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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Governor Scott seeks to maintain a good relationship with the legislature

Scott describes his posture as governor in which he recalls his relationship with the legislature. North Carolina's governor, because the office did not have veto power during Scott's term, was particularly vulnerable to the power of the legislature, but Scott appeared to maintain a cordial relationship with legislators and avoided conflict. The best way to do so was with compromise, Scott believes, including extending favors in exchange for political support.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. 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

But did you think of the legislature as an equal to the governor, as superior or inferior to the governor? How would you describe your attitude towards—
I think I viewed it as an equal. Being lieutenant governor, I understood the process clearly, and the inner workings of that process, and which buttons needed to be pushed to accomplish your goals and get moving legislation along. Where the power lay in the legislature. So that was immense help to me in understanding it. And having been lieutenant governor and understanding that line between executive and legislative branch, and respecting that line, I always viewed them as an equal. As a matter of fact, I always thought the legislature was the most equal of the three branches of government in North Carolina. I've said that many times. We were taught in the old Civics class, social studies I believe they call it now, that each branch of government is equal, checks and balances. But in North Carolina, because the governor has no veto power, the legislature is by far the most equal. Now, on perhaps the other side of that coin, where I viewed the legislature as an equal, and I knew that they could run roughshod over a governor if they chose to do so. During that period of time, there was a camaraderie, if you will—same political parties in power in the executive and the legislative branch. And the governor was expected to provide the leadership. The power did not reside in the president pro tem and the speaker of the house. Well, it was there, but they did not exercise it as they do today. Yes, there were differences of opinion, sometimes strong differences, on individual issues. But overriding that was also the willingness to cooperate, and they would never entertain any thought of bogging the process down, to where you would adjourn, for instance, without a desk, or anything of that sort, as I mentioned above. And there wasn't those differences between the house and the senate of the legislature. They worked together. And I dealt with the legislature as the legislature, not so much as the governor's office with the house and the governor's office with the senate. It was almost just the one entity.
When you dealt with the legislature, did you deal primarily through the leadership, or did you try to establish a more personal relationship with individual members, or how did you go about doing that?
Well, one tried to establish a personal relationship, particularly with some, but you always respected the leadership. They wouldn't be the leaders if—And they did have a power to control legislation, to impede it or to help it. I guess you would say we paid additional attention to them. But a legislator, for instance, if I needed to get a legislator's vote, when we were trying to get votes, a legislator's always got something that they want done. They may want their wife's third cousin twice removed appointed to the North Carolina Holly Tree and Arboretum Commission. They wanted something like that, maybe still do. Well, you know that, because the legislator's made that known to you, or through some of your people. And so all the legislators, they ask for an appointment to come talk to you about it. He wants to get a road paved in his county, or he wants to get somebody named, some political friend, named to the Paroles Board. So that individual comes to talk to the governor about it, make their case. And the governor listens, and he says, "Well, you know, I appreciate that, and I will take it under consideration. By the way, I sure would like to have your help on such and such a bill." And so it's, in some ways, and I know this sounds distasteful to the purists, you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours, and if there's nothing wrong ethically with it or if you don't have any strong feelings about it and they don't have any strong feelings, you know, you'd reach an accommodation. And that's the way our government works. Compromise is the name of the game. You don't get everything you want all the time, nor do they, but you seek accommodation. And yes, we invite the wives over to the mansion for coffee or tea, or if there's someone you really—I had a legislator came to me, his wife's parents were coming down from New England, and wanted to do something special for them and so forth. So we invited the legislator and his wife and her parents to have lunch. It took a little time and effort, you know, but you try to maintain the friendships, then call on them sometime.