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With Republicans in charge, Perdue has a target

RALEIGH — Gov. Beverly Perdue’s approval rating remains mired in the low 30s.

She is managing agency finances in a state that is pretty much broke.

She faces a new Republican-controlled legislature that will surely oppose a big chunk of her ideas over the next two years.

Things are finally looking up for Perdue.

Conventional wisdom may say otherwise, but one of the best things that could happen to a Democratic governor with poor poll ratings is to see her party lose control of the legislature. Now, Perdue has a counterbalance with true political power against which to compare and contrast herself.

That’s not just my opinion.

After Perdue had addressed incoming House members the other day, I ran into a veteran Republican legislator who said she and a few of her GOP colleagues had just been discussing the same thing.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” she said.

Perdue walked into the lion’s den at the legislature ostensibly to discuss the state’s budget woes and her plans to streamline state government. And she did, before veering off into telling legislators about how they could better run their ship.

Perdue threw out three proposals for legislative reform: the creation of an independent redistricting commission to lessen the politics of legislative and congressional map drawing, limits on the lengths of legislative sessions and the opening up more legislative records for public review.

Of course, Perdue had never advocated any of this stuff when she was in the legislature, when Democrats controlled things.

No matter. Now she’s governor. Republicans will control the legislature come January. And she’s free to become a part-time rock-thrower, hurling some nice chunks of granite the way of the Republican majority.

Those Republicans, when they were the minority party, were full-time rock-throwers. Now, they have to put away some of their stones and help govern.

The change of circumstances, and what it all means, wasn’t lost on presumptive House Speaker Thom Tillis. Members of the Raleigh press corps tried to bait Tillis into tagging as cynical Perdue’s newfound concern about legislative business.

The retired IBM executive, who lives on the shores of Lake Norman north of Charlotte, wasn’t biting.

“I assume that’s a new position, and I applaud her for it,” he said.

When you’re in charge, you can’t be fighting when there’s no need to be. Instead, Tillis and other Republican legislators made nice. They indicated they’ll likely pursue an independent redistricting commission once they get one stab at legislative map-drawing later this year.

Tillis has never been much of a rock-thrower, anyway. It’s one of the reasons he became his party’s choice to be House speaker.

But last week was just the first round. The niceties will ultimately end.

When Republicans make a few missteps or anger some constituency, which they inevitably will, Perdue will be there to point out how she would do things differently.

Now she’s got someone, or more accurately, something — a Republican legislature — to run against.

Scott Mooneyham writes about North Carolina politics for the Capitol Press Association.

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