-By Tarini Parti
May 11, 2013- The GOP lost big nationally in 2012, but may have found the key to future success in one southern state.
Cash from groups backed by the Koch brothers and others helped North Carolina Republicans build a robust conservative infrastructure and fundraising network, leading to the GOP winning both the governor’s mansion and the state legislature in the same year for the first time since Reconstruction.
That takeover didn’t come overnight, but it caught Democrats by surprise, especially since Barack Obama carried the state in 2008 and lost only by 2 percentage points last year.
The hope, say conservatives, is to replicate their successes elsewhere.
“Getting dramatic economic change at the federal level is very difficult,” said Tim Phillips, president of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. “A few years ago, the idea we had was to create model states. North Carolina was a great opportunity to do that – more so than any other state in the region. If you could turn around a state like that, you could get real reform.”
Since November, change has come quickly.
Gov. Pat McCrory appointed a Koch ally and major Republican donor, Art Pope, as the state’s budget director.
In the legislature, Republicans are expected to pass an overhaul of the state’s tax code, the public education system and election laws, including a controversial voter ID bill. The state House on Monday voted to allow concealed weapons on college campuses, at sporting events and in businesses that serve alcohol.
Several other measures, such as one that would establish Christianity as the official state religion, are not expected to pass but have made national headlines in recent weeks.