DMV doing the backstroke

Published February 7, 2019

By Brad Crone

by Brad Crone, Communications consultant and NC SPIN panelist, February 6, 2019.

There is one thing for sure, Governor Cooper can count. He can count votes in the State Legislature. He can count the number of Democrats in Wake County versus Nash County. And he knows he has to count on Sen. Dan Blue to whip votes for veto overrides.

So, when the entire Wake County delegation wrote to the Governor asking the DMV move be slowed down – it didn’t take long for the Governor and DMV to oblige.

Governor Cooper and DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup are doing the political backstroke – because they know they will need to take a second look the DMV HQ situation. The administration knows that it’s best to avoid a fight with Sen. Blue and the Wake delegation.

There is little doubt we need to construct a new DMV HQ building  or lease the necessary office space.  Moving the HQ to Rocky Mount may be the cheaper option, but for the more than 700 Wake County workers, commuting back and forth to Nash County won’t be an option.

The simple fact is that politics will outweigh the policy on this decision.

Sen. Blue and every single Wake County lawmaker, including Republican Senator John Alexander, want to keep the DMV HQ in Wake County.  Governor Cooper needs to have a strong working relationship with Sen. Blue because he will be responsible to sustain the Governor’s veto against Republican legislation.

But the Governor also knows that Dan Blue is a master in the legislative process and while the Governor may end up getting support from the Council of State to approve a new contract in Nash County for DMV, the budget process will be a different ballgame altogether.  The President Pro Tem of the Senate would likely be willing to cooperate with Sen. Blue to ensure funding is not allocated for a relocation. So the issue would be mute because the Legislature isn’t likely to appropriate the funding for a DMV HQ in Nash County.

Going into campaign 2020, Governor Cooper cannot afford to upset a large chunk of base Democratic voters in Wake County.  He’s going to need those voters in November next year.  Governor Cooper knows he could pay a high-price with those voters if he moved DMV out of Wake County.  (Remember I-77 in Mecklenburg County and the impact it had on Gov. McCrory.)

Governor Cooper, DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup and Senator Blue all know that each side can win. Sen. Blue’s efforts the past week have proven his adept ability to get the attention of the Governor and he has shown he’s willing to meet the Governor and DMV half-way to make sure everyone has a win-win scenario.

I said it last week and I say it again, you don’t ever count out Dan. Blue.