Regarding the May 8 Point of View “How neo-carpetbaggers are failing to honor NC vision”: James Seay claims that the key to understanding the abysmal leadership of Phil Berger, John Fennebresque, Pat McCrory and Thom Tillis is to look to their places of birth. Berger (New Rochelle, N.Y.), Fennebresque (Long Island, N.Y.), McCrory (Columbus, Ohio), and Tillis (Jacksonville, Fla.) are the faces of discrimination and poor management of our economy, environment and schools because they weren’t born in the Old North State.
Seay operationally defines a neo-carpetbagger as one who was born in a place outside of North Carolina, neglecting to consider one’s length of residency in North Carolina. He acknowledges only cases of Republican “neo-carpetbaggers,” rendering his conclusions spurious at best and a dangerous distraction at worst. If he had engaged in a rigorous analysis of the entire field of non-native political leaders, he would have found that a number of Democrats who are carpetbaggers by his standards have done exceptionally positive things for North Carolina.
Treasurer Janet Cowell (Memphis, Tenn.) has overseen our state’s financial system with such esteem that we have the second-highest bond rating in the country. Congressman David Price (Erwin, Tenn.) has served North Carolina as a progressive voice in Congress for 14 terms, fighting for federal support for teacher retention programs, increased funding for affordable housing, environmentally friendly infrastructure improvements and campaign finance reform. Deborah Ross, North Carolina’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, was born in Philadelphia. I challenge anyone concerned about the harmful vision of North Carolina’s Republican leadership to find that this former executive director of the NC ACLU and five-term member of the N.C. House lacks the “deep and abiding sense of place” necessary to serve residents of North Carolina.
The list goes on: Secretary of State Elaine Marshall was born in Maryland, Gov. Bev Perdue was born in Virginia, former Democratic candidate for attorney general Josh Stein was born in Washington, D.C. Stein’s Republican opponent, Sen. Buck Newton, was born in Wilson. In recent weeks Newton’s native status has provided North Carolina with an attuned style of leadership that includes sponsorship of HB2 and a rallying cry to “keep our state straight.” Should we assume that rock bottom could get lower if he were “not from around here”?
The piece is itself insensitive to the very “legacy of vision and compassion” that has situated North Carolina as the fifth-highest state for inbound migration. Surely, we should welcome these new Tar Heels wholeheartedly into our civic life and trust the voters to decide who will best represent them regardless of where they took their first breaths.
The writer, a student at the University of Chicago, has served as the national political director for the College Democrats of America. He was born in Florida. The length limit was waived.