RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Republicans stripped the incoming Democratic governor of some of his authority on Friday and were on the cusp of an even greater power grab, an extraordinary move critics said flies in the face of voters.
Just last week, it appeared Republicans were ready to finally accept Democrats’ narrow win in a contentious governor’s race. As it turns out, they weren’t done fighting. In a surprise special session in the dying days of the old administration, some say the Republican-dominated legislature has thrown the government into total disarray, approving at least one bill aimed at emasculating incoming Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration.
Cooper, the current attorney general, has threatened to sue. And many in the state are accusing Republicans of letting sour grapes over losing the governor’s mansion turn into a legislative coup.
“I believe fervently in democracy. I’m watching it be undermined … by people who seem unwilling to consider or to listen,” said Margaret Toman, who was among hundreds of protesters rallying inside the Legislative Building this week, demanding that Republicans leave Cooper’s authority alone.
The protesters were so loud that Senate and House cleared the galleries — a highly unusual move — and more than two dozen people were arrested this week. Some protesters chanted “all political power comes from the people” as demonstrators were escorted from the Legislative Building by authorities. Those that remained behind could only watch the debate through glass windows or listen to it online.
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who lost to Cooper by about 10,000 votes, quickly signed into law a bill that merges the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission into one board comprised equally of Democrats and Republicans, according to documents from General Assembly staff. The previous state elections board law would have allowed Cooper to put a majority of Democrats on the panel.