Raleigh, N.C. — Former Gov. Pat McCrory says he's not ruling out a future in public office following his re-election defeat in 2016.
McCrory was in Raleigh this weekend ahead of a scheduled speech at the Civitas 2017 Conservative Leadership Conference. In an interview with WRAL News on Friday, the Republican and former Charlotte mayor said it's been a "tough transition" to leave a job he loved following a close loss to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me because you put your heart and soul in a campaign," McCrory said. "I was more concerned about my team because my team wanted another term, and that impacted a lot of people in my cabinet, and we were looking forward to a second term of problem solving."
He noted lower unemployment rates, teacher pay raises and other successes he said left the state in much better shape than when he took office in 2013. But the former governor said he believed he lost the public relations war before the election.
"I failed to get the message out about the successes we had, and that includes getting the media to talk about it," McCrory said. "I think the protestors in front of the mansion were more effective with the media than I was."
McCrory declined to "revisit the issue" of House Bill 2, the law that caught statewide and national attention for requiring people to use public bathrooms matching their gender at birth and excluding gay and transgender people from discrimination protections. The battle that led to House Bill 2's eventual repeal raged throughout the 2016 campaign, a controversy that some political observers say contributed to McCrory's loss.
He said, however, that he wished the Charlotte City Council, which passed a nondiscrimination ordinance state lawmakers sought to override with House Bill 2, had dealt with it differently.
"I'm not going to bring it back because nothing's changed from the time I came into office to now. It was a symbolic issue, and now it was a symbolic solution with little or no meaning, and it's time to move on," McCrory said. "I think the media was played, the people were played by the Left that brought that issue to North Carolina."
McCrory has spoken publicly in the months since the election, for example at a recent state GOP convention. Although he said he hasn't yet made a decision on whether to run for office again, he's not closing the door on the possibility. He pointed to former Gov. Jim Hunt, who lost the 1984 U.S. Senate race to Sen. Jesse Helms but came back to win two more terms as governor.
"I'd be foolish not to reconsider coming back, but I won't make that decision for a very long time," he said.
McCrory declined to analyze Cooper's first few months in office, although he's been recently critical of his Democratic rival's handling of storm relief. But he said he hopes to see both the Democratic administration and the Republican legislature tackle some of the long-term issues facing North Carolina, rather than just getting through the budget process.
"I'm proud of what we did for this state," McCrory said. "I'm going to continue to speak my mind with solutions, with ideas and with a vision of how we need to move toward the future."