Maybe if McCrory had touted this accomplishment, he'd be governor today

Published May 31, 2018

By Bob Orr

by Bob Orr, former Supreme Court Justice and NC SPIN panelist, published in the Charlotte Observer and reprinted by permission of the author, May 25, 2018.

Former Gov. Pat McCrory was back in the news recently, this time over a pronouncement on his Charlotte radio gig about the racial changes in the Mecklenburg electoral environment and the clout of the Black Political Caucus. The resulting assault on Ol' Pat brought back memories of all those coal ash and HB2 ads from the previous campaign. If the opposition didn’t have McCrory to kick around, what would they do?

Lost in all of this — and lost in the ashes of his narrow 2016 loss to Roy Cooper — is what will undoubtedly go down as McCrory’s greatest, positive legacy to our state. The money has begun to flow from the $2 billion ConnectNC bond referendum initiated, fought for and championed by McCrory and passed by an overwhelming majority of N.C. voters in the 2016 primary. (I was honored to serve, at McCrory's request, as co-chair of the ConnectNC committee.)

Only a few of the state's most tuned-in leaders even remember the ConnectNC bond campaign. McCrory initiated the proposal to fund major capital construction on university campuses and community colleges as well as initiatives for state parks improvements and other areas. The General Assembly was lukewarm at best and Attorney General Roy Cooper, then a candidate for governor against McCrory, was only half-heartedly interested in seeing such a monumental accomplishment get passed to McCrory's credit

Alas, McCrory pushed the proposal through the legislature and campaigned relentlessly for it. Voters approved, but then as the fall campaign commenced, McCrory and his advisers all but forgot about the bonds. Instead of aggressively pushing this signature accomplishment, McCrory’s campaign was bogged down with toll roads, HB2 and coal ash. I don’t recall a single McCrory ad touting the $2 billion bond success. No wonder people neither associate the new construction across the state with McCrory nor actually remember his critical role in the bond victory.

The photo ops are really starting to crop up. In March, Western Carolina University broke ground on its critically needed $110 million Science/STEM building. Not surprisingly, the building will be named after former State Sen. Tom Apodaca, a strong supporter of WCU during his Senate tenure. At the groundbreaking, there was Apodaca and legislative leadership smiling and shoveling. Nowhere to be seen was Old Pat, the guy who actually was responsible for the pipeline of bond money making it all the way out to Cullowhee.

Likewise, the recent groundbreaking ceremony for the new UNC Greensboro nursing and instructional building took place, and the most prominent politician in the picture was Senate leader Phil Berger. It’s more than appropriate for him to be there, but where was Pat? Was he even invited?

More and more projects are getting started like the Allied Health and Human Services/Nursing Building at UNC Wilmington, which will also serve as a great resource for students in the military; the Science Building at UNC Charlotte and significant improvements to facilities at community colleges statewide. Then there’s the major campground improvements at Lake Norman State Park and other state parks just now getting underway. And don’t forget the planned N.C. Agricultural Center or the funding for children with disabilities and veterans' access in local parks.

If you go to any of these upcoming events, keep an eye out for Pat McCrory. Somebody might actually invite him to a groundbreaking or the opening of a new or renovated facility. Heck, they might even name a picnic shelter after him. But if you do see him, thank him. Tell him how just this one spectacular effort on his part will have a lasting impact on our state and thousands of our citizens. In the long run, future generations will be eternally grateful that he got this accomplished.

Orr, a Republican, is a former N.C. Supreme Court justice. Email: