Gov. Pat McCrory delivered a graceful concession speech via video Monday that highlighted the appealing manner that won him the governorship in 2012.
“I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken, and we now should do everything we can to support the 75th governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper,” McCrory says in the video. “The McCrory administration team will assist in every way to help the new administration make a smooth transition.”
Unfortunately this parting image of the pleasant and reasonable McCrory was all too rare during his tenure. Instead, the former moderate mayor of Charlotte tried becoming a conservative, rigid governor, most prominently in his hasty approval and unbending defense of House Bill 2. The change didn’t suit him and voters so disliked it many split their tickets to throw out a Republican governor during a Republican wave election.
McCrory’s turn to the right wasn’t all of it. His shifting ideology was compounded by a chronic cluelessness about avoiding the appearance of conflicts of interest and in his appointments of cabinet members. He failed to fill out disclosure forms properly, took a big payment for corporate board work after he was governor and couldn’t shake appearances that he gave special treatment to his longtime former employer, Duke Energy.
The disarray and conflict continued to the end with McCrory’s awkward handling of the election results. It took him almost a month to concede. In the period between, he was silent as Republican Party staff and his campaign made dozens of empty claims of voter fraud.
In his concession speech, McCrory ran through his familiar list of accomplishments. The state paid off its federal debt for unemployment insurance, 300,000 jobs were added, a state bond issue passed, tax cuts were approved and teachers got raises. Whether that constitutes a positive legacy depends on perspective. The debt payment was owed by employers, but its payoff was accelerated by sharply cutting workers’ unemployment benefits. The job growth simply kept pace with population growth. The bond issue ended up supporting spending on projects other than what McCrory initially intended. The tax cuts disproportionately favored the wealthy and large corporations. Teacher pay is still ranked near the bottom nationally.
McCrory was a man without a plan. He wanted to preside, but he lacked a vision of where he wanted to take the state. Without that vision, he was often pushed aside by Republican lawmakers with stronger views and a clear – if ruinous – agenda.
Pat McCrory meant well, but he did not do well. May his governorship stand as a cautionary tale for any politician who would seek to take the helm without a sense of where to go.