EDITORIAL: Richard Morgan's Roller Coaster Ride
Those of us who've never run in an election don't realize how personally devastating it can be to lose one. Abe Lincoln said it made him feel "like the boy that stumped his toe -- it hurt too bad to laugh, and he was too big to cry."
State Rep. Richard Morgan, who propelled himself to the dizzying upper echelons of the N.C. House before losing to Joe Boylan in a bruising Republican primary last spring, clearly still felt that way when he sat down last week for a Q&A interview with The Pilot, published Sunday. He was in no mood to laugh, but he didn't want anybody to see him crying.
Still embittered about the tactics used against him, Morgan also made it all too clear that he is not the least bit interested in admitting any mistakes or sharing in any of the blame for his own downfall.
Not Down for the Count
Morgan can point with pride to some significant accomplishments in the legislature. The hog farm moratorium he pushed through was one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in North Carolina history. He was a staunch advocate of open government and was known as a man who kept his word.
The co-speakership Morgan engineered with Democrat Jim Black -- though no doubt motivated at least as much by a quest for personal power as a desire to improve legislative efficiency -- did usher in a period of unprecedented bipartisan cooperation.
Having Morgan in such a powerful position to get things done benefited Moore County greatly. As just one example, he was able to get the funding for the new senior center that is about to open.
Don't count him out yet. He's way too accustomed to walking the halls of power to be content with spending the rest of his life puttering around on his cattle farm.
On balance, it's impossible to interview him without coming away thinking that what we have here is something akin to a classic Greek tragedy -- the dramatic story of a powerful but flawed man brought low by the machinations of his enemies.
Some say the worst of those enemies was Art Pope of Raleigh, the wealthy former legislator who set out to get him defeated in his home district last spring. Others might disagree, suggesting that Richard Morgan's worst enemy was Richard Morgan himself.
When we asked Morgan if he had any regrets from his 16 years in the legislature, he had a surprising answer.
He could have said that he regretted some of the tactics he employed when he was rising higher than any other Republican in Raleigh. He might even have said that he had some second thoughts about the high-stakes deal he cut with Black, without which he might still be a legislator -- though a little farther down on the pecking order.
Or he could have simply said he was bothered by the realization that he had come down on the wrong side on some particular legislation. Lord knows there were ample opportunities for that to happen over the course of so many years.
But after contemplating the question for a few seconds, all the speaker pro tem had to say was, "I regret perhaps a little bit playing by the rules when other folks don't. But I have a belief that eventually right will prevail."
One was left wishing for a more generous or graceful reply. But then, we're not the one who just stumped his toe so painfully.
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