‘Coup’ in North Carolina: GOP governor signs first of several bills to gut his Democratic successor’s power

North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature passed measures on Friday that will significantly reduce the power of the state’s Democratic governor-elect, in a move that has been blasted by Democrats as a “power grab” and prompted protests.

House and Senate lawmakers approved a bill that will give Republicans control of the state elections board during election years and prevent Democrats from controlling local boards of elections, Raleigh’s News Observer reported. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law shortly afterward.

The bill was one of several brought forward Wednesday to curtail Governor-elect Roy Cooper’s authority. The others are still due to be voted on. They would limit his ability to appoint cabinet members, remove his power to appoint trustees for the University of North Carolina, and dramatically reduce the number of state employees he can hire and fire at will.

Democrats have fiercely criticized the Republican efforts, even calling the bills a “coup.”

The changes go “far beyond the normal partisan wrangling and change of power,” Bob Hall, executive director of the nonpartisan watchdog Democracy North Carolina, told The Washington Post.

“It’s hard to defend the system when people act this way,” he said.

The protesters who rallied inside the legislature this week and chanted “all political power comes from the people” were so loud that the Senate and the House were forced to clear the galleries two days in a row, according to ABC 11. At least 16 people were arrested Friday as debate resumed.

Cooper defeated the Republican incumbent McCrory in November in a narrow race that McCrory refused to concede until last week.

Cooper slammed the lawmakers’ moves on Thursday as “unprecedented,” and warned Republicans he will sue over any law that appears unconstitutional.

“Most people might think that this is a partisan power grab. But this is more ominous,” he said.