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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easley's Measly Legacy

By: Carlton Huffman

Perhaps the greatest test of a chief executive’s popularity is the willingness of fellow candidates and potential successors to identify with that executive. Jesse Helms campaigned in 1984 as a proud “Reagan conservative” while in 1988 George H.W. Bush promised to govern in a manner befitting a Reagan third term. On the flipside of that coin is an unwillingness to be seen near an executive which just about sums up every Republican candidate in 2008 with the current George Bush. However when we look closer to home one has a hard time finding Richard Moore or Beverly Perdue to mention North Carolina’s chief executive, Governor Mike Easley.

Governor Mike Easley is never one to take himself too seriously as a politician. Whether it’s quoting King of the Hill characters to working on furniture in his basement, our governor has been very successful at attempting to identify with the salt of the earth men and women of North Carolina. However the true legacy of Mike Easley has been his unwillingness to tackle the big issues in North Carolina and to make the government in Raleigh more responsive to the people of our state. Outside of initiatives on education, which has seen SAT scores fall and a 30% dropout rate during his tenure, Easley has done little to confront transportation needs in our growing state. Year after year the General Assembly raids the Highway Trust Fund to fund everything but our need for more and better roads and often fails to make up for the shortfalls. All of us can testify that the state of I-40 between Statesville and Hickory is an embarrassment as is that of I-85 S coming from Virginia. Mike Easley has had eight years to do something about it and instead was content to helicopter down to Southport every chance he had.

Those hoping for aid in combating illegal immigration were also left high and dry these last eight years under Easley. While other states like Oklahoma, Arizona, and Georgia have led the way in cracking down, North Carolina still ranks among the top states plagued by the influx of illegal aliens. Mike Easley’s solution is to allow them to go to community college while his cohort Erskine Bowles wants to give illegals instate tuition. On issue after issue of importance to North Carolinians Easley has been content to hold the ball till the clock runs down on his reign as governor or embraced a politically correct solution.

This is not what we bargained for in a state that has all of the right tools to succeed and be a powerhouse in the Southeast. Instead we have lost our status as a low tax state, education has not made the progress we need, and we’re stuck in traffic while political cronies cut deals on the best place to build a new road. It is well that Perdue and Moore avoid campaigning as the heir to Mike Easley just as John McCain better stay as far away from George Bush as he can. North Carolina deserved better then what Mike Easley and his Democratic friends in the legislature have given us the past eight years. The only thing that will bring true change is when voters wake up and demand better.

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