CHARLOTTE — After a convincing and historic win, Republican Gov.-elect Pat McCrory said Wednesday that he won’t shut out Democrats from efforts to repair state government even as the GOP this week retained a solid hold on the Legislature.
A day after routing Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, McCrory said he wants to reach out to Democrats, who reached a low watermark this week after dominating state politics for decades.
“I don’t want to make the mistake of any party that comes to power that you become very arrogant with your power or your choice,” McCrory told reporters a Charlotte hotel. “I think that’s a huge mistake.”
The former Charlotte mayor said he’s also confident he’ll be able to work well with fellow Republicans at the N.C. General Assembly, who expanded their majorities on election night, particularly in the House.
Unofficial results show McCrory won the popular vote in 77 of the state’s 100 counties to become the first Republican governor in 20 years. His win also means Republicans will be in charge of both the legislative and executive branches of North Carolina government, also a first in more than a century. And, Republicans retained a majority on the N.C. Supreme Court.
“It defines how far the Republicans have come in North Carolina,” said N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. “It’s totally flipped.”
McCrory, 56, said repeatedly in his campaign that he was seeking the support of Democrats and unaffiliated voters in addition to Republicans and would govern that way, too.
“We have a mandate to fix our broken government and fix our economy,” he said Wednesday. “I think we’re going to have to do it in a bipartisan way as much as possible.”
Democrats interviewed said they would welcome hearing from McCrory. But his key relationships will be with Republican legislative leaders. Two years ago, Republicans captured majorities in both chambers for the first time since 1870 and later redrew House and Senate districts to their advantage.
House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said he expected a “very collaborative relationship” because the “policy priorities that Gov. McCrory has are pretty much consistent with what the House and Senate have in mind.”
McCrory said he didn’t want to discuss specific issues until after he announced his transition team leaders Thursday in Raleigh. But his campaign platform included creating a customer-driven state government with less regulation for business, expanding public education choices and overhauling the state’s tax system in part by cutting income tax rates.
Senate leader Phil Berger said he believed the GOP’s victories show citizens are supportive of their agenda since coming to power.
“I have the sense that we’ll have a very good partnership,” Berger, R-Rockingham, said in an interview. Tills and Berger both said Wednesday they would seek re-election to their leadership positions in January, when the new legislative session begins and McCrory also gets sworn in.
The GOP will now have constitutional supermajorities in both the House and Senate, which could be used to override any potential McCrory vetoes. Republicans also wouldn’t need any help from Democrats for such an override, as the House did for the past two years. But Apodaca, the Senate Rules Committee chairman, said it could be useful to have that kind of power if necessary.
“We’re going to be fair and we’re going to give Pat a chance,” Apodaca quipped.
Tillis said he expected the legislature would send to McCrory in 2013 a bill requiring people to show photo identification before voting in person. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed a similar bill in 2011. McCrory is a strong proponent of voter ID.
Democrats won’t go along with voter ID and other legislation they say harms the poor and middle class but acknowledge they will be powerless to block Republican policies without divisions in the GOP.
N.C. Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham, said he’s hopeful McCrory will consider the concerns of Democrats instead of offering ideas they must take or leave.
“If you take that attitude of getting folks on board for your agenda ... you make it more difficult for yourself,” said Hall, a minority whip.
House Republicans picked up a net of nine seats and Senate Republicans one extra seat, according to Tuesday’s unofficial results. Republicans are projected to have a 77-42 advantage over Democrats in the House come January, with one outstanding seat that’s too close to call. Senate Republicans now have 32 seats and Democrats 17, with one undecided seat that could require a recount.
Four veteran Democratic incumbents lost Tuesday. House Republicans won six additional seats previously held by Democrats who didn’t run for re-election. The only Republican incumbent to lose was Rep. G.L. Pridgen in of Democratic-heavy Robeson County.
The ascendancy of North Carolina Republicans comes after political power has shifted from Democrats to the GOP in several other southern states.