Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, photo by BCGOP
By Pete Zamplas- Lt. Gov. Dan Forest sees hope for resurgence of family values and leaders deciding what is right rather than politically expedient.
The highest-ranking state Republican, who is gaining support to run for governor in 2020, also on Sunday urged full GOP grassroots effort in elections. He did so as keynote speaker at the Buncombe County GOP’s Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, in the Renaissance Asheville Hotel.
Other inspiring banquet speakers included State Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-Hendersonville) whose District 48 includes southern Buncombe County, and Supreme Court Assoc. Justice Barbara A. Jackson.
U.S. Reps. Mark Meadows (11th Dist.) and Patrick McHenry (10th including Asheville) gave brief video pep talks. “We’re keeping the fight. I know we’ll see victory in November” House Freedom Caucus Chr. Meadows said. He touted Forest as the likely next governor, in 2020.
House GOP Chief Deputy Whip McHenry welcomed elections as a referendum on the Trump Administration. He said Trump “has rolled back job-killing regulations,” nixed the health care mandate, “prosperity” is up, and “we delivered a tax cut that’ll leave people with $2,000 more from their paychecks.” He cited advances against ISIS terrorists and trade tariff imbalances.
Many at the banquet said they support Pres. Trump’s move last week to put National Guard troops at key parts of the Mexican border, to bolster security and with more of a “catch and retain” than “catch and release” policy.
Justice Barbara Jackson
Justice Jackson, a Republican, said she is for “judicial constraint.” She is up for a second eight-year term. Her Democrat opponent Anita Earls, a civil rights attorney in Durham, founded and heads the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Jackson told the banquet crowd such an openly “social justice warrior” is apt to get many ACLU dollars the GOP needs to counter.
The Supreme Court balance of power is razor close in this state, as it is nationally. The 4-3 tilt in N.C. swung in 2016 from Republicans to Democrats, for their first edge since 1998 and one lasting at least four more years. Longtime Justice Bob Edmunds was defeated by Mike Morgan in ’16. Jackson noted her Supreme Court seat is the sole one on the ballot in November, and next up for reelection is another Republican — two-term justice Paul Newby — in 2020, before Democrat seats come up.
Spending levels and priorities still vary sharply between the two main parties, several noted.
Sen. Edwards, who is unopposed in the primary, will again face Democrat Norm Bossert in the general election. Edwards called for party unity behind whomever wins contested GOP primaries May 8. He urged female Republicans to join the League of Women Voters, to start to provide more political balance for the supposedly non-partisan group that many deem very liberally-oriented in its actions.
Edwards encouraged area Republicans to “mentor” local youth, so they can help decide elections now and empower the party in the future.
“You can help change progressive thinking” to more practical visions, he said. He said too many youths are dreamy idealists. “They don’t realize the consequences, if they do get those things” they call for. Other speakers blamed educators for indoctrinating youth to the left.
Edwards said Lt. Gov. Forest “is such a strong leader of our state. He operates with dignity, along a moral compass.”
Forest also got much crowd approval, in his motivational speech and encouragement of candidates and supporters. He is not on the ballot this year. Forest has not announced if he might go for the one office above his own.
He was repeatedly lauded by other prominent Republicans at the banquet as the party’s choice to run for governor. Democrat Roy Cooper dethroned Pat McCrory as governor in 2016; the seat is up again in two years. Forest won election two years ago.
Charlotte native Forest was very relaxed and personable with guests in the pre-banquet reception, and as keynote speaker gave a thoughtful and emotional plea for a return to core values. His speech was entitled “Keeping America Great.” He reminisced about more secure days when he and friends could safely bicycle in his neighborhood, and when Judeo-Christian values were openly cherished in social institutions.
Forest said too many policy votes are “divided down the middle” by party lines, and more bipartisan action is needed. He said North Carolina with more competitive corporate tax rates brought in industry, largely under recent Gov. Pat McCrory. Forest said N.C. rose from merely 44th to third nationally in business growth.
He said the GOP has made recent “strides” in elections, yet has many seats at risk. Republicans are in 32 of 50 governors’ mansions, and control 69 of 99 state legislatures including in N.C. But “we have to get busy,” amidst fierce attacks by liberals and much of the media.
Issues such as abortion, the environment and climate change is “their religion,” Forest said of “leftist lunacy” Democrats. “That is their God, their way of changing the world.” Liberals “look to central government, to (try to) solve problems,” he said.
He said too many government programs “fund bad behavior.” Some point to examples as tax favors for single parents of children, that can encourage broken homes. Forest said “let’s get to the heart of issues. Try to solve fatherlessness” in broken homes.” He said some studies show a child from a broken home is “80 times more likely to grow up in poverty, and follow a life of crime.”
Forest called for a “return to federalism, principles of limited government” and upholding constitutional rights such as in owning guns. “They take guns away from law-abiding people, who protect themselves,” while criminals ignore the laws and illegally acquire guns and use them in crime.
He quoted former Pres. Ronald Reagan, an honoree of Lincoln-Reagan dinners across the nation, on importance of perpetually fighting to retain freedoms. “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extension,” Reagan proclaimed. “It must be fought for, protected and handed on…” Forest said of conservatives more than ever, “we’re all called to action” as voters.
Both Lt. Gov. Forest and State Sen. Edwards told The Tribune at the reception that tables can turn in Raleigh, with a Democrat now as governor and the GOP the challenging party. Since Gov. Cooper is midway into his four-year term, Forest equates this to mid-term elections nationally. Historically mid-terms go to the party not in the White House after the one in it is blamed for any economic or other woes. The buck stops with the governor’s party similarly, Forest said. Prior Gov. Pat McCrory got the most media heat over social HB2 issue of bathroom gendering.
Credit and blame games are inevitable with split power. The GOP has the upper hand in passing bills and getting them to stick. Republicans still control both houses of the General Assembly, with a veto-proof majority they hope to still have after Nov. 6. A veto requires 60 percent of members voting, in both chambers.
But Gov. Cooper is at times having the last laugh, to stymie GOP reforms. He previously was state attorney general, overseeing N.C.’s legal apparatus. Now as governor Cooper is bypassing the legislative process with legal challenges, and has already done so about 20 times, Edwards told The Tribune. “Given that the current administration has little capability of getting its own laws passed” at least without much compromise, Edwards said, “it is instead contesting laws through the court system.” He said Cooper is often winning on appeal.
A hot example this year is after the GOP-passed reform to switch state election board members from gubernatorial appointment and the current Democrat majority, to a bi-partisan panel. The new law set up four appointments via each party’s nominations, and a ninth member unaffiliated to either party as a potential swing vote. Five votes were needed, to pass any decision.
Gov. Cooper blocked it from taking effect. He won 4-3 in the Supreme Court, which ruled the governor should not be forced to split the board along party lines and a close split could result in too much gridlock. Sen. Edwards said he is puzzled by the systematic partisanship of the governor appointing election board members, and that it prevails over the bi-partisan reform with equal representation for the two parties.
Forest said the “conservative base” is apt to get riled by intense chastising of Pres. Donald Trump, and “galvanized” in support of his daring policy decisions to enact campaign promises. Forest said though “the national noise is louder,” that should also spark turnout by both sides for state races as well. Several have said at area GOP events that Democrats are clearly mobilized more than usual.
Thus, many say, a key is solidifying the conservative base but also rallying moderates to Republican pragmatism and budget restraint, over Democratic tax-and-spend and liberal social tinkering. The goal is getting voters to “understand our perspectives,” Forest told The Tribune. He is optimistic they will. “People are not stupid.”