State Politics

Voters’ opinions of McCrory, then and now

Two years ago, as newly elected Gov. Pat McCrory addressed North Carolina in his first State of the State address, voters in interviews expressed a sense of optimism and hopefulness about their expectations for McCrory.

This year, McCrory’s second State of the State comes as the legislature begins its long session – and as the beginnings of the 2016 election campaign get underway.

The News & Observer checked back with some of the same people to see if, and how, their views changed.

MICHAEL WOOTEN, WILMINGTON, 62: Cast his vote in 2012 for McCrory — his first ever for a Republican governor  Two years ago, Wooten said he was hoping to see a more unified front in state politics. "I have spent my entire life looking at this from the center to the left of center, and I’m just tired of the political gridlock," he said. "If McCrory can break this, then that’ll be fine. But if he doesn’t, or if he starts pushing the radical right agenda, then he’s going to have to go, and that’s just how I feel about it."  Wooten said he couldn’t be more disappointed in his vote and will not be watching McCrory’s address Wednesday. As a resident of Wilmington, Wooten said he was most disappointed in the legislature’s decision to cut film incentives for motion picture projects. He acknowledged that the governor and the legislature are not the same entity, but said he felt that McCrory could have fought harder to preserve the incentives. "That’s as political as you can get, cutting off industry and people’s jobs because you don’t like who the money is going to," he said.Wooten said he was also disappointed that the state is not assisting teachers. "I feel like he hasn’t done a thing to help," he said. "I don’t feel like Pat McCrory has lived up to anything he promised the state."
LEON SANDERSON, RALEIGH, 75: Counted himself as a McCrory supporter in 2012  Two years ago, Sanderson said he hoped McCrory would address making North Carolina a competitive business environment, particularly when compared with surrounding states.  Sanderson said he was satisfied to see that unemployment rates were down and jobs are picking up. "I think they’ve done a pretty good job with that and naturally I hope we keep on becoming more competitive," he said. Expect McCrory to highlight the state’s rapidly declining unemployment rate. It stood at 5.5 percent in December. The rate was about 10 percent for much of 2011, and was between 9 and 10 percent in 2012. Unemployment for February 2013 – when McCrory gave his last statewide address – was 8.6 percent.
CHRIS FREY, RALEIGH: A professor of environmental engineering at N.C. State; in 2012, he was interested in how McCrory would approach higher education.  “I teach a lot of North Carolina residents who go out and get jobs. But they’re not just robots: They’re trained to go out and think. I don’t have much hope for what (McCrory) is going to say ... I’m not sure he understands the importance of higher education.”  Frey said he will watch to see how McCrory speaks about public education, both higher education and K-12 schooling. Frey said the governor has exhibited a sharp contrast to his four predecessors, including Republican Jim Martin. “All of them were education governors – they all made that a priority,” he said. “They built a very unique and special feature of North Carolina which is our public education.”Frey said he thinks North Carolina’s public education system is in a state of decline due to budget cuts, increased tuition and the treatment of public school teachers. “It took decades to build it up to where it was and it can take just a few years to tear it down and then it will take decades recover from that,” he said. While the governor talks a lot about job training as a crucial component of higher education, Frey said he hopes to hear more about an approach to education that focuses as much on research and critical thinking skills as it does on job training.