Incumbent Governor Pat McCrory
took to Winston-Salem to discuss modern day parallels with Orwell’s dystopian universe in the novel 1984
, why the media has it wrong on HB2, and how he has and will continue to support the North Carolina innovation economy if he wins a second term.
In the latest of ExitEvent’s
candidate conversations, McCrory sat for an interview with Editor Laura Baverman
in front of a live audience of Winston-Salem entrepreneurs and employees at the retail technology firm Inmar.
The conversation was held inside its global headquarters in the recently-opened Wake Forest Innovation Quarter
in downtown Winston-Salem.
While McCrory stepped out with a smile and a laugh, the talk was less jocular than the audience might have expected. The governor continued to make jokes and crack smiles at the crowd throughout the talk, but he spent a significant portion of the next 45 minutes expressing at times serious fears about the state of privacy, drones, healthcare, innovation and of course—the backlash to the often criticized HB2 legislation.
However, the notoriously business-friendly candidate also made sure to impart on the crowd his support for entrepreneurship and business in terms of tax policy, plans to expand infrastructure and transit options, and reform the education system to reduce debt load on the next generation.
Here is an overview of some of the questions, answers and topics explored during the conversation.
On apps and tech he uses on a daily basis
McCrory skipped Snapchat and Twitter and went straight to talking about the news. Believing it’s essential for leaders (or anyone else) to maintain a balanced diet of news and political coverage, his top three daily apps and news sources are The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post and the Drudge Report—he wants to see all sides of what’s being reported.
McCrory’s favorite and most influential piece of literature
Baverman had a few minutes backstage for a meet and greet with Governor McCrory, and during the time the pair somehow wandered to discussing their favorite books.
“I read it in 9th grade, 10th grade...and a few weeks ago on our vacation to the Virgin Islands," he said. "It was 1984 by George Orwell.”
For those not in the know, the novel tells the tale of a dystopian future where all movements are monitored by an omnipresent and omnipotent government, and even dissenting thought is a punishable crime.
McCrory likened modern day government overreach and PC culture to this dystopia, stating that “We're getting to a political environment where we have the thought police purging differing opinions… we can see it happening especially on our university campuses and even corporations... and I think it's extremely dangerous."
On legislation of new and/or disruptive technologies.
Among the issues discussed were the personal use of drones, the pervasive influence of the Internet and Internet culture, and how best to handle the use of police lapel cameras and distribution of the often sensitive footage they capture.
McCrory labeled drone usage as a “huge homeland security risk” and while they have major positives in terms of their use in agriculture or retail, deciding who regulates drone usage and how to do so are major issues that he’s “spent hours and hours in meetings” over.
While he’s obviously a proponent of the benefits of the Internet, the governor expressed concern over the unlimited access to information the newest generation has, suggesting that it might be “impacting their use of drugs” and “sexual norms”.
Body cameras were a major point of contention. McCrory believes they’re absolutely necessary as a tool to help bring oversight to the police, but he thinks there should be laws in the books covering the release of tapes and protecting certain information about the police, innocent bystanders and even accused criminals from blasts on media sites like CNN.
Supporting the innovation economy and startups in the state
McCrory spoke with pride about a few of his main contributions to the innovation economy in the state.
Firstly, he applauded efforts to secure federal and state funding for projects like a much needed agriculture innovation center at NC State
. The average age of a farmer is in his late 50s, and McCrory believes that repairing and boosting funding for programs which propel students into in-demand market sectors like the agriculture industry are vitally important.
Secondly, he argued for more collaboration between academic institutions than in the past—institutions like Duke, UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest are “working too much in their own silos”, he said. They also need to commercialize research that is funded by the federal government—Wake Forest University has the most productive commercialization efforts, according to McCrory.
Finally, McCrory gave some details on an intrastate crowdfunding bill he signed into law this summer, allowing cash strapped young entrepreneurs to gather investments up to $2,000 from friends, family or other interested parties, with protections for both the entrepreneur and the investors.
On tax policy that benefits business
McCrory detailed his history of corporate and income tax breaks claiming that as he halved corporate and business taxes, the state saw a significant increase in tax revenue. That’s a policy he’s planning to keep and defend over the next four years if elected.
While he’s vocal in his defense of slashing taxes across the board and gave some figures on the successes seen under his tax reductions while in office, he seemed to regret the poor optics of corporate tax breaks.
McCrory expressed displeasure in how “populist” movements painted these policies as only a benefit to the wealth and privileged class.
Defending HB2 and the effects on NC business
The governor attempted to clear the air on the controversial bill that’s made him known, and in many cases ridiculed, nationally. He spoke at length about the bill, political correctness and the evolving culture of social justice.
“I don't think a city or state or federal government should tell you what your restroom or shower should be like.. but I am in charge of the schools,” he said.
McCrory seemed upset about the backlash, reiterating that any private company has the right to dictate bathroom or locker room rules as they please, but he feels strongly the government should play a role in the protection of our children.
"This is a very complex issue, it has to do with the 1964 Civil Rights Act which was a protection for sex and race... Everyone assumed, up until last year, that meant men and women", he said.
Regarding our current and evolving understanding or conception of sex and gender, he remarked that, “It’s not what you physically are but what you think you are.. that's a pretty complex change in the definition of sex… it’s getting confusing."
McCrory also pledged his support for parts of the law that mandated statewide minimum wage and protected class laws, versus allowing individual communities to create their own. And he reminded the audience that he did repeal one element of the law, a portion he was opposed to from the start—the ability of North Carolinians to file lawsuits over discrimination.
Education reform starts with different messaging.
McCrory went against the grain in his discussion of education reform, stating that “we shouldn’t tell every kid that in order to be a success, you need a four-year college degree... there are a lot of people doing great out there with a two-year degree.”
The governor is a firm believer that we need to match our educational policy to market needs. Besides talented STEM workers, he waxed poetic on the dearth of truck drivers, mechanics, bricklayers and other skilled labor or trade positions.
If re-elected, he plans to make this a major effort of his second term, suggesting that instead of funneling children into universities and racking up debt, we should expose them to alternative paths through touring places like manufacturing plants, auto mechanic shops and farming/agricultural operations.
The Affordable Care Act
“I frankly wish they would have left it to the states”, McCrory said with little hesitation.
In the wake of Aetna pulling out of public health insurance programs, McCrory felt validated that “the deal did not add up, and the math is now supporting that.”
While McCrory has his qualms about Obamacare, in a display of humility and frankness he admitted he didn’t have the miracle cure, saying “I have no solution” to the problem.
Alternative energy initiatives
McCrory is open to alternative energy development in the state, even stating that “government can help with the startup phase”, but there is a certain point in time where the industry has to go out on its own.
Solar farms or turbine fields are a business, and should be held to the standard of a business no matter how noble their ideals might be. He emphasized multiple times that each time a tax credit is given to a company like this, the difference is coming out of someone else's pocket. There is no such thing as “free” he believes—free just means that “someone else is paying for it”.
Science as a partisan issue
McCrory ran with a crowdsourced question about the partisanship of science in modern days in the context of global warming. The governor remembered attending some of the first speeches Al Gore gave on global warming, what became An Inconvenient Truth. He lambasted the former vice president for believing that by today, NC coasts would be seriously affected by rising ocean levels.
It’s a "silly debate of ‘are you for it or against it’, when it’s how much of it is human impact and what change can be made and how much will it change things,” McCrory said.
Clean air, clean water and clean earth should be our philosophy, not arguing or fear mongering about climate change, a phrase he believes confuses the general populace.
Charlotte light rail and NC mass transit
The sitting governor remembered a nickname they had for one of his pet projects as a young mayor in Charlotte: “They called it the McCrory line for three years, and it was not a compliment.”
Despite the initial negativity towards the undertaking, the project was a success and now McCrory counts it as one of his major accomplishments.
When questioned about the possibility of expanding mass transit systems like light rail to areas like the Triangle, he has his doubts. “If a town is looking at mass transit they need to take it outta the political system and focus on the density and where it would work.” Unless cities have the appropriate population density and population centers, the gall to drudge through land grant procedures, and the capital required to enact such a massive infrastructure project, it’s a dangerous idea.
“I don’t know if I could do it again”, McCrory remarked about the possibility of expanding rail systems statewide.
McCrory took the last two or three minutes on stage to make a point about the culture of disrespect he perceives in today’s political climate.
While we’re at a contentious point in political history, and with both parties flinging mud, he urged both politicians and civilians to remember that we’re all people, and all people deserve respect.
Even if you can’t stand someone’s ideas or policies, you don't yell or fling insults. People, even on opposite sides of the aisle, should be able to come together in an environment of civility and mutual respect.