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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 >>

Power, partisanship, and pressure complicate a governor's role

Holshouser reflects on the power of North Carolina's governor in relation to the legislature, and the pressure on the governor to accomplish his or her agenda early in their term. Partisanship and ideology further complicate an already complex picture, Holshouser thinks.

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

JACK FLEER:
You are one of the few governors of North Carolina in recent decades who had experience in both the legislature as a legislator and in the governorship as Governor. So you should have a particularly interesting perspective on the idea of whether the governorship, excuse me whether the legislature is too powerful relative to the governor?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Was, isn't now. I got along remarkably well I think given what the law says. But I have always and I think it came to height during Jim Martin's term of what he called "the gang of eight." Because in that case you had eight people who had no responsibility for the whole state. They had been elected by the people in their districts only. But they were carving up the state budget without any regard to the executive budget at all. His budget was dead on arrival just about. They were, I think, way too powerful. It made great campaign fodder because the press had beat the drums because they were meeting secretly which wasn't illegal at all. The press just didn't like it. It probably got Jim Gardner elected frankly because Tony Rand had been one the "gang of the eight." But I think the balance is much better now. And I think that if I could do it over again right now, if I could change anything that has happen, now that you have got the veto, I would probably say lets get rid of succession. Simple because if you are in there for four years and you know that that is all you can serve without sitting out a term, you still want everybody to love you but you are not thinking about the next election with everything you do.
JACK FLEER:
Well what about the fact that without succession you are in some senses an immediate lame duck?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Yes. That was the strongest argument and still is for it and people, Bob Scott talked a lot about that. I suspect that if you talk to him about that he would repeat what he told me is that he really had to work hard to stay in control the last two years he was in office, particularly the last year. He had some more colorful stories about the DOT folks. He called them all in the auditorium one day and told them he was going to fire them all if they didn't get off their duffs and get busy. I think there is the potential for the state bureaucracy to start looking toward that next election. But it doesn't happen until after the mid term election as a rule. Theoretically you need to get every, to get most of what you want to do done in that first legislative term. But I have found that because the state governmental process where the budget is concerned is not nearly so philosophical in a way as it is in Washington. Up until 1995 it's much more likely that you can get cooperation during that third year, in particular the first, second and third year than you might think. Now in 1995 we unfortunately elected some Republican crazies and they are still just giving problems and I like having Republican majority but I would hate to be speaker right now and try to keep that crowd together. I think Brubaker gets a lot of blame for things that he has had to do just to hold the troops in line but we have just got some right wingers.
JACK FLEER:
You are taking about the state legislature now, not the national Congress.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Right.
JACK FLEER:
I just want to clarify that for future listeners.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Gingrich has had some of that same kind of problem although some of them he created himself with the agenda that was set up early on although it didn't directly give a focus. But I think you can say in 1995 when they elected a Republican majority, we elected a variety of philosophical persuasions at least and it has made it extremely hard to keep all those kittens in a basket at the same time. But with that exception, I think, I guess I won't even say with that exception. I think governors become lame ducks during the campaign process for their succession and it largely depends on how early that starts that it happens. Right now I don't think Mike Easley and Dennis Wicker as potential candidates for governor in 2000 are making Jim Hunt a lame duck and we are in his second year.