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Politicians can give thanks

By Patrick Gannon

RALEIGH – Politicians and others involved in government in North Carolina have plenty to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

The N.C. Democratic Party can be thankful for Asheville and Buncombe County voters. Without them, the election would have been an unmitigated disaster for the state party. On Nov. 4, Asheville-area voters sent two Republican state House members — Reps. Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey — packing. In all, Democrats picked up three net seats in the House, but lost one in the Senate. They weren’t very successful elsewhere on the ballot either.

U.S. Sen.-elect Thom Tillis can be thankful to state Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. You mean the guy who handed Tillis and the House a draconian budget and engaged in tough negotiations over teacher pay and coal ash clean-up to the point that legislators were still in Raleigh in the final days of August? Sure, it could have been September or October.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan can be thankful to Tillis, who defeated her on Nov. 4. Who wants a job where, every six years, you have to go begging for dollars and sell your soul while your fate is actually tied to the public standing of a president who may very well be less popular than Charles Manson?

Gov. Pat McCrory can be thankful for the words “broken” and “silos.” If you believe the governor, when he came into office in 2013, the state’s economy was broken, the Medicaid system was broken, the Division of Motor Vehicles was broken and state infrastructure and buildings were broken. Meanwhile, state agencies and systems operated in silos, not communicating with each other and wasting money. Unfortunately, state bureaucrats also have adopted “silo-speak,” and it comes up routinely at state government meetings. But hey, tearing down walls and fixing things is a good way to cement a legacy, right?

State Rep. Michael Wray, D-Northampton, can be thankful for lower gas prices. Wray is a House member whose campaign reported buying fuel 427 times between July 2011 and June 2013, spending more than $28,000 on his campaign debit card, enough to drive well over 100,000 miles. The campaign is being investigated by the State Board of Elections. His last couple of campaign finance reports show he’s not driving nearly as much these days, however.

The public relations firm Edelman can be thankful to Deborah Crowder, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill employee who reportedly devised a “paper classes” scheme that help keep athletes academically eligible to play. Edelman is expected to receive more than $1.65 million from the university for PR services mainly in response to the academic and athletics scandal.

Possible 2016 gubernatorial contenders McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper can be thankful for easy issues. McCrory has spent most of the past couple of weeks saying how much he loves veterans and encouraging employers to hire them. Cooper has spent much of the past two weeks talking about tougher penalties for drivers who pass stopped school buses. Yes, these are important issues, but come on, who doesn’t like kids and veterans? Let’s hope this isn’t all we get for the next two years.

Cities and towns across North Carolina can be thankful they are still allowed to levy property taxes on their residents. In the past few years, the General Assembly has taken away the authority of cities to grow through annexation and charge privilege taxes on businesses. But who needs street sweepers, trash collectors, police officers and firefighters anyway?

Patrick Gannon writes columns for Capitol Press Association.

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