Republicans may control both chambers of the General Assembly, but they are far from a united front.

After eight years behind the levers of power, a number of fissures have opened up between factions of the party. Some are worthwhile policy debates. Others are squabbles that threaten to derail the state’s progress.

Here are some of the more noteworthy ones.

How to handle the State Health Plan

This has been in the news recently and involves a difference of opinion between influential General Assembly members and Republican state treasurer Dale Folwell.

Under current law, Folwell manages the State Health Plan, the insurance network that covers 720,000+ state employees, teachers and dependents across North Carolina.

To leverage that scale, Folwell is working on a plan to negotiate lower reimbursement rates for health care providers. This would save taxpayers money and help reduce health care costs more broadly.

However, he’s run into opposition from some in his party who worry about the effect this would have on rural hospitals. While saving tax dollars, this money would come directly from their bottom line.

The General Assembly has toyed with the idea of a bill to strip Folwell of his authority to manage the State Health Plan, but as of yet, this has not happened.

Dale Folwell being sworn into office. Photo via the N.C. Treasurer’s office.

Whether to expand Medicaid

As more red states decide to take the federal government up on its Obamacare pledge to help pay for Medicaid expansion, the rumblings get louder that Republicans here in North Carolina might support it.

You can catch up on the issue here. But the short version is this: Medicaid expansion would extend federal health insurance to roughly half a million North Carolinians. These primarily would be able-bodied single adults.

The same politicians who are against Folwell’s plan are pressured to support Medicaid expansion. More people covered by health insurance means more money for hospitals.

UNC Hospitals. Photo by William Yeung via Flickr (Creative Commons)

How to pay for school construction

This is probably the most baffling disagreement on this list. Everyone in North Carolina politics agrees that the state needs to build new schools and fix up older ones.

But there is now an internal fight between Republicans in the House and Senate on how to accomplish this.

House Speaker Tim Moore has continued to pitch a $2 billion school bond, traveling across the state building support for it.

But the state Senate has put forward a plan to use the General Assembly’s capital savings fund to pay for school construction over the next decade. Their calculations show that the state would have enough to fund the $2 billion desired — while avoiding the interest payments that bonds bring with them.

Some sort of resolution will likely be reached in the 2019 long session, but we’ll see which side wins out.

How to handle gun rights

The General Assembly has yet to pass a series of bills that gun rights advocates want to see — but also avoided gun control legislation that has gotten more support in the wake of tragic school shootings nationwide.

Second Amendment advocates have been pushing for “constitutional carry” legislation for years, but it’s continually stalled as the General Assembly hasn’t been able to figure out exactly how broad such a bill would be.

N.C. Republicans also have varying levels of comfort with “red flag” laws that would allow a court procedure to seize firearms from people deemed to be a threat.

Who are the true conservatives?

This type of debate has many different dimensions. Urban vs. Rural. Country vs. Country Club. Fiscal conservative vs. Social conservative.

It’s hard to put your finger on sometimes, but it often plays out in which national figures a person has loyalty to.

You have a faction of the party that gets most excited about political figures like Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, treasurer Dale Folwell and U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows. And then you have a different group who are loyal to folks like former Gov. Pat McCrory, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

If you’ve ever heard somebody called a RINO (Republican In Name Only), this is the conflict you’re a party to.

Supporting current NCGOP leadership

Internally, North Carolina Republicans are in major disagreement about what the state party should focus on moving forward. Should Republicans make a play for urban areas? How strongly should they have backed Mark Harris?

This conflict is playing out over 2019 as current chairman Robin Hayes, and by proxy, executive director Dallas Woodhouse, are up for re-election this summer at the state NCGOP convention.

This conflict has also made its way to General Assembly leaders, particularly Moore.

The state’s Republicans are divided over whether the right leaders are in place.

Donald Trump

The president won more votes in 2016 in North Carolina than McCrory did, but then is likely the reason for the shellacking Republicans took in the 2018 primaries up and down the ballot.

North Carolina GOP members have taken very different approaches to handling the issue of Donald Trump. Some, like Meadows, have fully embraced Trump and been close allies. Others, like Tillis, have been somewhat adversarial. Most, however, have tried to ignore the issue as much as possible.

This will be more difficult, however, as the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte approaches.


  1. Re: your comment on Medicaid expansion, it’s important to note that the majority of single, able-bodied people it would cover are WORKING people. The kinds of jobs and industries the working uninsured occupy are numerous and varied (small business employees, farmers, veterans), though employees in the following jobs and industries make up over 60 percent of the total working uninsured population:
    • food preparers and servers
    • constructon workers
    • home health care aids
    • early childhood educators
    • cashiers and others in the retail, accommodation, arts, and entertainment fields

  2. I was stopped in my tracks when I read the description of the likely beneficiaries of Medicare expansion. I absolutely agree with Ms Reiser. “able-bodied” could easily be changed to “hard-working”, and the implication is entirely different.

  3. “Expanding Medicaid means more money for hospitals.” That’s how you chose to close out that topic? Nothing about improving the health of over a half million of our friends and neighbors? #PatheticBlog


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