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Majority Leader Hager goes off to Duke’s greener pastures.
By John Sanford Friedrich
“After retiring from Duke Energy and then suffering the effects of a struggling economy on his own small business, Representative Mike Hager decided to use his education and experience in business to first run for the General Assembly in 2010.” So opens the biography for Rep. Mike Hager (R-112 Rutheford). After nearly six years of public service, Hager has announced he shall step down from his seat and position as majority leader.
Duke Power has a tendency to support their former employees, most widely noted in the case of Governor McCrory. Hence it may not shock the informed reader to report that Duke/Progress has donated a total of $100,000 to his three campaigns. Curiously though, often this has been given after an election, perhaps a form of ‘incentivizing.’
These monies have come by way of “employee PACs” by the two electric giants, who are now one corporate person. Such employee PACs are comparable to that of the state employees’ association (SEANC), though in the latter case many NCGOP and state think-tank personalities have decried SEANC for ‘extorting dues’ from unpolitical or conservative employees. One must wonder how voluntary these donations are coming from private sector employees who do not have the benefit of the State Personnel Act to keep them from being fired at their boss’ discretion.
“Lobbying is one of the future work options he’s considering,” reports the Winston-Salem Journal after his recent announcement of a career change. He cited his parents’ declining health as well as also saying “it’s been hard to make a living while serving in the legislature, which pays a part-time salary.”
He may well remain in Duke’s good graces. HB571, of which Hager is an original sponsor, specifically states that “no State agency, board, or commission may adopt rules, expend funds, or take any other action to develop a State Plan, implement the EPA Clean Power Plan, or adopt a carbon dioxide emission reduction plan.” The only avenue for energy efficiency allowed under the bill is toward coal plants’ “Heat Rate,” a measurement of the net generation of saleable electricity minus the costs of running the plant itself. Currently this bill has crossed over to the even more conservative State Senate.
Western North Carolina has a political reality unlike that of the Triangle. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee has also used capital to leverage results from this representative. HB95 seeks to create a reciprocal recognition of liquor-selling rights between tribal authorities at the state ABC board, and extends the zone of such alcohol sales by a number of miles, though not in counties which do not suffer at least one town allowing alcohol sales. The Eastern Band donated $10,000. Such sales cannot help but boost tourist revenue in and about their licensed casinos, though neither the tribal authorities nor the rural county leaderships were eager to promote drinking when the casinos were first authorized.
Moral Monday protests shook up the political balance in North Carolina. HB1071 seeks to assuage the concerns of legislators, as it provides a total of $216,000 in recurring and non-recurring expenditures for metal detectors and four full-time security officers to be posted in the legislature, when either or both chambers are in session. The one-paragraph bill makes no mention of whether concealed-carry rules shall be altered.
He also received an award from North and South Carolina real estate developers for his services. Hager was an at-large delegate to the 2016 RNC; Speaker Moore declined to attend despite also being a delegate.
Hager came in on the 2010 Tea Party wave, besting his Democratic opponent by nearly two-to-one. That margin was tightened by 2014 with Democratic candidate Lisa Harris Bralley garnering over 41 percent.
Spindale Town Councilman Ben Edwards is running as an unaffiliated candidate in opposition to Hager. Had the Democrats been running a candidate this year, they may have been better poised for an upset since the 112th is now an open seat in a possibly anti-Republican cycle. Attorney David Rogers has been appointed by the county's Republican Executive Committee to fill the term and run as the Republican candidate in the fall.
Hager boasted of his ideological flexibility, refraining from even putting a platform on his campaign website, a traditional (and effortless) way for candidates to inform their voting publics.
By not going too far out on social issues and instead focusing on supporting larger businesses, and resigning before a possible widespread defeat of the NCGOP in 2016, the representative leaves himself open to a productive career split between lobbying, eldercare for his parents and appointments to commissions or panels if the NCGOP retains control in 2017.