Art Pope of Raleigh is a former Republican legislator, the godfather of multiple conservative “think tanks,” a behind-the-scenes political power in local and state politics and a multimillionaire businessman. For moderates and progressives who have watched him influence the temporary transfer of power to conservatives on the Wake County school board and help others who share his conservative ideology win seats in the General Assembly, his appointment as Gov.-elect Pat McCrory’s chief budget-writer is disquieting.
McCrory, who as a candidate touted his ability to work with those of all political persuasions as mayor of Charlotte, sends a different signal here. Pope is an affable fellow, and to his credit a generous contributor to a multitude of worthwhile causes, but his alliances with the most conservative elements of the Republican Party don’t indicate a willingness to invite those of different views to the table. And with Republican control of the governor’s office and both houses of the General Assembly, perhaps he doesn’t have to do that.
But with the state still suffering with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and an economy in need of investment in education and training, will Pope take a hard-right agenda into the budget process? The fear is that he’ll cut social programs and perhaps even the public education budget in the name of balancing the books and perhaps toward a goal of cutting taxes. Pope has been inside the legislature, and knows full well that talking about cutting programs and tax cuts and the like is much easier said than done.
McCrory’s experience in Charlotte, where the business community has long dominated local politics, will not be of much help to him as governor. A governor has to work with everyone and, in the state’s best interest, bring those with differing views together. Let us hope that McCrory’s Cabinet members will get that message from the boss.