I guess if I’d been working in downtown Raleigh today (Thursday) my head would have been spinning.
Politicians of all stripes tried to spin news that Continental Tire had chosen a South Carolina site over one located in Brunswick County to their advantage. The economic development effort had been dubbed “Project Soccer.”
Thursday morning, GOP Senate President Pro-tem Phil Berger of Rockingham County issued a statement critical of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, saying Perdue’s proposal “reeked of cronyism.”
Campaign donors to Perdue and other Democrats owned the Brunswick County property picked for the proposed plant and Perdue’s son works for the law firm that was advising the tire company.
Moments before the clock struck noon, the N.C. Democratic Party fired off an email putting the ball in Berger’s court, saying that he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
“The only thing Phil Berger cares about is advancing his own political agenda and pushing his personal vendetta against Gov. Perdue,” said David Parker, N.C. Democratic Party chairman. “Apparently Phil Berger would rather see jobs go to South Carolina than work with the governor. Perhaps he should consider running for office in South Carolina because he certainly isn’t looking out for North Carolinians.”
Not to be outdone, the N.C. Republican Party sent out a statement suggesting that Perdue’s hadn’t stood up to organized labor enough in addition to the campaign donor and her son’s connection to the site. “The troubling choice of a property owned by Perdue’s major donors proved to Continental that the governor was far more interested in pay-to-play politics than actual job creation,” said Robin Hayes, state GOP chairman.
More volleys were lobbed during the afternoon.
Berger called a press conference in which he said the ownership of the property and specifics of the financing deal were causes of concern.
Berger said that legislators needed more information on where the money was going to come from and suggested that the state stick with offering $3 million a year in incentives for 15 years rather than providing the money up front.
“These are tax dollars we’re talking about,” Berger said.
The state Democratic Party then sent out another press release, saying that if the jobs had come to North Carolina, Brunswick County’s unemployment would fall from 10.7 percent to 8.1 percent.
GOP House Speaker Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg County
“We made every effort to work in concert with the governor’s office, but requests by my office for critical information were often delayed or sometimes ignored,” Tillis said.
Perdue issued a statement saying that Berger was “making reckless accusations in order to evade responsibility for his own decision.”
Perdue went on. “I didn’t have any involvement in the site selection process, and it didn’t matter to me what piece of land the company selected, as long as the 1,300 jobs came to North Carolina,” she said.
Chris Mackie, Perdue’s spokeswoman, said that Perdue administration officials did offer funding mechanisms for the project.