RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The lasting image from U.S. Senate candidate Pat McCrory’s latest campaign ad is the wheelbarrow full of manure that he uses to attack rival Ted Budd.
But buried a bit deeper is a strong claim about McCrory’s term as North Carolina’s governor.
THE CLAIM: McCrory says in the ad that “Y’all know I was the most conservative governor in North Carolina history.”
THE FACTS: I took that claim to Mitch Kokai, a senior political analyst at the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank.
“This is the type of claim that’s not really easily testable,” Kokai said.
Of course, by one way to measure it, McCrory — the former Charlotte mayor who was elected governor in 2012 — is accurate almost by default: He’s the only Republican to hold the state’s top job since 1993, and just the third since the Election of 1900.
“We’ve only had one Republican governor since the early 90s, when he was it,” Kokai said. “And I would guess that even those who were the other governors would say, ‘Yeah, he’s probably the most conservative.’”
He also pointed to a couple of ways to evaluate McCrory’s claim.
“One would be the suggestion of, is he the most conservative based on his views on particular issues?” Kokai said. “That’s the harder one to go by.”
An easier way: What were McCrory’s results when he was in office?
“My guess is, when Pat McCrory is calling himself the most conservative governor, he’s talking about a record,” Kokai said.
In an interview with CBS 17 News, McCrory did exactly that, bringing up conservative bedrock principles such as lowering taxes — pointing to state tax reforms passed after he was elected that cut personal and business taxes but cut out some deductions — and creating jobs.
In 2016, at the end of McCrory’s one term as governor, the number of jobs in North Carolina rose by 6.5 percent (260,000) compared to 5.9 percent nationally.
“We did more conservative things as governor in four years than any governor in the history of North Carolina,” McCrory said.
But Kokai wondered how much of those results were directly because of McCrory — and how much were because Republicans lawmakers also held control of the General Assembly?
The other two Republican governors since 1900 — James Holshouser (1973-77) and Jim Martin (1985-93) — did not have that, Kokai said.
“Jim Martin had Democratic General Assemblies, and he had no veto,” Kokai said. “So he had limited power to be able to affect policy other than when he was willing to work with a Democratic General Assembly to get things done. Still, I would say that Jim Martin was able to get some conservative reforms through the General Assembly, including some changes in the way transportation was handled.”
As for McCrory, Kokai said he certainly could point to those accomplishments.
“But I think his critics can come back and say, ‘Well, certainly you were … a supporter and in some ways instigated some of these things,” he said. “But also these were very dependent on a Republican General Assembly, and had there been another Republican governor, then that person might have overseen the exact same changes.
“So he does have some things he can point to to back his claim,” Kokai said. “But there are an awful lot of caveats.”