RALEIGH — For a position with such few inherent powers, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has tried to influence debates beyond just his stated responsibilities of serving on a few education and energy boards and presiding over North Carolina Senate debate.
Forest won the job in 2012 in his first bid for elected office by only 7,000 votes and is running for re-election next year. He's promoted classroom broadband service statewide, lobbied successfully against Common Core and produced videos challenging critics of GOP education and tax policies. His idea of a $1 billion endowment fund to give bonuses to public school teachers got off the ground but has been slow to develop.
Forest is a favorite of social conservatives, his viewpoints guided by his Christian faith. He was the most vehement among statewide elected leaders after a judge's ruling legalized gay marriage in North Carolina last year, calling on supporters to oppose "judicial tyranny." And the former architect has gotten into downtown Raleigh development, arguing it would be better for the state to sell dilapidated mansions it owns, rather than leave them in disrepair.
Forest, 48, spoke with The Associated Press in an interview this month. Questions and answers were edited for length and AP style.
Q: What would you consider your most important accomplishments while lieutenant governor?
A: We have built a lot of friendships across the aisles with House, Senate members ... We've had a lot of great success on policy work. (He cited the North Carolina Education Endowment Fund, a law designed to protect group-home members from abuse and funding to expand public school digital learning).
Q: On the North Carolina Education Endowment Fund, you got just $1 million from the General Assembly in 2014 but it hasn't really taken off. Has that been one of the more frustrating things for you so far?
A: We didn't push hard because we knew there was just so many priorities out there ... we knew we were probably going to have to wait until the next long session perhaps to really hit it hard ... The way I see the endowment is that it's going to outlive all of us.
Q: You and your wife have homeschooled all of your children. Do you think that puts you at a disadvantage or advantage when you talk about public education?
A: I don't know if it's an advantage or disadvantage, but I would say that almost every initiative that is trying to be pushed forward in public education are things that the homeschooler community's been doing now for 15 years ... there's not a teacher in the state of North Carolina who wouldn't love to have the same opportunity that a homeschool parent has to be able to take a child and customize their curriculum to that child, customize their educational experiences based on (the children's) gifts and their strengths and their weaknesses.
Q: How would you describe your relationship with fellow Republican Gov. Pat McCrory?
A: It's gotten better with time. ... I told them this early on, I said, "Governor, we obviously won't always agree on everything ... (but) I'll always come to you and tell you why we disagree and you will at least have a heads-up on it before we do anything."
Q: Would you like to run for governor some day?
A: Yeah I do, but also the caveat to that is to say it's a long time from now ... I've been around politics my whole life (his mother is former U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick). There's no shiny object out there, there's no glamor to it, it's a really hard job.
Q: You identify yourself as an evangelical Christian. In a society that seems to be more multicultural, how do you deal with the fact your viewpoints could alienate people you want to vote for you?
A: I have always said I will lead based on who am I, based on my principles, regardless of the consequences of that. So if the consequence of my leadership and leading from a Christian world-view perspective is I don't get elected next time, then that's what it is.