Gov. Pat McCrory, in a press conference Tuesday that touched also on voter ID, fracking, and illegal-immigrant driver’s licenses, said it is “reprehensible” that a smear campaign is being organized against him and other Republican leaders by liberal groups seeking to derail their ability to govern.
Speaking at a press conference from the governor’s mansion on Blount Street on Tuesday afternoon following a meeting with the North Carolina Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, McCrory said he would not allow “a few foolish and, I think, irresponsible political organizations to impact the way I govern.”
Though he did not mention the attack agents by name, his remarks clearly were directed at the fallout over a memo distributed among liberal groups urging that they “eviscerate” Republicans in the coming election cycle.
“When you have independent groups talk about hiring private investigators, who are talking about eviscerating people, that makes it very difficult for me to convince young people to get involved with public service, and it was very disappointing to see this extremely well-coordinated effort,” McCrory said.
“I saw it during my campaign, but to see it so quickly after I got elected was, I think, even more reprehensible, and I call out those groups that helped fund those organizations in doing that type of political activity, especially with private investigators,” McCrory said.
Elected leaders have “enough pressure” doing their jobs and should not need to worry about politics of personal destruction fueled by hired sleuths, McCrory said.
The governor said his “biggest concern” is that such shady tactics will discourage people “from running for city council and county commission and school board in the future.”
On the matter of the long-planned light rail corridor in the Triangle, McCrory said, “I’ve always been a supporter of transit, but the transit plans also have to meet the parameters as set forth by the federal government and the state.”
He said he informed Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane during the day’s mayors’ meeting “that they’re competing against all projects, and I’m going to pick the projects that have the best return on investment. I personally think mass transit has a great return on investment if it’s the right mass transit in the right place.”
McCrory said he’s looking forward to seeing their “total plans and their strategy to make it happen.” Those would be presented to Transportation Secretary Tony Tata and “will compete against other road and mass transit lines, not only here in the state, but nationally, as they compete for national dollars.”
On the issue of fracking, the process of horizontal drilling and extraction of oil and gas by cracking prehistoric shale beds, McCrory said it’s been about two weeks since he has received an update on Senate legislation that would allow permits to be issued for the energy exploration as early as 2015.
“As you well know I believe that North Carolina needs to get in the energy exploration business as soon as possible in a safe and reliable way, and the longer we wait I think we will have fewer jobs in North Carolina that we deserve,” McCrory said.
“What we want to do is borrow from the states where it’s working and learn from the states where it might have potential problems,” while also talking to private industry to see what counties have the best potential to yield the resources, he said.
On other issues, McCrory said:
• He encouraged the mayors “to reach out to a 60-mile radius outside their cities to help the small rural town be a part of their long-term economic development plan.” Smaller population towns often have high unemployment, and the state needs an economic development and commerce plan that connects small towns and large urban areas to help one another.
• He wants to reinstate drug courts in North Carolina, and said he believes the mayor’s group can help to make that happen. Cities are seeing jails overflow and hospital services used by mentally ill people who also have addiction problems, he said, so mayors have an incentive to work with him on the matter.
• A “major issue” for mayors is future transportation funding. They discussed with McCrory and Tata development of a 25-year infrastructure plan, which the governor has been pushing.
• He is “getting hit on both the left and the right” over the issuance of driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants who were brought here as children by their parents but now qualify for work permits under a federal action. “There are people who don’t think they ought to have a driver’s license at all,” and others who are unhappy that the driver’s license will have a designation “no legal status” emblazoned on a colored stripe, McCrory said. Tata said state statute requires the designation, the color is the same as was used for licenses of Hurricane Katrina victims, and it matches the hue on Homeland Security documentation regarding the policy.
• There will be more meetings with the mayors group, particularly focusing on the “economic revival that is desperately needed.” McCrory wants the cities to be part of a recruitment and retention team because, he said, they are the best salesmen.