We now know most, if not all, the candidates who will compete in the March 5 primary elections for governor. Our legislature has taken great pains to further weaken what was already the weakest governorship in the nation, but our governor is still important.
The chief executive officer of our state (the governor) administers laws and hires a great number of employees. More importantly, the governor has what Teddy Roosevelt called “a bully pulpit,” a platform to speak out and be heard. Governor (Roy) Cooper is increasingly using that pulpit, but the master was Jim Hunt. The people need to hear that important voice.
Now is the time for us to go “shopping” for a governor. What do you want from a candidate? Here is what I would like.
First, the person must have a record of leadership, achievement and fair dealings, especially in racial and gender equality. This person must not be tied to or supported by special interests. It is essential that the candidate be truthful, willing to stake out positions and pledge loyalty to our state and people in all actions. I’m weary of partisan, nasty campaigns telling me how terrible the opponent is; my vote will go to the candidate telling what he or she stands for and hopes to do if elected.
My “ideal” platform would have five major planks, consisting of children, public education, healthcare, fairer elections and better government. Space doesn’t permit every detail, but here are highlights.
Our future depends on our children, so the governor must first and foremost support children, to include improved day care and reinstating the earned income tax credit for working parents, as well as wellness care and mental healthcare.
For Public Education
My candidate will steadfastly support public schools, pledging to halt the dismantling of traditional “district schools.” She would reaffirm the State Board of Education’s governance of k-12 schools, as stated in our constitution, while requiring that ALL schools that receive state money follow the acceptance criteria, same testing and performance evaluation standards and the same rules and regulations — whatever changes are necessary to ensure a level playing field. He would strongly support raising teacher pay to the national average, while also making it easier to replace teachers not performing. She would insist that no school receive state funding that offers religious instruction to students, affirming the separation of church and state. And the Parents’ Bill of Rights would be dramatically revised to welcome parental input, but not allowing parents to overrule school boards in disrupting the process, curriculum or personnel decisions.
One of the major emphases would be to improve our abysmal mental health availability and accessibility. He would insist on Medicaid expansion to all qualified residents. She would call on care providers to improve healthcare, with adequate and well-paid staffing, pricing transparency and lowered prescription drug costs. Demands would be made for hospitals that maintain excessive fund reserves to lower patient costs.
For Fairer Elections
The governor should be the number one advocate for an independent and impartial redistricting. She would urge the State Board of Elections to consist of equal numbers from both political parties and, in the event of tie votes, the state senate would resolve the tie through a committee of equal numbers of partisan members. County boards of elections should be nominated in equal numbers by the two county parties, with the State Board resolving tie votes. State provided standardized voting machines will be used in all counties. Early Voting would be reinforced with adequate numbers of polling sites, based on the registered voters in the county, and weekend voting would be emphasized. Our governor should insist on the restoration of absentee ballot acceptance received within three days of the vote, if postmarked on or before election day. And the party designation for all judicial candidates should once again be eliminated. Voters should vote for people, not parties.
For Better Government
Despite what some may say government is essential to do those things we cannot or will not do ourselves. Large state surpluses would be allocated to roads, bridges and other infrastructure, not just stockpiled.
The biggest “good government” priority would be to advocate for a revision of our state constitution. It has been 51 years (1972), since this has been reviewed in its entirety and revised. The increased population, improved communication methods and the needs for state government have dramatically changed. Our governing document needs to more accurately reflect 21st century life. As it was the case in the last major revision, the governor should ask the N.C. Bar Association to form a high-level study commission to review and make recommendations; those recommendations would then be sent to our General Assembly, with an insistence to consider them in a bipartisan manner, then forward them to the voters to approve. The governor’s bully pulpit may be necessary.
Does such a gubernatorial candidate exist? Probably not, but now is the time for us to review the records and platforms of those running. 2024 will be an important election!
Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. His weekly half-hour TV program, NC SPIN aired for 22 ½ years. Contact him at email@example.com