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Former Governors Present Bipartisan Front Against November Ballot Amendments

Gwendolyn Glenn / WFAE

Five former North Carolina governors criticized two amendments on the November ballot that they say would weaken the governor’s office and threaten the state’s constitution. The three Democrats and two Republicans accused state legislators of trying to take over the governor’s office at a press conference in Raleigh Monday.

Former governors Jim Hunt, Mike Easley, Beverly Perdue, Jim Martin and Pat McCrory issued scathing attacks on the two amendments. One amendment would prevent the governor from making thousands of appointments to boards and commissions. The other would limit the governor’s authority to fill judicial vacancies between elections.

The five governors have rarely appeared in public together, and hardly — if ever — as a bipartisan front on an issue. Former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory called it an historical moment, and had this message for legislators:

“If any of you want to take on the responsibility of governor, have the courage to run for governor and win,” McCrory said. “Earn it and don’t hijack our constitution, especially through two deceitful and misleading amendments.”

Former Republican Gov. Jim Martin said the amendments would give the General Assembly too much control over the state’s three branches of government and called on legislators to oppose them.

“It is embarrassing to me that it is the legislature controlled by my Republican party that has hatched this scheme and imagine they can get away with it,” Martin said. “Its legislators versus governors. This is not about partisan politics, but power politics, and must be stopped.”

Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore issued a joint statement calling the amendments a more transparent approach to filling vacancies, and a needed check on the governor’s office. But former Democratic Gov. Michael Easley said the amendments could possible paralyze the state.

“If these amendments were to pass, there would be one lawsuit after the other,” Easley said. “You wouldn’t have anyone confirmed on boards and commissions. And trying to bring in big industry would be off the map. Do you think anyone would invest in an environment with this hornets’ nest?”

The governors said they plan to form a strategy to educate voters about the negative impacts of the amendments. Gov. Roy Cooper has filed a lawsuit to keep the amendments off the ballot. He said they are deceptively worded, and would end the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. Four of the governors support the lawsuit. McCrory said he is still reviewing it.