Election 2012
9:34 am
Mon October 29, 2012

In Search Of The "Good Ole Girl System"

Pat McCrory

Republican Pat McCrory frequently references the need for a “fresh voice” in Raleigh during his campaign for North Carolina governor.

“It is gonna take an outsider – an outsider to break up this Good Ole Boy, Good Ole Girl system that has been in control for far too long within our state government,” said McCrory in his first televised debate against Democrat Walter Dalton.

Framing oneself as “an outsider who can bring change” is commonplace in political campaigns. But McCrory’s choice of words caught our attention – and left WFAE’s Julie Rose scratching her head.

The “Good Ole Boy” system reference conjures a group of men – usually older, white men – who believe women should be seen, not heard.  They trade favors and keep their ranks exclusive. Most women who’ve been in business – or politics – for a few decades have encountered it.

“Yes I did, many times,”  says Dale Halton, the former President of Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Charlotte.

What about a “Good Ole Girl” network?

“No,  I don’t think I’ve ever encountered that,” says Halton, with a chuckle.

WFAE’s Julie Rose was befuddled at McCrory’s repeated reference to the “Good Ole Girls Club,” so she asked around at the Charlotte Rotary Club meeting last week.

“I don’t know what that is,” said Kathy Thomas.

“I haven’t seen one of those,” said Liz Irwin.

So, if the Good Ole Girls Club doesn’t exist – why does McCrory insist on promising to break it up?

“Because Beverly Perdue was a part of that club for 20 years,” says McCrory.

So it’s a club of one?

Governor Bev Perdue

“It was primarily men, but Beverly Perdue and several others were part of the club and they were welcomed to it,” says McCrory. He won’t name those other women.

Perdue scoffs at the notion: “If there were a Good Ole Girl network anywhere in America, you would have had a lot of changes in the country.”

Nonsensical as it is for McCrory to talk about a “Good Ole Girl system,” none of the women WFAE spoke with seemed all that troubled by it.

“I think he probably means that he wants to get rid of cronyism whether it’s men or women – he’s probably being egalitarian in his speech,” said Cynthia Wolfe. “That would be my guess. And ‘Good Old Human’ or ‘Good Old Person’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.”

Indeed it doesn’t. But McCrory’s attempt at a catchy one-liner is muddled by the presence of a female in the governor’s mansion. Throughout the campaign, he’s tried to link his opponent – Democratic Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton – to Perdue’s deep ties in Raleigh.

“For the last 15 years we had a very powerful – what you call in political science terms powerful - power elite,” says McCrory. “It happened to be Democrats in power and, believe me, it could happen to Republicans too. It’s not exclusive. But it was a very Democratically-controlled power elite machine – Tony Rand, Marc Basnight, Jim Black, Beverly Perdue, uh, Mike Easley – it was a very small group of people that held on to committee chairmanships for over a decade and really controlled the levers of power in North Carolina politics.”

“I don’t know what he means,” says Governor Perdue. “I think people elect folks across the state they believe in and they send them to Raleigh to serve, and real leaders begin to appear.”

And if that’s McCrory’s definition of an exclusive club, says Perdue, then what do you call the new Republican leadership in the legislature?  “You would say we’re at the precipice of a new kind of network of good old boys.” 

. . . one that some future candidate could promise to break-up.