Christensen: Art Pope gives new administration ‘needed muscle’ in Raleigh

The News & Observer‘s veteran political reporter Rob Christensen writes that Gov. Pat McCrory’s hiring of Art Pope as his budget director was “a shrewd move – and not just because Pope works cheap as a $1-a-year man.”

Christensen contributed this column on Pope, who is also President and Chairman of the John William Pope Foundation:

Many people find it difficult to think dispassionately about Pope because he has become such a polarizing figure – knight of the right to his admirers or a somewhat sinister Daddy-Warbucks-Dick-Cheney-string-puller to his critics.

But for McCrory, a rookie governor with little Raleigh experience, having Pope at his side during the early months of his administration has been an asset.

Consider that McCrory is spending three hours a day preparing his state budget for delivery to the legislature later this month.

With the state still trying to shake off the effects of the deep recession, Pope brings a sharp businessman’s eyes to the state budget. Pope, as head of the regional retail chain Variety Wholesalers, is accustomed to competing with retail giants such as Wal-Mart and K-Mart.

Pope is also knowledgeable about state government, having served in the legislature and the administration of Gov. Jim Martin, and been a GOP candidate for lieutenant governor. He’s also a longtime state policy wonk, who has bankrolled free market think tanks and conservative groups in Raleigh.