Cooper's veto is no longer safe
Published November 23, 2022
Contrary to what North Carolina progressives seem to think, the truth is that the Republican-controlled General Assembly now has a governing supermajority. This dynamic threatens Gov. Roy Cooper’s ability to continue building upon his record of having the most vetoes of any state governor.
Tuesday’s electoral results also put state public policy outcomes in North Carolina into a favorable position for those who value limited government.
The social media politico echo chambers are spiking with analysis after Tuesday’s election. Folks on the left and right are giving their thoughts about what the results mean for our political landscape. Overall, it is fair to conclude that what should have been an environment where Republicans saw a massive red wave across the country turned up short, but here at home, they secured critical victories.
The NCGOP took a sweeping victory over the judiciary, gaining the majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court for the foreseeable future. This will positively impact conservatives and those who value constitutionality in how judges interpret the law rather than judicial activism. Likewise, this will potentially impact redistricting, righting the wrongs of previous activist judges.
Most notably, Republicans gained a supermajority in the state Senate, bringing them to 30 seats in the upper chamber and a “functional supermajority” in the NC House, coming up short only by one, with 71 seats.
Nationally, the GOP did not do as well as many pundits predicted. There are potentially many reasons why that happened. One can speculate that this could be seen as a referendum on Trumpism – that it’s time for Republicans to move beyond Donald Trump and that populist rhetoric is not necessarily the catch-all winning strategy for conservatives moving forward. With what we saw in this election cycle in North Carolina with the loss of the three Trump-endorsed congressional candidates (Cawthorn, Hines, and Smith), even with a Budd victory, that seems to be a good argument.
While the red wave may not have been felt at the national level, and social media rhetoric reflects that sentiment, #NCPOL Twitter is seemingly different from the rest of the country, as we did see positive gains for Republicans on the state level and, of course, with Budd’s U.S. Senate victory.
So, as for the General Assembly, what does a “functioning or governing supermajority” mean for legislating and the governor’s veto power?
Republicans in the General Assembly only need one House Democrat to align with them to override Gov. Cooper’s veto. House Republicans have a rich environment of moderate Democrats to vote with them on a wide variety of policies, especially now that Democrats do not have to worry about the wrath of Cooper’s vengeance since his time as governor is coming to a close. Senate Republicans have the votes to override a veto even without Democrat support.
On a vote-by-vote basis, and almost every issue imaginable, Republicans in the General Assembly can expect to have practically no problem finding Democrats to effectively caucus with them on votes, thus making Cooper’s veto no longer safe.
It would be politically savvy for moderate Democrats to deliver on being moderates and work in a bipartisan fashion. Likewise, this also means Republicans will have to moderate, albeit only slightly, on some issues to win the hearts of their colleagues. Overall, this is arguably not bad for a good and balanced government.
André Béliveau is the strategic projects and government affairs manager at the John Locke Foundation. He is an M.A. in government candidate at Johns Hopkins University and previously served as a policy advisor in the North Carolina Senate.