N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer began Monday’s meeting with the League of Women Voters of Orange, Durham and Chatham Counties by addressing the elephant in the room.
He said that although the recent election has many feeling anxious, there are many reasons for optimism, and then engaged the crowd in an exercise where each person in the audience shared something they appreciate about our democracy and something they are hopeful could change.
“I appreciate that our democracy is free and open,” said Mark Marcoplos, recently elected Orange County commissioner. “That we live in a society where a group like the League of Women Voters can even exist. But my hope is that even more people engage in the democratic process, and bring about change that works for all people.”
Meyer said the impact of down-ticket races from last week’s election might be even bigger than the presidential outcome.
“We probably just elected a Democratic governor, but of course we won’t know until after the recount, which will be complete by Nov. 29,” Meyer said. “The election of Mike Morgan to the North Carolina Supreme Court was huge, because now there’s a Democratic majority in the judiciary.”
Meyer also noted the current Democrat-leaning composition may not stick, because the state constitution allows for two more justices to be appointed to the Supreme Court by the governor at any time, a measure Meyer said Republicans are pushing McCrory to pursue.
“We will most likely have a divided government in the state no matter who controls the judiciary, though, with a Democratic governor and Republicans holding veto-proof majorities in both chambers,” Meyer said. “But sometimes, that can have a silver lining, because it forces the government to pursue policy which is too new and innovative to have received partisan labels yet.”
Meyer said one such policy is education, a major plank in his reelection platform.
“What I hope to propose is a policy which would provide an extra month of pay for any teacher willing to serve in our lowest performing schools,” Meyer said. “I think this will bring quality teaching into our most underserved communities and prevent the kind of takeover of public education that would result from the performance school district bill passed last year.”
The bill, proposed originally by N.C. House Rep. Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg, hands over control of North Carolina’s lowest performing schools to private charter school management.
On the topic of higher education, Meyer praised attempts by UNC-system President Margaret Spellings to depoliticize certain aspects of university governance, but was skeptical of their chances of success.
“President Spellings has been making a push to shrink the size of the Board of Governors, in order to make them less susceptible to political machination,” said Meyer, “But you have to understand that spots on the board have been given out for so long as a political gift in order to get things done.”
League of Women Voters’ president Pamela Oxendine said Meyer’s presentation was exactly the kind of message voters want to hear after a divisive election and made her hopeful for progress in North Carolina going forward.
“Graig is a guy who really cares. That’s why we brought him here today,” Oxendine said. “I’ve worked with him on several projects, and we know he’s passionate about policy, about education, and, above all else, passionate about helping people.”
Oxendine said she hopes this message will help mobilize voters.
“Because when you’re trying to find common ground and build a new future, you need large groups of people like this working together toward common goals," she said.