Opinion: North Carolina’s political history


Sean Riordan

History and Background

Ever since the 2016 gubernatorial election, the North Carolina Republican-majority legislature has tried to strip the powers of the governor.

When Democrat Roy Cooper beat incumbent Republican Pat McCrory, the Republican Party lost trifecta control. Trifecta control is when one party holds the majority in the Senate and House of Representatives, and governor’s office. 

When Cooper came into power, he broke up the trifecta. Although the Republicans still held a majority in the House and Senate. Republicans responded by removing the governor’s power to influence the state budget and laws. 

Line Item Veto

One of the most versatile tools a state governor has to collaborate with the state legislature is a line-item veto. 

A line-item veto is when a governor can nullify specific parts of the bill, then send it back to the legislature for review. North Carolina is one of only six states that does not grant this power to the governor. 

The state government has to sign off on a bill the legislature passes before that bill can become law. A governor holds the right to veto, or nullify, any bill the legislature publishes. 

A line-item veto is an effective tool for passing a collaborative budget. Notably, North Carolina failed to pass a budget last year. 

 It is common for state governors to have either amendatory veto, reduction veto, or line-item veto power. North Carolina governor does not have these, and only has regular veto power, which strikes down entire bills. 

Appointment Powers

After the 2016 election when Cooper was elected as North Carolina’s governor, the then-Republican legislative supermajority passed a law to eliminate the governor’s power to appoint state justices

Incoming Cooper sued to block the law. The decision went to the voters and they voted down both measures to limit their new governor’s power.

Additionally, the majority of the executive offices are separately appointed by the voters. This means that while Cooper won the election for governor, he cannot appoint those who work for him in the executive branch.

This means that the commissioners do not have to answer to the governor and instead only answer to their constituents. This makes cooperation within the executive branch difficult. 

For example, the lieutenant governor, Dan Forest, is a Republican and can choose not to enforce the Democrat governor’s executive orders. This is because the governor did not appoint him, and he does not have to work with him to get reelected. 

This creates tension because the lieutenant governor presides over the Senate, and can influence cooperation between the executive and legislative branches. 


When a party majority tries to manipulate the powers of different branches of the states, it can disrupt the balance of power. Trying to pass a bill in the Republican Legislature to limit powers just days before the newly elected Democratic Governor’s inauguration does not seem very reflective of the voters’ will. 

This was exemplified when the voters disagreed with the legislature and voted against the limitations of the governor. The Republican legislature tried to manipulate the powers of the executive branch, solely because they lost the seat to a Democrat.