A loss for Democrats

Patrick Gannon, employee, The Insider on June 27, 2014.

There is no stronger or smarter Democratic voice in the General Assembly — and perhaps in all of state government — than Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville.

He soon will be gone, a major loss for a party struggling to maintain a smart, consistent opposition to Republicans who control the Legislature.

Glazier, an attorney, announced last week that this legislative session will be his last, after serving about 13 years representing Cumberland County in the 120-member House. He will become the executive director of the North Carolina Justice Center, a liberal think tank in Raleigh and one of the main antagonists to the Republican majority.

That organization’s gain is the legislative Democrats’ loss. Glazier has been at the forefront of most of his party’s main objections to the Republican majority on issues such as school vouchers, LGBT rights, gun laws and abortion rules. He has stood at the podium during many Democratic press conferences attacking GOP decisions on those and other issues. At the same time, he also is one of few Democrats in recent years to be able to routinely work side-by-side with Republicans on important legislation, even as he carved them up on the House floor with powerful speeches when he didn’t agree on an issue.

This year, he has worked with Republicans to pass into law bills to increase punishments for graffiti vandalism and to make changes to laws related to the treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system.

Even after Republicans took control of the General Assembly after the 2011 elections, Glazier remained among the most effective House members, according to the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research. He ranked in the top five in 2007 and 2009, when Democrats still controlled the House. In 2013, he ranked 16th, the top Democrat.

Glazier’s previous experience as a school board member put him in a good position to advocate for the left on education issues. His experience as a lawyer helped him draft complicated language on many issues and make complex legal and constitutional arguments during floor debates on the most divisive issues. At times at committee meetings, Glazier appeared to be among the few legislators who actually read bills up for discussion, then asked pointed questions and proposed amendments to make them better.

Upon announcing his pending resignation from the House, Glazier received a standing ovation from colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Top GOP leaders in the House issued statements praising him. House Speaker Tim Moore called him a “true friend.” “He stood firm for his convictions, yet was a key player in bipartisan negotiations in the House, and will be missed by colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” Moore said.

Rep. Duane Hall, a Wake County Democrat, tweeted that Glazier’s “tireless work ethic and brilliance” was an inspiration to many House Democrats.

The only negatives came from the state Republican Party, which took the opportunity to criticize the NC Justice Center rather than offer any nice words about Glazier. It was like a team that just lost a game leaving the field without shaking the opponents’ hands.

That move represented what is wrong with politics in North Carolina, while Glazier — even if you disagree with his politics — is an example of what is right.

He’s a big loss for a party that can’t afford any more losses.

Patrick Gannon is the editor of NC Insider.

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