Former Gov. Pat McCrory is back, and this time he’s setting his sights on North Carolina’s soon-to-be-open Senate seat. McCrory was ousted in 2016 by Gov. Roy Cooper, a loss commonly attributed to the fallout from the “bathroom bill,” HB2, which saw many large corporations move investments out of the state in protest.
While LGBT folks clearly won’t be counting on McCrory as an ally in the Senate, his record bodes poorly for all students in the UNC System. The ex-governor and former Duke Energy executive has taken regressive stances on higher education funding and climate change, in addition to his signature on HB2. Of all contenders for the hotly contested Senate seat, McCrory would be one of the worst for students.
Whereas President Biden and many Democrats have pushed for student loan forgiveness and either lowering or eliminating public university tuition, McCrory supported budget cuts for the UNC System and an increase in community college tuition under his 2015-16 budget. With intolerable student loan debt being one of the defining issues for our generation, it seems unlikely that McCrory would flip his script now and become a proactive force in protecting our economic outlook.
McCrory’s candidacy is no idle threat: As a former governor, he is well-known across the state and has a solid standing in several recent polls, coming in first among announced candidates, though still behind Lara Trump and current Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who have both talked about running. If he should win the primary, it would be deeply disappointing for students with an uncertain economic standing in the shadow of our second major recession.
Before the controversy over HB2, McCrory was commonly criticized for his closeness with Duke Energy, as the company came under fire for several coal ash leaks during his administration. Although McCrory occasionally signed legislation holding Duke Energy accountable for the spills, he also oversaw a decline in the strength of the Department of Environmental Quality, which is in charge of regulating polluters. This spotty record clearly does not reflect the strong environmental advocacy students should expect as we prepare to live on this planet for the better part of a century.
McCrory also supported offshore drilling during his tenure, advocating for permits for seismic testing off North Carolina’s coast. While the Trump administration eventually expanded its oil drilling moratorium to include our state, it’s unclear whether McCrory would work with Biden and Democrats in their push to expand offshore wind development, which I’ve previously noted could have substantial benefits for our energy sector and economy.
Students have a vested interest in preventing McCrory from winning a Senate seat. Although he failed to hold on to the governorship despite Trump’s victory in the state in 2016, there is no guarantee that voters will swing the same way in the Senate election in 2022 — indeed, Gov. Cooper, a Democrat, sailed to reelection alongside our other Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, in 2020. Senate seats are only up for election once every six years, meaning a McCrory victory would see him influencing national policy for most of the decade. It’s imperative that we stop him from getting that chance.