More than two months after leaving office, former Gov. Pat McCrory said this week that he’s looking at a wide variety of career options, from teaching university classes to private sector work.
McCrory says that the backlash he’s facing for signing House Bill 2 has made some employers “reluctant” to hire him because they might face protests. But other former North Carolina governors have found that their time leading the state opened the door to plenty of job offers.
Asked what advice she’d give McCrory, former Gov. Bev Perdue said “just to keep on trucking. He’ll find something. I’m sure he’ll find a place.”
Perdue – a Democrat who was governor from 2009 to 2013 and didn’t run for a second term – has been largely out of the public spotlight since leaving office. But she says she’s “stayed really busy,” running her own consulting firm and founding a nonprofit called the Digital Learning Institute, or DigiLearn, that promotes technology in education.
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Perdue spent her first year out of office in higher education, becoming a resident fellow at Harvard University’s School of Government a few weeks after moving out of the governor’s mansion. After a semester in Boston, Perdue returned to North Carolina for a semester as a visiting fellow at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.
“I love higher education – I really wanted to try it all out,” she said. “I had several job offers (before leaving office) but I had been told by a lot of people I should take a year before I do anything” long term.
So far, McCrory is looking at similar options. While already doing consulting and advisory board work, he said he’s “been exploring other opportunities in academia, nonprofits and government.” While he wouldn’t say where he might teach, he said university leaders “have shown reluctance because of student protests.”
At Duke’s Sanford School – where Perdue spent a semester without any controversy – a student petition opposes the appointment of McCrory to any position.
“We strongly urge against any formal affiliation between the Sanford School and McCrory,” the online petition says, with names of dozens of students. “The Sanford School prides itself on evidence-based policy, effective public leadership, and diversity and inclusion, and the appointment of Pat McCrory would undermine those principles.”
McCrory last March signed into law House Bill 2, which struck down local nondiscrimination ordinances and requires transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate while they are in schools and other government facilities. Supporters say the state law protects safety and privacy, but opponents say it is discriminatory.
Higher education work has been popular among ex-governors – the Sanford School is named for former Gov. Terry Sanford, a Democrat who led the state from 1961 and 1965 and later served as Duke’s president for 16 years.
Former Gov. Jim Martin, a former chemistry professor who served two terms as governor and left office in 1993, soon took a job leading a research center at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. He later served as the health care system’s lobbyist.
“I moved to Charlotte and had a job ready,” said Martin, who’s now 81 and retired. “It was a great stroke of good fortune to be able to move back into private life in science.”
Martin, a Republican, said he’s troubled by the way McCrory has been treated for his actions as governor. “On college campuses these days, young people just think they’re on a mission to block anything on the Republican side,” he said. “I think we shouldn’t be catering to that kind of abuse.”
Martin said he didn’t have any similar experiences when his term ended. “The times were different back then,” he said. “You didn’t have people screaming about everything.”
Despite the negativity he’s encountered, McCrory isn’t ruling out government positions or even another run for governor. And while Perdue and Martin were happy to return to private life, several former governors have run for office again after leaving the governor’s mansion – with varying results.
Sanford ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination twice, and he later served in the U.S. Senate. Former Gov. Jim Hunt won election as governor in 1992 – eight years after he finished his first two-term stint in the office.
Former Gov. Bob Scott had less luck, losing in the 1980 Democratic gubernatorial primary, eight years after he left office.
Only one North Carolina governor in the past 50 or so years has made the jump to a presidential Cabinet post: Luther Hodges, who became secretary of commerce under President John F. Kennedy shortly after finishing up as governor in 1961.
McCrory has considered a similar path after meeting with Donald Trump during the president’s transition period. This week, he told The News & Observer that he’s “had ongoing discussions with the Trump administration, but at this point in time nothing has come to fruition.”
“I don’t rule anything out,” he added.
Martin said he expects to see more from McCrory. “I think he was a good governor and didn’t get enough credit for the things that he did,” Martin said. “He’s still got some mileage on him.”
Former governors: Where are they now?
Bev Perdue (2009-13): Owns a consulting firm; founded and chairs the nonprofit Digital Learning Institute.
Mike Easley (2001-09): Had his law license reinstated in 2013 after a felony campaign finance conviction.
Jim Hunt (1993-2001 and 1977-85): Retired attorney with the Raleigh firm of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice; also owns a cattle farm.
Jim Martin (1989-93): Retired; was a research center leader and lobbyist with Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte and McGuireWoods Consulting.