Reives on leadership role, moving N.C. forward


Rep. Robert Reives II, who won re-election to his Dist. 54 N.C. House seat in November, was recently chosen by his fellow Democrats as House Minority Leader for the second time. Reives has served in the state General Assembly since 2014.

He spoke recently with the News + Record about his outlook for the coming two-year legislative term.

Let’s start with your re-election as House Minority Leader. What do you think that says about the confidence your colleagues have in you, and how are you feeling about this honor?

I am extremely appreciative of my caucus for entrusting me with this position again. I think it is a testament to the hard work that we put in over the past two years and the major accomplishments we achieved working across the aisle. I look forward to continuing in this position and building upon the success we had in the previous session.

From a practical standpoint, with some changes in House membership, how will your role as House Minority Leader change in the coming legislative sessions?

Practically speaking, this position will not change much. We have never failed to sustain a veto under Governor Cooper, and I do not anticipate that changing. It will be more difficult because our margin for error is nearly nonexistent, but I hope that this important check remains intact and that it encourages our friends across the aisle to work with us. Our state is made better when both parties have to negotiate. A supermajority — of either party — prevents the important voice of the Governor in those conversations.

Looking back on this past fall, what did the election process and your campaigning teach you or leave you with — what did you gain from the work you did to get re-elected that will serve you well for another two years?

Campaigning in the toughest race I have had since being appointed to this office has taught me a lot. Primarily, it reiterated my belief that we need to be listening to every constituent, not just the ones who vote for us. Having competitive races in every district would create a legislative body that is more open to compromise and working together. Entrenched partisanship is not the best way to run our state.

You’ve talked a lot in the last couple of years about cross-aisle cooperation and working across party lines. In the next two years, what Democratic policies and goals will you work to advance?

Workforce development remains a top priority for my caucus and for me. This requires fully funding public education, making meaningful steps in expanding broadband access — not just throwing money at the problem, promoting fair elections and finally reducing health care costs, which requires, among other things, expansion of coverage.

Are there any Republican policies/goals that you’re wary of?

The majority ran on the promise of a heartbeat ban with no real exceptions. That has incredibly negative effects on women’s health care and employment and is contrary to what the majority of North Carolinians favor. Free and fair elections are another. Gerrymandering has plagued our state for decades and unfortunately that will not go away. Redistricting does not have to be approved by the Governor so we will not be able to prevent districts that do not reflect the makeup of the state. Moore v. Harper, which is being considered by the US Supreme Court at this very moment, could have major implications for North Carolina and every state moving forward.

And finally, in what ways can the two parties work together in the coming two-year term to move N.C. forward?

Over the previous session we showed a real ability to work together on economic development issues. Increasing prosperity in North Carolina helps everyone, regardless of political party. We should also keep in mind that these jobs locating in North Carolina do not have to stay here. When we veer toward legislating on divisive social issues rather than making lives better, we can easily lose the investments made. That is why it is important for us to actually come together and find workable solutions instead of focusing on scoring political points.

What specific challenges do you want the General Assembly to “fix” for North Carolinians in the next two years? What’s on that list for you?

Expanding health care coverage to more North Carolinians will improve so many lives. I know there is bipartisan interest in accomplishing that this session so that is at the top of our priority list. Education funding remains important, not just funding classrooms but making sure that our educators and support staff have competitive pay. And with the uncertainty we face with the economy, we should consider how we can make sure state employee salaries, and retirees, keep pace with inflation. I am less optimistic that we will fix fundamental issues with our elections, like fair maps, but I will continue to advocate for that as well.

And what are your specific goals to help Chatham County and your district (including that slice of Randolph County) in the coming term?

Our district is a microcosm of the state. We have wealthy, quickly-growing parts of Chatham County and rural parts in the western part of the county that need more attention right now. I am excited that, within this district, we have the Toyota plant, VinFast and Wolfspeed all coming. Those are going to need thousands of workers, and we can provide them from within our community. To that end, we need to ensure Chatham County and Randolph County schools are the best they can be. We need to provide ample funding for CCCC to help train workers. We should continue targeting broadband investments to make high-speed internet available to every resident. And we should work with local and state leaders to find creative ways to make housing more affordable so that everyone can call Chatham home without struggling to pay their rent or mortgage.

Reives can be reached at