RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — With restrictions on abortion, looser gun laws and deeper tax cuts likely in balance, North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers and a Democratic governor. Roy Cooper fights in the campaign trenches to see which policy will prevail in Cooper’s final two years in office.
Democrats and their Cooper-led allies are trying to prevent Republicans next month from holding a majority veto, for the first time since late 2018.
As in other states with divided governments following a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion is gaining the upper hand in several key General Assembly races. With enough Democratic lawmakers behind the governor, Cooper’s veto thwarted abortion-limited changes approved by the GOP-controlled legislature in 2019 and 2021.
Republican leaders are ready to consider introducing additional restrictions on abortion next year, but say there is no consensus on the specifics yet. That uncertainty and the slight electoral adjustment Republicans need — three more House seats and two in the Senate to regain a non-vetoing majority — fits into the Democratic campaign narrative.
“Women still have the freedom to procreate in North Carolina,” Cooper said during a recent meeting with Democratic candidates. “And as governor, I try to keep it that way. But I can’t do it alone – I need a number in the legislature willing to back me up.
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Republican leaders, who neglected the issue of abortion during the fall campaign, are optimistic that those thresholds will be met.
They say voters are focused on the national economy and inflation’s 40-year highs under President Joe Biden. GOP candidates are running ads blaming Washington for the higher prices and talking about what Raleigh Republicans have done to counter them, like cutting income taxes.
“These become national elections like State House or Senate elections,” said Lincoln County Rep. Jason Saine, House of Republican Club leader and GOP legislative candidates “benefit” .
Political consultants and lawmakers from both parties expect the results of some 15 key races to determine the difference to the full list of 170 General Assembly elections. Cooper is time-limited to run for re-election in 2024.
“We’re all fighting here,” said Rep. Linda Cooper-Suggs, a Wilson County Democrat facing a tough challenge from Republican Ken Fontenot.
In 2017 and 2018, Republicans with a veto-immune majority overruled Cooper’s 23rd or 28th veto. Since then, none of the governor’s 47 vetoes have been overruled.
Democrats credit Cooper’s veto with bringing Republicans into the negotiations, contributing to recent successes in economic development and clean energy.
“It’s extremely important that there is some balance in each chamber for this to happen,” Chatham County Minority Leader Robert Reives said.
Cooper said “the GOP’s worst impulses can’t be stopped” if he gets too much power. But Senate Leader Phil Berger said the supermajority was actually protecting the state from Cooper’s bad decisions. Berger replaced vetoed bills that would raise teachers’ salaries and ensure there could be fireworks and parades in 2020 during the July 4 pandemic.
Berger said the GOP government’s agenda under the water-based majority would not differ much from the past four years.
“We will continue to push for a reduction in tax rates. We will continue to push to resolve regulatory issues, Berger said. “We will continue to push to resolve the dire situation in our education system where our children are not learning to read.”
Other approved laws that Cooper successfully vetoed could revert — for example, laws requiring county sheriffs to assist federal immigration officers who want to keep inmates in jail by eliminating permits to purchase firearms and postponing the dates when completed ballots must be collected. .
North Carolina law prohibits abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, except in the case of a pregnant woman’s medical emergency. This makes North Carolina a destination for women from nearby more restrictive states seeking surgery.
The Supreme Court decision contributed to a surge in pro-abortion political activity. Planned Parenthood’s political arm campaigned in 14 legislative races with $5 million spent in the North Carolina election.
In the 18th Senate District, which covers parts of Wake County and all of Granville County, Democratic attorney Mary Wills Bode and Republican real estate investor EC Sykes are running for a vacancy.
During a press conference last month with Cooper, Bode accused Sykes of wanting to “ban reproductive health care in our state under all circumstances, under all circumstances, without exception.”
Sykes said in an interview that he believes in rape and incest exceptions, but thinks North Carolina’s abortion law shouldn’t be “more liberal than neighboring states.”
Sykes added that “the issues and concerns I hear about are the economy and jobs, what happens to their incomes.”
Cooper-Suggs and Fontenot said abortion is not the dominant issue in their campaign race for the 24th House District — people there are more conservative and the influence of churches remains strong.
Cooper-Suggs has received endorsements from abortion rights groups. Fontenot, a church pastor who opposed abortion, lost a hair by a hair to Cooper-Suggs’ Democratic predecessor as an unaffiliated candidate in 2018.
Fontenot said the changes to welfare programs he seeks will encourage families to stay intact and discourage abortion. He said he wanted to be elected to “update many of the policies that we use that I think can help our ordinary citizens.”