OK. Somebody has to go first.
Somebody has to be willing to set partisan division aside and do what is right and fair.
Somebody has to step off of the destructive merry-go-round of what-aboutism and tit-for-tat that masquerades as leadership in state government.
The Democrats had that opportunity this week with the state elections board. And they blew it. By effectively firing N.C. Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach, North Carolina Democrats are doing precisely to N.C. Republicans what the Republicans have done to them: use power as a blunt instrument.
Which gets us nowhere — except where we already are: I hit you. You hit back. I hit you back in retaliation for hitting me back. And so on.
Strach, who is politically unaffiliated, was appointed by a Republican governor, Pat McCrory, in 2013. She has served effectively since that time, most notably in her handling of the ballot-fraud scandal that voided the result of last fall’s 9th District congressional election. The elections board chair, a Democrat, said as much — even as he was announcing that Strach was toast. “Kim kept the elections ship afloat during those trying times,” Chairman Robert Cordle said. “The culmination of her work was the 9th District hearings this year.”
But now that there is a Democratic governor in Roy Cooper, the Democrats hold a 3-2 majority on the elections board.
So, thank you, goodbye and have a nice life. Strach was voted out, along party lines, and will be replaced by Karen Brinson Bell, who has ties to Democrats.
Strach deserved better. Before she was executive director, she was a campaign finance and elections investigator who helped bring to justice some well-known Democrats, including former Speaker of the House Jim Black and former Gov. Mike Easley, was well as Republicans. And, of course, the 9th District investigation disqualified the election of Republican Mark Harris to Congress.
Predictably, Republicans were incensed by Strach’s firing. Conveniently forgetting that they continue to bully Democrats, thanks to their majorities in the House and Senate, they wailed of persecution. Rep. David Lewis complained that “the governor wanted a change and the governor got the change.” Another Republican, state Sen. Ralph Hise (who, incidentally, was investigated for campaign finance violations on Strach’s watch and paid a $4,500 settlement), declared that the elections board now suffers from “a crisis of legitimacy” with Strach’s ouster. Somebody cue the violins.
Republicans have made partisan power-grabbing a blood sport since they seized control of the General Assembly. Even after losing their veto-proof majority, they are still stalling efforts on such worthy bipartisan initiatives as redistricting reform and Medicaid expansion. Not to mention the power they tried to wrest from Cooper once he was elected.
Democrats can cite these, and other examples, as good reasons now to stick to it to the GOP. But at some point somebody has got to do the right thing. The Democrats had that chance with Strach. If they had kept her on the job they would have sounded a hopeful note of bipartisanship in an era when there is so precious little of it. They chose not to.
Sooner or later, when Democrats seize the majority again in Raleigh, they seem intent on doing to Republicans what Republicans have done to them. Payback is a ... well, you know.
Like the Republicans before them, the Democrats will become what they say they abhor. And so on ...