relying on appointed city managers and administrators to run daily operations. 

Granted, during his seven terms as Charlotte’s mayor, McCrory often had run-ins with state government, but never had the up-close view (warts and all) of state government operations.

While his transition into the governor’s office went fairly smooth, there were some bumps in the road: most notably, learning that what you say on the campaign trail to like-minded individuals on the radio is far different from what you say when you are governing.

And that while he gave his cabinet secretaries free reign to staff their departments (along with an attractive salary increase when there was professed to be “no extra money” in the state budget), the governor learned that it might have been wiser to have some oversight on appointments to avoid naming someone to head the state’s pre-K program who public questioned such programs.

But some beginner’s bumps are typical. The ultimate question for any new leader is what will be the agenda and focus?

McCrory laid out a clear, concise and straight-forward vision of three objectives in his inaugural and Stateof the State addresses. In announcing a focus on education, economy and efficiency in government, the governor laid out markers that weren’t too ambitious, but could be easily sold to the public. 

For many leaders, enunciating a clear sense of direction and ambition provides not just the executive a chance to relate everything to three easy “e’s,” but to provide a framework for crafting proposals. 

Recent moves by the governor on things like Medicaid reform, transportation and his budget appear to continue the “don’t rock the boat too hard” approach. 

Yes, his budget makes some on the left cringe, and several recent reform proposals still need fleshing out to allow proponents and opponents to start to chew on them. 

But one of the biggest questions sunresolved is, how will the chief executive interact with a legislature that got their sea-legs well before the governor even stepped foot into office, especially with two ambitious men leading the chambers with eyes on a bigger prize in 2014?

While the governor can ask to the General Assembly to “pace themselves” and has paid more calls to the legislature than many other previous executives, McCrory has to recognize the GOP’s pent-up energy from over 100 years of being out of power over in state government, and the legislature’s desire to stamp their vision on the state.

While some recent legislative proposals have caused some unwanted national and international attention, a governor can’t discount that future legislative actions won’t somehow impact him, especially if bills don’t neatly fit into his three “e’s.”

The public appears to still be in a honeymoon with the governor, and the electoral mandate from his lop-sided win last November certainly gives him the political capital to spend on his agenda.

And with the legislature now in the back-half of its “long session,” will the state continue to see the first branch of government stamping its mark, or will the “chief executive” spend his capital?