I’m frequently asked what Governor Hunt would do in Governor Perdue’s situation – since he faced the first Republican House majority 16 years ago.
Here’s what he did: Got what he could. Then picked a fight.
Of course, much was different then. Democrats still held the Senate. Hunt’s approval ratings were in the 60s. The economy – and budget – were strong.
Also, Hunt had been at odds with House Democrats on two big issues: crime and gubernatorial veto. So he cozied up to Republicans, who agreed with him on both, and got them passed. (Republicans may live to regret the veto.)
Hunt even talked then-Speaker Harold Brubaker into cosponsoring his Good Schools Act – including higher pay for teachers.
Then Hunt picked a couple of strategic fights. Smart Start was one. The other came in the summer of 1996 – when Hunt was up for reelection. His opponent was then-state Rep. Robin Hayes.
When budget talks broke down late that summer, the House adjourned. “We’re out of here,” Hayes famously said.
So Hunt began travelling around the state. He held hearings on how the lack of a budget was hurting schools, community colleges, law enforcement, human services and on and on.
The Republicans caved. And Hunt cruised to reelection.
Take what lesson you will.