State Sen. Gene McLaurin said part of his strategy for helping the district he represents is reaching out to the opposition. McLaurin is a Democrat in a legislature controlled by Republicans.
“Because we’re in the minority party in Raleigh, to get things done, I’ve got to work with the other side,” McLaurin told a group of Democrats on Friday in Laurinburg. “I think that’s what you sent me there to do, not to just take a position, but to try to work with people and try to make things happen for our district and our state.”
McLaurin said that is what one of his political idols — the late Terry Sanford — tried to do. McLaurin, who has a photograph taken with Sanford hanging in his office, said that Sanford preferred the term “North Carolina regular” over the label of either conservative or liberal.
But not all of McLaurin’s fellow Democrats like McLaurin’s bipartisan approach.
Betty Blue Gholston, chairman of the Scotland County Democratic Women’s group, questioned the strategy last week.
“We’ve got some major problems in this area and we know that the Republican Party is not always in our best interest,” said Gholston. “So we have to know for a fact that our leaders are up there fighting for our problems in this area, regardless of friendships or whatever it takes. The friendship’s not going to do us any good if they’re not going to work for our cause.”
But McLaurin said that many of the Republican members of the Senate and House of Representatives, are moderates who put the welfare of North Carolina first.
He added that he would oppose extreme conservative measures such as a bill introduced - and summarily shot down - last week that would define a state religion.
“Not all [Republicans] are way over there to the right; some of them are like me and want to see North Carolina make good decisions,” McLaurin said. “Some of them are way out there, and you’ve read some examples this week. One was to basically defy the Constitution and say we need to have a state religion. That’s what our forefathers when they left England for America, that’s why they came: freedom of religion. We don’t need to be dictating to people in that regard.”
McLaurin also expressed concern over a bill that would allow charter schools to hire teachers without licensure or background checks. He said the charter school legislation could underpay teachers while profiting off of the public money provided to them to fill teaching positions.
McLaurin voted against rescind the state’s agreement to lease the campus of Dorothea Dix Hospital to the city of Raleigh. The lease was signed late last year with the intent that the land be converted into a major public park. However, the Senate ultimately voted in favor of revoking the agreement.
“Think about the precedent that sets for our state - we’ve got to have some continuity of government,” McLaurin said. “If Gov. McCrory negotiates a deal as he just did to bring jobs to Wake County and to Charlotte with Metropolitan Life, the last thing we need to do three years from now, if we have a new governor, is say we’re not going to honor that. Who would want to do business with the state of North Carolina if we condemn agreements that we’ve already set?”
McLaurin, the former mayor of Rockingham, took office earlier this year, replacing Laurinburg native Bill Purcell, who was also in attendance at the Friday meeting.