State to Watch in 2012 — North Carolina
By: David Bozeman
Whatever the outcome of Election 2012, North Carolinians can already celebrate knowing that the saucy Bev Perdue (D) will step down as governor come January. One of the nation’s least popular, she declined to seek a second term, citing the extreme divisiveness of a re-election battle. Sadly, her pathetic legacy could well endure with the victory of her lieutenant governor, Walter Dalton.
Still, the affable Dalton, a one-time attorney turned legislator, will likely never match Perdue in terms of tastelessness and buffoonery. Governor Dumplin’ (as Rush Limbaugh refers to her) infamously lamented that regular election cycles were an impediment to enacting important legislation and, thus, maybe, the next one should be delayed. She claimed she was speaking in jest. After state voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man/one woman, she quipped that we looked to the rest of the nation like Mississippi. Whatever one thinks of gay marriage, even the most politically tone-deaf can discern the folly of insulting your fellow citizens and, as a southern governor, trading in the nastiest of regional stereotypes.
North Carolina remains vibrant, attractive and consistently ranks as one the best states for business creation (due largely to overall quality of life). Yet the unemployment rate, 9.4%, is among the nation’s highest. Income, sales and corporate tax increases in 2009, and sales tax increases proposed for 2012, have not enhanced the state’s reputation as an economic powerhouse. The Tax Foundation recently ranked the state 44th in overall tax climate.
But whatever damage Democrats inflict on a state, they always hide behind, you guessed it, the children. Even the lottery bears the official name of ‘The North Carolina Education Lottery.’ In proposing to tax Internet sweepstakes winnings to fund education, the governor went all mushy, claiming that, in North Carolina, the children come first. Don’t let her aw-shucks demeanor fool you, Perdue is as close to Nancy Pelosi with a down-home drawl as voters will allow.
But, alas, all we continue to hear is that education is under-funded. Despite a twenty year lock on the governorship and decades of legislative control, Democrats can never seem to secure enough tax dollars for the schools. Moving forward, election 2012 seems almost a mini version of the presidential race. Republican Pat McCrory (Charlotte mayor, 1995-2009, a record seven terms), a one-time Duke Energy executive, is stressing his professional life, much of which he has devoted to private-sector economic development. He merits at least some credit for the southern economic giant that is Charlotte, a national commerce and transportation hub in league with Atlanta, and a national banking center rivaled on the east coast only by New York.
In short, North Carolina matters, certainly to the Democrats, who are holding their convention in Charlotte later this summer. North Carolina matters because it is a case study in contradictions. Once solid red, the ‘experts’ only reluctantly paint it purple. The last Republican governor was elected in 1988, but Republicans controlled the legislature as of 2010. The state went for George W. Bush twice but for Obama — barely — in 2008. We are center-right but remain a Democratic stronghold.
To begin reconciling internal contradictions, North Carolina — indeed, the nation — should galvanize itself behind the true hubs of free enterprise and prosperity. State government deserves praise only to the extent that its policies respect the capital and sweat of its most productive citizens. The dour drumbeat emanating from the North Carolina statehouse echoes over-spending, under-funding and high unemployment. Whether citizens look to state government as an engine of prosperity or to Charlotte, the Triangle and the Triad, could foretell the nation’s future. North Carolina is a swing state and could well set electoral trends, as opposed to just reflecting them. The magnificent Charlotte skyline could potentially shine even brighter as a beacon of opportunity, but, as entertainment, the Bev Perdue sideshow will be sorely missed.