It’s time for the seventh (!) edition of our 50-state tour of the worst politicians in America. Today, we’re examining the worst politicians in……….NORTH CAROLINA.
A reminder: Every two weeks, we’re going to highlight a different state, so that by the end, you’ll have a full panorama of the trash pile that is American democracy from coast to coast. You can click here to find our full, growing archive of entries. If you have ideas for bad politicians we should be focusing on, you can send us names by filling out our Google form—and you can submit the form as many times as you want, so don’t worry about narrowing down your list.
The latest stop on our road trip finds us in North Carolina—home to Paul, formerly home to Rafi, and also home to a veritable cornucopia of the horrendous fiends known as “politicians.” This is the state that gave us John Edwards and then challenged itself to go even lower—and, based on this list, North Carolina succeeded.
A note: going through a list of every single monster in North Carolina politics would result in a list that you could see from space, so take the people featured here as representatives of a much deeper pool. Away we go! Here are the worst politicians in North Carolina.
North Carolina State Senate President Phil Berger (R)
Since Republicans took control of the state Senate in 2011, there have been three governors and two House Speakers, but just one Phil Berger. Berger has become the state’s most powerful politician and has used that power to attack LGBTQ people, workers, voting rights, the poor, the environment, and more. As a result, North Carolina has become a laboratory for the worst impulses of conservative government—think of almost anything insane or cruel you’ve heard about North Carolina politics over the past decade, Phil Berger is heavily responsible for it.
Rep. Dan Bishop (R)
A lot of the people featured in these blogs are what you might call “freaks,” and Bishop certainly fits the bill. Where to even begin? He’s pursuing freak legislation against (sigh) so-called “critical race theory.” He led the efforts to pass HB2, the notorious anti-trans bill only loved by freak bigots. And he’s making weird freak missions like yet another dumb GOP overhaul of healthcare part of his core legislative agenda. Just pack it in ya freak!
State Sen. Ralph Hise (R)
Ralph Hise… what is there to say. You could note that he broke barriers by being the youngest member of the NC State House when he was elected in 2011, at the age of 35. You could also say that he used that youthful vigor to become one of the state’s most active crusaders for almost every Republican atrocity campaign in the years since. This is a man who sponsored a bill attempting to make gender confirmation surgery illegal for adults under 21, under the absurd auspices of the “Youth Health Protection Act,” and who led the charge against Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s attempts to expand Medicaid access in the state. Along the way, it also appears he may have engaged in some of the garden-variety corruption that these state-level bigwigs cannot seem to avoid. Hise got his degree in statistics, so he might appreciate that if you run the numbers, there’s an overwhelmingly significant chance that he’s a giant asshole.
State Sen. and Shitty Boss Brent Jackson (R)
Brent Jackson is one of the less-outspoken members of the North Carolina Senate, but one of its more powerful as a longtime co-chair of the Senate Budget Committee. He also runs a farm in Duplin County that has been the subject of numerous complaints from and on behalf of workers, including retaliation against workers who’ve filed complaints or tried to organize for better conditions, and was forced to settle with a group of workers who’d been fired in 2016. Unsurprisingly, Jackson has spent much of his time in the legislature protecting the interests of weakening the rights of farmworkers and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) union that represents them, as well as attacking whistleblowers. The only thing worse than a horrible boss is a horrible boss overseeing labor regulations.
Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson (R)
Terry Johnson is the racist crypt keeper of a sheriff for Alamance County. First elected in 2002, Johnson has worked in law enforcement for 50 years, which might explain why his office is mostly concerned with demonizing immigrants, protecting Confederate statues, and attacking protesters. In 2019, he claimed that “criminal” immigrants were “raping our citizens in many, many ways,” which still got him $2.8 million of federal funding for ICE and U.S. Marshals contracts that he asked the county for. (It should come as no surprise that the DOJ sued him in 2012 for racially targeting Latinx people for traffic stops and arrests since 2007, telling his deputies, “If you see a Mexican, don’t write a citation, arrest him.”). Last June, Johnson briefly banned demonstrations in the city of Graham, amid protests to remove the city’s Confederate monument. (It should also be no surprise that Johnson has a record of friendliness with neo-Confederate types.) And during an October march to the polls, Johnson’s deputies pepper-sprayed demonstrators, including children, and arrested several people. Johnson is named in at least three lawsuits over the event. He sucks, and is the definition of “only the good die young,” embodied.
State Rep. Larry Pittman (R)
Sometimes these people make it too easy for us. Here’s what you need to know about Larry: he thinks Abraham Lincoln was as bad as Hitler; he wants to repeal North Carolina’s ban on seceding from the U.S.; he’s called for doctors who perform abortions to be hanged; and he said that the Parkland shooting was part of a conspiracy by gun control advocates. You get the picture!
All-Around Evil Man Art Pope (R)
Art Pope may have a name that’s eerily similar to a 2013 Lady Gaga album, but don’t let this guy fool you, he’s the antithesis of pop music: evil, dumb, boring, zero spectacle, and here to suck the life out of everyone he encounters. Pope is the multimillionaire owner and CEO of Variety Wholesalers, which operates hundreds of discount stores across the country. He’s also a former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives and served as the Budget Director under Governor Pat McCrory. That resume is just a small hint at the years Pope has spent ensuring that his icky conservative fingers are all over the state’s government and educational system. In that time, he’s cultivated an incredible sphere of influence over the Republican Party, in no small part thanks to the checks he’s been cutting them.
Pope has a seemingly pathological desire to reshape public policy and higher education in North Carolina. He’s built a “think tank empire” (he founded both the Civitas Institute and the John Locke Foundation) and his John W. Pope Foundation has donated millions of dollars to conservative and libertarian think tanks and advocacy groups, including Americans for Prosperity and Prager University, as well as a fair share of outwardly racist causes, among other things. He’s also given the University of North Carolina a ton of money over the years, while also railing against the school for being too liberal and politically correct, while also simultaneously supporting cutting funding for North Carolina’s university system. These contradictions would maybe (maybe) be more interesting if they weren’t so transparently self-serving and terrifying: Pope was recently appointed to a seat on the UNC Board of Governors, a foreboding development considering his track record. As The Washington Post aptly put it: “He is not just a wealthy donor seeking to influence politics from the outside, nor just a government official shaping it from within. He is doing both at the same time.” Cool!!!!! Very cool!!! Art Pope is living proof that money can absolutely buy you power, and all too often, those with the money want more money, more power, right-wing ideals, and complete ideological control. And the fact that Pope has achieved as much of that as he has is living proof that our system is completely fucked.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R)
Let’s hear it for Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, the human embodiment of “posting through it.” And by “it” I mean his long, long, long history of sharing absolutely batshit content to his 100K-plus followers on Facebook, including screeds against Marvel’s Black Panther (“created by an agnostic Jew and put to film by satanic Marxist” in order to “pull the shekels out of your Schvartze pockets”) former President Barack Obama (“a worthless, anti-American atheist”) and Muslim Americans (“INVADERS” who “refuse to assimilate to our ways while demanding respect they have not earned.” Robinson, the state’s first Black lieutenant governor, first came into the public’s eye after delivering an impassioned pro-gun rant at a Greensboro City Counsel meeting just two months after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Asked about his history of saying truly insane things, Robinson responded with a level of confidence that befits a shitposter of his stature, saying simply, “I’m not ashamed of anything I post.”
Photos remixed by Samantha Grasso. Credits, in order: Phil Berger/YouTube; danbishopnc/Facebook; North Carolina General Assembly; Brent Jackson/Facebook; The News & Observer/YouTube; North Carolina General Assembly; WXII 12 News/YouTube; Mark Robinson/Facebook