Mark Binker on the confirmation fights that weren’t, the scars of HB2

Mark Binker recently made the move from covering state government for WRAL to editor of the NC Insider State Government News Service.

This means Binker, easily one of the best and most knowledgeable political reporters in the state, will also be writing a weekly column. Which means you’ve got some new appointment reading every week.

There are two Binker columns worth your time today: a look at the fights over confirmation of Gov. Roy Cooper’s cabinet appointments and the scars of HB2.

In the case of appointments it’s actually a look at the fights that didn’t happen.  After a dust-up (and legal fight) over whether the N.C. Senate had confirmation authority in the first place, the actual confirmations have been non-events.

From the column:

There’s a bigger picture game at play beyond Republicans giving a Democrat a hard time or trying to get into Cooper’s head. General Assemblies and governors have always been at odds over who should be running the show in Raleigh. McCrory, for example, sued Republican lawmakers when they tried to stop him from overseeing the cleanup from a few thousand tons of coal ash his former employer deposited in the Dan River.

Confirmation hearings are part of the same long-running power struggle in a state where voters only gave the governor the chance to veto bills in the mid-1990s and the two branches of government don’t always get along when the same party controls them. So the court fight is more about the next governor more so than the current one.

Binker spoke with GOP Senators and Cooper advisor Ken Eudy about the process and why each side fought over confirmation, though the actual confirmations have gone smoothly.

Behind the scenes, Republican senators will tell you they have been generally happy with Cooper’s cabinet picks. They’ll also tell you that some McCrory administration picks helped inspire the move toward confirmations.

The only Cooper pick to run into any sort of turbulence thus far is former Rep. Susi Hamilton, a Wilmington Democrat who faced questions about her firing of a museum head and her involvement in some private business ventures. And even she has cleared the first hurdle in the process.

As Eudy sat and chatted in the foyer of the governor’s mansion in Raleigh, he reflected that any fight that breaks out over Cooper’s picks will have less to do with the personality of the nominee than the personality conflict between Republicans and the man with a bedroom on the second floor of the executive residence.

“Honestly, if they’re being critical of the cabinet pick, it’s not really about the cabinet pick,” Eudy said. “It’s about the guy who sleeps upstairs.”


Take the time to read the whole column.

Binker also writes about the scars of HB2 with a clear-eyed look at its politics that is, none-the-less, very human.

From that column:

“What would growth be if you got rid of the daggum thing? How many more jobs would there be?” Mac Holladay, an Atlanta economic development consultant, asked me earlier this month.

The fact that unemployment is down overall doesn’t mean spit to people who couldn’t find a job because the economy wasn’t quite good enough.

“What hurts more is I have to stand before you all begging please give me respect,” Candis Cox told the Senate Rules Committee as they pondered the compromise. The transgender woman and those in her community will surely be scarred by a year of having people talk about them and what they are rather than speaking to them and finding out who they are.

It’s not all bad news, though.

With any wound, pain and blood eventually give way to lessons learned. Yes, HB2 will leave a mark, real people — your friends and neighbors as well as some very nice folks you’ve never had the chance to meet — will feel its emotional and economic impact for a while. But maybe the next time North Carolina thinks about going out on a rickety tree limb, those scars will remind us of the past year and prod us to think more carefully.


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