Editorial: Odd sight

Bob Rucho, Robert Brawley choose to give up power
Jun. 16, 2013 @ 03:28 AM

It’s a strange sight to see politicians stepping aside for matters of principle, but it has happened twice now in less than a month.

State Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenberg, resigned Thursday as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, essentially because Senate leader Phil Berger scrapped the tax-reform plan that Rucho authored – and that the full Senate had already approved – in favor of a less sweeping plan closer to what House leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory support.

His resignation came less than a month after Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, resigned as chairman of the House Finance Committee because House Speaker Thom Tillis had overruled Brawley on a number of issues in ways that chafed Brawley’s sense of what’s right.

It’s easy to look at these resignations cynically and say they are perfect illustrations of what happens when people who are used to being in the minority, where your efforts are focused on blocking and attacking, finally find themselves in the position of having to govern. In other words, Brawley and Rucho didn’t get their way, so they took their ball and went home.

But of both resignations, we can say this: The party leadership endorsed positions that both men felt were out of step with what they understood the party’s philosophy to be, and they felt they couldn’t support those positions, so they stepped down from their own leadership roles.

That those roles gave them considerable power over spending decisions, traditionally used both for pet projects and as a cudgel to keep other legislators in line, makes the resignations more impressive. Not many people choose to walk away from that kind of power without something just as powerful ahead of them.

While we would like people in both parties try harder to find compromises on the major issues of the day – including reforming the state’s tax code – and therefore wish Brawley and Rucho were more flexible in general, they resigned for matters of philosophy and their sense of integrity.

Political resignations more often happen because of tawdry personal affairs or official wrongdoing spilling into the open, so this situation is refreshing.