#ncga: The Edgar Starnes affair

legisI’ve been hearing some grumbling about former House majority leader Edgar Starnes’s (R) decision to give up his House seat and skedaddle over to state treasurer Janet Cowell’s (D) team.

I didn’t know much about Starnes before he ascended to the leadership. But this video — in which he completely pisses off Blinkin’ Chris & co. — helped him score major points with me.

Starnes did offer up a public explanation for this post-election decision to resign his seat:

[…] Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, said he’ll resign his seat at midday Tuesday, the day before lawmakers return to Raleigh for a one-day housekeeping session. On Wednesday, he’ll begin his job as senior policy adviser for Cowell, a Democrat, and serve as her liaison to the Republican-led legislature.

Starnes, who served one term in the 1980s, then continuously since 1997, won his 11th term in November unopposed. He also previously served as a chairman of the House Finance Committee.

“I probably accomplished as much as I hoped to be able to accomplish and so at some point in time you have to realize it’s time to move on and find new challenges and new opportunities, and I look at this as a challenge and an opportunity,” Starnes said in an interview.

He said discussions with Cowell’s office about the job increased around the time of the election, so he decided not to seek a second term as majority leader in late November. Starnes said his hiring was finalized about a week ago. […] 

esMy sources in the House were rather disappointed with Starnes’s performance as majority leader.  They all agree he is a nice guy, but said he was very easy to dismiss and basically run over.

There was some speculation that Starnes might try to run for speaker after Thom Tillis’s departure for DC.  But, as one Republican legislator quipped to me: “Ol’ Edgar can’t even keep Grandma Julia Howard in line.  How in the hell can you expect him to run the whole House — much less the Republican caucus?”

My understanding — supported by my GOP caucus sources — was that there actually was little to no interest in giving Starnes an encore as majority leader.

If we’re to believe Starnes’s spin that he had accomplished as much as he had hoped to accomplish, WHY did he run for reeelection?  WHY not announce your retirement prior to the May primary, so local voters can make a decision on who holds that seat for the next two years?   I’ll answer that FOR you.  It appears Starnes waited for the right time so that the governor and party insiders could pick his successor.  And it appears Starnes’s desired successor is his wife.  If it all works out, Mrs. Starnes will get appointed and be able to run for reelection — as an incumbent — in 2016. 

I think the real story here is that Starnes was having a hard time adjusting to the idea of going from House majority leader and a powerful committee chairman to merely a run of the mill House member.  He saw an opportunity for a different direction, and took it.


5 thoughts on “#ncga: The Edgar Starnes affair

  1. Here’s what I’m hearing as “the rest of the story”:
    The Ds tried to get legislation passed that would hide details of the $90,000,000,000 NC pension fund investments long enough to protect Cowell. It didn’t get enough support from Rs to pass.

    Now we see a top R going to work for Cowell. He can twist a few R arms to get that bill passed and in exchange the Ds won’t make a fuss about his wife being shuffled into his old seat.

    Starnes did some dirty work for Tillis by kicking Brawley out of the GOP caucus and now he’s offered this job.

    I would love to see an investigative journalist from one of the big newspapers in the state look into this and see if the accusations are true.

  2. After years and years of actions which seemed to simply be status quo and going along with those in power, suddenly during his last term it seemed like Edgar Starnes, as house majority leader, was taking the direction of buddying up with the constitutionalists faction of the house and bucking the establishment. He was quoted in the news & observer as calling out Tillis over the board of governors ordeal and the fact that Tillis had them elect a democrat. He pushed 10th amendment legislation. He even voted AGAINST the bill which gave Treasurer more leeway for risky alternative (crony) investments, opposing both Janet Cowell and Thom Tillis, who himself voted to ensure its passage. Then during the primary last year something happened. In a shock move – he publicly retracted his endorsement of grassroots house rep Robert Brawley. According to his stated timeline of when he was approached about this job, it was shortly thereafter that the offer was made to him to move over to Janet Cowell’s office. We then saw him hold the vote to kick Brawley out of the house republican caucus. These actions were baffling to me, as I knew that he had previously attended events in support of Brawley and vice versa. It was evident that some event had gone down to change things. Not unlike his sudden departure from support of Thom Tillis a year prior. Difficult to know whose side he is on at any moment, given these very sudden unexplainable actions from him. One thing that is clear is he was offered a deal from the devil and he took it. Now it will be his job to advocate for the things he previously seemed to oppose.

  3. What he did to Robert Brawley made me lose all respect I ever had for Edgar Starnes, and I have known him going back to YR days.

    I think one thing that is being missed is that legislative salaries are rather meager compared to salaries in the executive branch. Someone ought to look at the public record of what his new salary will be. I suspect that a big part of this is selling out for cash. As I recall, there are also pension implications, combining his years of legislative service with his new high paid position.

    Hopefully, someone in the district will run against Starnes’ wife and stop that nepotism.

  4. What is also so bizarre about this is why with a Republican governor in office, a Republican legislator who wants a full time executive branch job with a bigger pay check has to go to a Democrat Council of State department instead of one of the cabinet departments under the control of the governor? In the Martin administration, Wilma Sherrill in the governor’s office would have lined such a legislator up with something in a GOP controlled department. But then Governor McCrory has abdicated personnel matters to the individual cabinet secretaries, many of whom are not even Republican, and those who are Republican are usually not party team players.

    I would much rather see someone like Starnes, for all his faults, working in the McCrory administration than some of the non-Republicans who have been hired there, including in legislative liaison positions.

    The important thing in electing a Republican to office is that they will carry out Republican policy, but appointing non-Republicans to key policy positions makes that unlikely.

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