While not so much a vote of confidence for the GOP as it was an overwhelming public rebuke of Democrats’ misguided economic policies, it is clear that a Republican tide swept the nation in this year’s midterm elections. And perhaps nowhere was the result more consequential than in the Tar Heel State, where Republicans took control of the North Carolina legislature for the first time in over 100 years.
Though she survived this year’s Republican wave due to the simple fact that she was not on the ballot, North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue (D) is not out of the political woods — far from it, in fact. Not resting on their laurels, Republicans are already looking toward a 2012 cycle in which capturing the governor’s mansion in the Old North State will be among the GOP’s highest priorities.
Unlike in previous elections, Perdue will face a Republican Party and conservative movement whose strength, funding, organization and momentum is without precedent.
The RGA, once merely a trade association for GOP governors, has been transformed into a political powerhouse thanks to the vision and leadership of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and will no doubt be a major player in the effort to unseat Perdue.
Controlling the biggest pot of money of any entity in the 2009-2010 cycle, the RGA spent more than $115 million to move 11 Republicans into governors’ mansions that were occupied by Democrats on Election Day. Expect the RGA’s efficacy to continue with Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the helm.
In addition to the RGA, groups like American Crossroads, thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, will be able to fully exercise their 1stAmendment right to educate voters about Gov. Perdue’s terrible record, the hallmark of which has been job-killing, mid-recession tax increases.
Last year, with North Carolina’s unemployment rate hovering around 11%, Perdue saw fit to sack her state’s economy with over $1 billion in higher annual taxes to fund increased government spending at a time when families from Cashiers to Cape Hatteras were cutting back. Perdue signed into law higher tax rates on corporate and individual income, sales, alcohol and tobacco (read: poor people).
Demonstrating just how tax-happy and out of touch Perdue is, she even tried to impose an unconstitutional tax on digital goods and online sales. A federal judge recently ruled that the state’s efforts to enforce that unconstitutional tax also violated North Carolinians’ right to privacy.
With a rap sheet like Perdue’s, the negative ads basically write themselves. Unfortunately for Perdue, the blemishes on her record are not confined to public policy. Indeed, Bev Perdue’s administration has marked a continuation of the culture of corruption that has been a feature of decades of Democrat dominance in North Carolina. With a recent Democrat Speaker behind bars and Perdue’s predecessor and previous running mate having just been convicted of a felony, North Carolina has the dubious distinction of being the Illinois of the South.
In fact, Gov. Perdue has already been fined $30,000 by the State Board of Elections and is currently under criminal investigation by federal and state authorities for failure to report flights and other in-kind contributions received from corporate and individual donors, some of which are likely to have violated campaign contribution limits. Just two weeks ago former Gov. Mike Easley was convicted of a felony in a similar and related matter.
Only after Easley first came under investigation for failure to report campaign flights did Perdue’s campaign begin complying with the law. When and how that investigation will be resolved remains unclear and is a major variable heading into 2012.
This is all terrible news for the DNC and DGA, who already considered Perdue vulnerable even before the tax hikes and apparent corruption.
Despite a huge cash advantage over her opponent in 2008, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, Perdue barely hobbled across the finish line in a year when a Republican would’ve had a hard time getting elected dog catcher even if their opponent was Michael Vick. Even with a Libertarian candidate siphoning votes from McCrory, Perdue ended up winning by a meager three points in one of the bleakest election cycles in the history of the Republican Party.
PPP conducted its first poll of the 2012 North Carolina gubernatorial race just two weeks ago and found McCrory beating Perdue 47-39 in a hypothetical rematch. The poll also found Perdue losing to another prospective opponent, North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer. Whether it’s McCrory, Fetzer, or someone else, North Carolina is on the wrong track and needs to change course soon.
North Carolina’s top personal income tax rate is now the highest in the southeast, 11thhighest in the country, and the state has one of the ten least competitive business tax climates in the nation. This declining competitiveness is not without consequences. According a Civitas Institute analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, from 2000-2010 North Carolina’s private sector workforce shrank 0.8%; meanwhile, Govs. Easley and Perdue added over 37,000 bureaucrats to the public payroll. During that time only 15 other states had a greater rate of private sector job loss and only two other states added more state employees.
With a shrinking private sector having to support a growing public sector, North Carolinians had to work over 228 days this past year just to pay for the cost of their government. Obama, Reid, and Pelosi have raised federal taxes by over $350 billion in just the past two years. North Carolinians don’t need a governor like Bev Perdue who is just going to pile on with more anti-growth tax hikes and unsustainable spending at the state level. North Carolina voters took out the trash in the General Assembly on Nov. 2nd and delivered a resounding blow to the status quo. In 23 months they get to finish the job by relieving Perdue of duty.
I would say that Bev Perdue might want to go ahead and reserve a one-way U-haul back to New Bern in 2012, but something tells me she’ll be able to find a flight home.
Patrick Gleason is Director of State Affairs at Americans for Tax Reform.