RALEIGH, N.C. — There have been four years of civil disobedience, reputation-bruising boycotts over bathroom access, and legal battles over voting laws and gerrymanders. The election for governor, fraught with Republican challenges, took a month to settle.
But if anyone here thought that the Democrat Roy Cooper’s victory in that race would open a new era of cooperation and calm in this bitterly divided state, all they had to do was listen on Thursday to the bellowing voice of Evan Hughes, a lettuce farmer from Durham. Around noon, Mr. Hughes, 35, was in front of North Carolina’s legislative offices with a child in his arms, berating the executive director of the state Republican Party for the group’s gambit to strip Mr. Cooper of many of his powers as governor before he even takes office.
“We’re talking about changing the rules at the last minute,” Mr. Hughes said. “The people of North Carolina are sick and tired of the G.O.P.’s antics — anti-democratic antics. It is embarrassing to the people of North Carolina.”
Dallas Woodhouse, the Republican official, had initially tried to engage Mr. Hughes. But he eventually fled into the building, where lawmakers from his party introduced a flurry of bills during a surprise special session this week to undermine Mr. Cooper by stripping him of his ability to make key appointments to state and local boards and mandating, for the first time, legislative approval of his cabinet.
The legislative session generated reminders of one in March that led to the divisive “bathroom bill” that limited gay and transgender rights. It further cemented the perception of North Carolina as a place that has gone from a symbol of pragmatic New South moderation to one in a perpetual state of political civil war.
The law passed in March, known as House Bill 2, is seen as playing a role in Mr. Cooper’s defeat of Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican. The General Assembly went into a special session to pass the bill, and Mr. McCrory signed it the same night. It resulted in boycotts by sports leagues and musicians.
“We don’t want another disaster like House Bill 2,” Mr. Cooper said at a news conference on Thursday. “This is exactly why we had problems with House Bill 2 because they wanted to do it in secret.”
The new legislation moved quickly through committees and floor votes on Thursday, where Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers. In separate incidents, both the State Senate and House galleries were closed and cleared of protesters after outbursts interrupted proceedings.
Senators passed one of the major bills, which removes partisan control of the state and county election boards from the governor. Currently, the boards, which set hours and polling places and adjudicate ballot disputes, have a majority from the governor’s party. Under the new law, the boards will have bipartisan memberships, but a Republican will lead the state board during election years and a Democrat in nonelection years.
The House passed another key bill, enhancing the power of the state superintendent of education, who is a newly elected Republican, and mandating Senate approval of Mr. Cooper’s cabinet appointments, a significant shackling of the governor’s authority.
Both the House- and Senate-passed bills were scheduled to be taken up by the other chamber on Friday.
The special session stunned North Carolinians of both the right and the left who had been hoping for a cooling off from the state’s recent years of hyperpartisanship.
“We didn’t think it would be rock-throwing from before Day 1,” said Rick Henderson, editor of Carolina Journal, a publication of the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank in Raleigh.
Mr. Cooper, who, while a member of the legislature, once helped replace a left-leaning Speaker of the House with a conservative Democrat, has been a relatively nonconfrontational attorney general of his state, Mr. Henderson said. But the governor-elect angrily attacked Republicans on Thursday. “They will see me in court,” he warned. It is not clear if Democrats have any legal recourse.
Few states are quite as bitterly divided as this one, but there are hints here, too, of what may be in store for a nation that is just as divided and bruised after the presidential election.
On Thursday afternoon, the chants of liberal protesters filled the area outside of the Senate viewing gallery. “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!” they chanted.
The police led a number of protesters, who had refused to leave the House gallery, away in plastic wrist ties.
“Thank you; we love you!” the protesters cheered as they were escorted out. The group, which numbered in the hundreds, chanted and sang.
Mr. Cooper termed the moves by the General Assembly as not so much a power grab, but an attempt to reach deep into his administration to extend conservative priorities on taxes, education and the environment.
The governor-elect said Republicans seeking leverage over his administration were hoping to add to their policy wish list, channeling taxpayer dollars into private-school vouchers and weakening environmental protections.
Republicans, who for more than a century were held in a hammerlock by Democrats in charge of the state’s legislature, defended the moves under the principle that turnabout is fair play. They cited how Democrats stripped power from a Republican lieutenant governor in the 1980s.
“They completely defenestrated the lieutenant governor’s office,” Mr. Henderson said. “So this is not an unprecedented move at all.”
Mr. Cooper rejected the comparison. “That is just not true,” he said. “What is happening now is unprecedented.”
Even as North Carolina unhitched from its conservative Southern heritage in the past decade and became a battleground state — President Obama won here in 2008 — Republicans were taking over state government. In 2010, they won a majority in the legislature for the first time in a century, carrying districts that had been drawn by Democrats to favor Democrats.
When Mr. McCrory won the governor’s mansion two years later, the unified control of the party in Raleigh unleashed an avalanche of conservative legislation, from abortion restrictions to tax cuts favoring the wealthy to, most notably, a wide-ranging 2013 bill that made it more difficult to register and vote in the state.
This year, a federal court threw out that law after finding it was passed “with almost surgical precision” to diminish the influence of African-American voters.
In August, a federal appeals court found that district maps drawn by Republicans for the 2012 General Assembly elections included more than two dozen districts that were racial gerrymanders, and the court ordered lawmakers to redraw the maps next year.
Another court ruling last month required the state to use the new maps for elections to the House and Senate in the fall of 2017. If the ruling survives appeals, it would mean next year’s full session of the General Assembly would be held in an election year and be even more highly politicized than usual. The showdown between Mr. Cooper and lawmakers this week may be only an appetizer.
Published at Fri, 16 Dec 2016 01:58:10 +0000