Common Ground


After last week’s election, it’s time to prepare for next year’s legislative session. I’ve been thinking about what approach I should take since Democrats will once again be in the minority.

Although Democrats will have three more members in the House than we did last session, we still are three votes shy of even being able to block a veto override. Republicans will continue to hold every leadership post and control the flow of all legislation.

I know that many of those who voted for me want me to stand up against everything that the Republicans try to do. Others are hungry for any politician to find a way to work across the aisle and find some common sense solutions.

There will be some serious legislation that I will oppose on principal. For instance, I will oppose any attempt to pay for coal ash cleanup by raising utility rates. There will be other legislation that won’t be controversial at all. Last session, 65 percent of bills passed unanimously.

But there is one fundamental fact that I cannot ignore if I want to get anything on my own agenda done: Republicans don’t need me to pass any of their bills, but I do need their support even if I want one of my bills to get a hearing.

The Republican majority is not going to move bills that only have Democratic support. For any policies that I want to push, I need to find allies from the majority party. That means the policy has to be something that gets support across party lines.

So how does one find common ground in North Carolina’s polarized political environment? I believe that one key is to look for good ideas from all sources, including from my constituents. Even if you voted against me in the election, I want to hear from you if there is something you think the legislature can do to make North Carolina better.

I want to approach my colleagues in Raleigh the same way I approach people here at home. I will listen to anyone who wants to share their perspective with me, and I will always seek places where we can find common ground. If I disagree with you, I will tell you why. And perhaps most importantly, I will keep an open mind when we talk again because we may agree on the next issue we discuss.

Being in the minority means that I don’t have the power to do everything that I want, but it doesn’t mean I can’t do anything. The question is how large is that patch of common ground.

This column was originally published in Graig’s monthly column in the News of Orange.