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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., March 13, 1998. Interview C-0328-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A relatively weak governorship in North Carolina

"Legally, I would agree" to the claim that North Carolina's governorship is among the weakest in the nation, Holshouser says, but he argues that the governor's relative weakness insulates the office from blame for the legislature's mistakes.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., March 13, 1998. Interview C-0328-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

There are political scientists who look at the office of governor in North Carolina and say that it is among the weakest offices of governor that exist among the fifty states. When you were serving and since then would you agree?
Legally I would agree. On paper that is how it was. But again coming back to my premise if you can control the budget and you have got flexibility to move money around, that gives you a great deal of power to do things that don't show up in the constitution or in the statutes or in the appropriations bill. When you have got that, that is a lot of power I think. If I had to choose I would a lot rather have budget flexibility than the veto. Because the budget flexibility there is no down side; with veto you have got to take the blame for everything too. Plus you can't directly influence nearly as much because that flexibility is not shared power.
Your referred earlier to these efforts.
If you will recall and this has to do a little bit with Bully Pulpit and positioning. When Terry Sanford got the School of the Arts started with foundation grant money, he came to the legislature in 1963 when I was a freshman. I voted against it just because of the process in which it had been done. We really didn't have any choice but to give the money for the continuing operation but I just thought it was very bad in principel. It was just sort of a protest. I knew it was going to pass. I have been a supporter of the School of Arts for a long time. But that is the kind of thing a governor can do that never shows up on the statute books. But legally at that time it was probably one of the two weaknesses in the country. Even though that is on paper there are also some other things that are traditions. Bob Scott was telling me about a governor friend of his, I want to say from Idaho, that once every year or so would just take off for two or three weeks and go up in the mountains and would go hunting. Didn't take anybody, no security, no nothing. Nobody knew how to get a hold of him and nobody missed him. Government is pretty loose and you have got that western notion about how government ought to be anyway. And so some of those things crop into what kind of power a governor really has. Because if you are treated so casually you may not be able to influence thing like you would like.