With filing for the 2020 election coming up in a little over two months, campaigning for state races is gearing up, making the state House’s recent override of the governor’s budget veto a flashpoint.
Republican State Rep. Jamie Boles, whose House District 59 represents much of Moore County, is expected to seek another term and could face his Democratic opponent from 2018, Lowell Simon.
As such, the two spent much of this past week trying to win voters to their perspective over the House’s budget vote Sept. 11.
Simon took out a half-page ad in the Sept. 18 edition of The Pilot criticizing Boles and the GOP House leadership for taking advantage of the 9/11 anniversary to carry out the vote.
The heading on the ad said that on Sept. 11, Boles “sat front and center and helped his Republican bosses hijack democracy.” It includes the iconic photo of fire firefighters raising an American flag on a pole in the rubble of the World Trade Towers in New York and another photo from House chamber at 8:35 a.m. that Wednesday, highlighting Boles sitting at his desk on the first row.
“In a sneak attack on Democracy, Boles and fellow House Republicans voted to override the governor’s budget veto and to reject expanded health care, higher teacher pay and better schools,” the ad said. “They dodged democratic debate by calling a vote while House colleagues had their backs turned. Instead of doing their jobs, they snuck through more corporate tax breaks and more pork-barrel spending.”
Boles responded the following day after his office in Raleigh began receiving phone calls and emails from voters angered by the tactics of the GOP House leadership.
Boles sent an email to his constituents defending the vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto and how it was handled. He included a detailed timeline, provided by House Speaker Tim Moore’s office, of the chain of events to back Republicans’ assertion that they did nothing improper.
“I would like to share my perspective on this event and clear up misinformation spread by various individuals and media outlets,” Boles wrote. “I want to assure you that there was not a calculated effort to ensure the House Democrats did not attend the scheduled session on Sept. 11 at 8:30 a.m. My office has received calls and emails questioning my integrity and that of the Republican majority. I believe that voting for the veto override was the correct course of action for me to take for the citizens of this state.
“The narrative that the budget veto override vote … had anything to do with 9/11 ceremonies is a provably false fabrication debunked by credible sources — the House Democrats themselves,” he wrote. “This was a mistake by the House Democratic leadership that they took responsibility for in their press conference Wednesday morning.”
Boles said the House had a regular session planned for that morning.
“Furthermore, there was never a public communication of a no-vote session from the speaker, which is customary,” he wrote. “In fact, there were two public announcements the previous day that votes would be taken. That’s why I attended the 8:30 a.m. session.”
Boles said that had he been told by the speaker that there were to be no votes, he would have attended the 9/11 commemoration event at the Southern Pines Fire Department as he has for the past 17 years.
As majority deputy whip in the House, Boles’ job is to count up votes and make sure his party members are present.
“I was not asked to perform my whip duties on Sept. 11, but I have been asked several times over the past two months to do so in anticipation of an attempted veto override,” he wrote. “When I arrived on the House floor that morning it was clear my fellow Republicans and I were equally surprised by the attendance. Thus, Speaker Moore made an impromptu decision to call for the override vote, as it had been routinely calendared for weeks.”
Boles also defended the budget passed by the General Assembly.
“Lastly, let us not forget, this is a great budget for Moore County and the entire state,” he said.
In a brief telephone interview Monday morning, Boles acknowledged that the leadership wanted its members to set the record straight on how the events played out.
“It was not calculated in any way,” he reiterated. “It just happened. I stand by my vote to override the governor’s veto as the right thing to do. For two months we’d been waiting to have the necessary votes. I was not told (by the leadership) to be there that morning.”
Simon said Monday afternoon that his reason for running the ad was that he felt Boles needed to be “called out” for how this happened.
“One of the things I have been saying is that we should not be surprised by this,” he said of how Republican leaders handled the override vote. “There has been a lot of ‘he said, she said.’ To me, all of that is not relevant. It is how it happened. The most important thing is someone saw an opportunity to pull a quick one to circumvent the democratic process.
“Someone should have said this is not the right way to do that. This issue is too important for North Carolina. It has to be worked out together.”
Simon said there had been a lot of debate on the budget, before and after it was passed by the General Assembly and vetoed by Cooper. He said North Carolina is “evenly split” politically and this is a case where government leaders, Democrat and Republican, have to work together.
“We all can’t agree on everything,” he said. “We need to find common ground. Everyone is sick and tired of people thinking they have a mandate when they don’t. People want our government to work together.”