The North Carolina State Senate voted today to elect conservative businessman and political donor Art Pope to the Board of Governors. 

The vote was 32-15. Pope will be filling a seat left by former Senator Bob Rucho; his term will begin July 1 and last through July 2021. 

Pope’s nomination, which was announced last night by the General Assembly, has been met with a flurry of online outrage. 

“You’ve got to be f***ing kidding me,” Senator Sam Searcy of Holly Springs wrote on Twitter. “This is an insult to the UNC system and what we get with a Republican majority bought and paid for by Art Pope.”

No Democrat, however, spoke up against the selection on Thursday night.

Pope, a multimillionaire and heir to a family discount-store conglomerate, has had a hand in every major political pot in North Carolina, with special attention paid to bankrolling the 2010 Republican takeover of the North Carolina state legislature and funding organizations that supported 2016’s HB2 “bathroom bill,” as well as funding climate change denial campaigns. In addition, Pope had a strong hand in Republican redistricting efforts and was in the room when the map was being redrawn.

Although Pope is less moneyed than conservative tycoons like the Koch Brothers, he has been a Koch associate for years and has served as a leader in national conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity. In 1995, he made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Board of Governors. Pope later served as a McCory-appointed State Budget director.

As Jane Mayer reported in her 2011 New Yorker profile, the Pope family has had a sustained interest in the 17-campus UNC system. Pope’s father, John W. Pope, was a trustee at UNC who believed, as Mayer reported, that UNC-Chapel Hill had been overtaken by “radical scholars.” 

The timing of Art Pope’s nomination comes in the middle of a period of immense racial reckoning in the state’s public university system. 

As a first-year student at UNC-Chapel Hill, Pope sued Black Student Movement leader Algenon Marbley for interrupting Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke at a UNC appearance.

Pope defended his actions in a 2017 letter to the editor in The Daily Tarheel, writing “Today, and in 1975, I vehemently disagree(d) with Duke and the KKK.”

Art Pope did not immediately respond to the INDY‘s request for comment. 

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One reply on “Multimillionaire Republican Powerbroker Art Pope Appointed to Board of Governors”

  1. Please tell me why NC Democrats keeps rolling over and playing dead? It seems like it is not just Republicans that need to be replaced.

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