“Even when you have unified party government, in this case Republicans in the legislature, governor and BOG, you’re not always going to have unity,” said Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College.
“Strengths and personalities and the perception of power is oftentimes an internal dynamic within these boards and within the legislature,” Bitzer said.
The board’s search was criticized by high-ranking Republicans, including House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, for not following the spirit of a transparency bill the General Assembly passed. Gov. Pat McCrory had not signed the bill when the board announced Margaret Spellings, former President George W. Bush’s secretary of education, would replace current UNC-System President Tom Ross.
“There has been a tension between the legislature and the governor. Even though they are in the same party, they often seem to be of two minds,” Bitzer said.
Gary Pearce, a left-leaning political analyst, said the N.C. General Assembly is often more conservative than the governor, even when Democrats control both arms of the state government.
“The governor has to represent the whole state, and legislators may be representing more rural areas — where they tend to serve longer — and so that plays into that,” he said.
This fissure within the GOP is unlikely to have a significant impact on voters’ perception of elected officials, according to Mitch Kokai, a political analyst for the right-leaning John Locke Foundation.
“This is a bit of inside baseball among politicos,” Kokai said. “There’s so many more pertinent issues.”
McCrory and the legislature were also at odds throughout the budget process, as the General Assembly pressed for further spending cuts than the governor’s initial proposal. The budget passed in mid-September — two months late.
“At the end of the day, most people got what they wanted in the budget,” Kokai said.
Pearce said the discord among Republicans in the legislature and the Board of Governors is unlikely to mean much to the average voter.
“The people who really do care about it already know about it and already made up their mind about it,” Pearce said. “Whether it’s an issue that moves voters in an election, maybe it’s a small part but it’s not really a huge factor.”