Two former Republican governors set stage for McCrory’s next days

jfrank@newsobserver.comNovember 6, 2012 

Well before Election Day, Pat McCrory reached out to the only two people in the Republican Party who know firsthand what comes next for him.

Former Govs. Jim Martin and Jim Holshouser provided advice throughout the campaign and probably will do the same once the governor-elect takes office.

For now, the essence of their message: governing is nothing like campaigning.

“It’s entirely different,” said Martin, who left the office after 1992.

McCrory is the first Republican to win election since Martin won his second term in 1988. Holshouser served one term after being elected in 1972.

The first step for McCrory, Martin said, is to thank the people who helped elect him. The second step: “I would advise him to plan a week vacation,” he said.

Whether the governor-elect will find the time is a good question. Much remains to be done.

Phil Kirk, who served as chief of staff to Holshouser and Martin, said the most important task is collecting a team of advisers and state agency leaders. “Your appointees can make or break an administration,” Kirk said. “So that’s his biggest challenge.”

Like Holshouser, McCrory is essentially starting from scratch because few Republicans have experience in the administration. Martin benefitted from the experience of Holshouser’s aides.

Martin recalled camping out for weeks at the Brownstone Hotel on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh to conduct interviews. His first appointments were a budget director and commerce secretary. He said McCrory’s initial picks will send an important message.

“The biggest challenge he faces is the economy,” Martin said.

And government spending.

“The cabinet secretaries are going to have to help figure out how to tighten up spending and find savings,” he added.

Demands accumulate quickly, Kirk said. “He will be pulled in all directions by supporters,” he said.

One priority Martin hopes McCrory emphasizes as governor: Keep in touch with voters.

Martin traveled the state holding “Capitol for a Day” sessions so residents could meet with his top administration officials.

“You need to hear what they have to say,” Martin said.

McCrory probably will embark on a victory tour around the state to thank his supporters. But traveling the state as governor-elect will feel different, Kirk said.

“The campaign is fun, and you can sort of work out your own schedule,” he said. But as governor, “where you’re going, what you say and what you do has serious consequences.”

Frank: 919-829-4698

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