News: CJ Exclusives

Former governors join Cooper in opposing two constitutional amendments

The five living former N.C. governors held a press conference Monday, Aug. 13, announcing their opposition to two constitutional amendments. At lectern is Republican Jim Martin. From left, Democrats Jim Hunt, Mike Easley, Bev Perdue, and Republican Pat McCrory. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)
The five living former N.C. governors held a press conference Monday, Aug. 13, announcing their opposition to two constitutional amendments. At lectern is Republican Jim Martin. From left, Democrats Jim Hunt, Mike Easley, Bev Perdue, and Republican Pat McCrory. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)

It wasn’t about partisan politics, former Gov. Jim Martin said. It’s something much worse.

Martin, and the four other living former North Carolina governors, held a news conference Monday, Aug. 13, in the State Capitol building, standing in bipartisan opposition to two constitutional amendments they say would limit executive power.

“The symbolism here in the House Chamber is palpable — that means you can feel it,” Republican Martin joked.

Martin said he arranged the meeting with his colleagues Jim Hunt, Mike Easley, Beverly Perdue, and Pat McCrory, because they agreed the proposed amendments — House Bill 913 and Senate Bill 814 — would damage separation of powers. They also would shift too much control away from the executive and judicial branches of government to the legislature. The governors planned to meet with political strategist Paul Shumaker to discuss ways to oppose the amendments, including the possibility of forming an official committee, raising money, and running ad campaigns.

They also urged media outlets to inform the public about the amendments and let voters make up their own minds on the measures — though Perdue added she wanted voters to reject them.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper filed a lawsuit challenging the two amendments. He argued the ballot questions are misleading, unfair, and incomplete. His lawyers say they’re unconstitutional because ballot questions must accurately describe the effect of the amendment.

H.B. 913 creates a new eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement appointed by the legislature and outside the authority of the executive branch; it also wrests authority for making other board and commission appointments from the governor to the legislature. S.B. 814 deals with filling judicial vacancies. It creates merit commissions to recommend judicial candidates to the General Assembly, which would make nominations to the governor.

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, issued a joint statement responding to the governors.

“While it’s not surprising former governors oppose checks and balances on the unilateral authority of their office, we are confident the people will support a more accountable approach to filling judicial vacancies and approve a bipartisan balance on critical boards like the state’s ethics and elections commission over a system of purely political control.”

Hunt served four terms as governor — 1977-85 and 1993-2001. He said the amendments would be bad for North Carolinians, who choose the governor in a statewide election with the expectation he or she will represent their interests through board appointments.

“It’s easy to talk about all of these terms and all these ideas, and they’re fine.” Hunt said. “But, it’s really about whether or not a few politicians in the legislature will increase their power at the expense of the people of North Carolina.”

Easley reiterated the significance of the meeting.

“It’s rare that we get together like this. Never have five of us gotten together and stuck it to you on the same issue. So you can believe we believe in what we’re saying to you today.”

Easley said the amendments would be bad for regulatory policy.

“I think it’s important to understand that the power of the executive is in those boards and those commissions,” Easley said. “You can’t do your job as governor if you don’t have access to those commissions and boards, and they respond to who appoint them.”

Easley said that, from his perspective as governor, attorney general, and lawyer, the amendments were poorly drafted and warned it would take years for the courts to interpret them.

Perdue said she was surprised by news of the legislature’s ongoing session and its plans to implement the amendments after the elections.

‘My granddaughter has a saying that I love,” Perdue shared. ‘There are potatoes in all of our lives. There are big potatoes, and there are medium potatoes, and there are small potatoes.”

“As I was riding here today I thought, you all, ‘This is big potatoes.’ This is big stuff for the people of North Carolina. It can’t be undone once it’s done. “

Perdue, a former history and civics teacher, said even fourth-graders understand the concept of checks and balances among the three branches of government.

Republicans McCrory and Martin agreed this constitutional issue went beyond partisan politics.

Failing to engage the GOP-led General Assembly would be hypocritical, McCrory said, recalling his successful battle in the separation-of-powers lawsuit McCrory v. Berger. In the lawsuit, the state Supreme Court ruled the governor had to have effective control of a majority of the appointees of a board or commission which primarily performs executive branch functions.

McCrory challenged legislators to join the governors in opposing the amendment.

“If any of you want to take on the responsibilities of being governor, then have the courage to run for governor and win. Earn it.”

“Don’t hijack our constitution, especially through two deceitful and misleading amendments that will be on the ballot and attempt to fool the people of our great state,” McCrory said.

  • Junius Daniel

    None of these highly civilized Chief-Executives of ours lifted much more than a finger to prevent all the social, economick, and cultural damage to our state that has occurred over the last 50+ years, not to mention ever resisting the wholesale replacement of The Native White Tarheel.

    During their tenures, practically the whole life has been snufft out of the once vibrant rural and smalltown economies of our great state, so many towns now falling in, it would be tedious to endeavour to list them.

    Nope, these 5 are, in a word, New England Yankee United States’ Government appointed officials who towed the line with The Corporate-Globalism of Washington, Boston, New York, London, Beijing, Mexico City, and Riyadh, instead of heading up the defence of our great state and preserving our sovereignty, which is more precious than any other thing.

    While I deeply respect the erudition, poise, and civility of all these 5, I find it hard not to think of them as anything but Scalawags United – Chief Executives of the big city Chamber of Commerces of our state.

    If North Carolinians of recent decades had the guts and convictions of our Reconstruction Era Scarlet Knight Forefathers, they, each of these 5, would either have gone the way of William Woods Holden, or never been elected in the first place.

    This is exactly why we elected President Trump – we are tired of wonderful people in office who, once in office – sad to say – do precious little to protect our community.

    God bless our Legislature, for they are doing the bidding of The Rural and Smalltown Tarheel!

  • civilwar 12

    I would much rather trust a large number of legislatures than a single goofy gov like we have now.

    • Junius Daniel

      Yes, Dear Caesar, nothing more clearly proves your point of view than when Governor Purdue made the unforgiveable and unConstitutional move to render illegal the militias of our state.

      She wants us disarmed and helpless in the face of one of the greatest lawless tyrannies ever seen – The United States Government.

      Nothing could more aptly demonstrate that she is a Reconstruction Era II Governor than that.

  • QuitBS

    These fine and distinguished gentle-men’s votes tally 5. I believe me and four friends will vote against their votes, thereby cancelling their desires out, according to the democratic process. They should get used to the way democracy works, the voices/choices of the people, not a minority or a chosen few of an elite class of public servants(governors) , But the will of the People.***MAGA***

    • Junius Daniel

      I agree with your point, Dear Quit except The MAGA part, for practically everything that makes America great makes North Carolina puny.

      No, Sir – MNCGA, is what I say, and, as well, Dixie!

      • QuitBS

        You bloviate!

  • ProudlyUnaffiliated

    Execs want more power. NO!

    • Junius Daniel

      Exactly, Proudly – if for no other reason than giving The Chief Executives of our state more power simply means allowing those aliens in our big cities more power to destroy us and our culture.

      I’m very very proud of our legislature, and more than a bit perplext to see how few people, living in our state, understand why the Executive office had to be strippt, and just what that means.

      To put it plain – our legislators are trying to put off the violence that will inevitably result if the big alien Globalist-Corporate cities of our state continue to have their way with us.

      We won’t go quietly into the night…

      • ProudlyUnaffiliated

        No, we won’t– though I doubt it will come to that. MAGA has arrived.