RALEIGH,N.C. — Richard Vinroot announced Thursday afternoon that he will not call for a runoff in the GOP gubernatorial election, thus handing the Republican nomination to primary winner Patrick Ballantine.
Vinroot said it was in the best interest of the party to concede defeat and give Ballantine an extra month to work on his campaign to unseat incumbent Gov. Mike Easley in the November general election.
"I believe the right choice, the right thing to do is to get our party behind the person who won the most votes Tuesday night as soon as possible," Vinroot said.
Vinroot stood with Ballantine in front of the GOP headquarters in Raleigh. Ballantine said he was pleased with Vinroot's decision.
"I told him off the top of my head I can't think of anyone who has made a decision like this, maybe except for George Washington, the father of our country, who really could have been king, who stepped down from power for the good of the country," Ballantine said.
Vinroot's decision came after a primary election in which he finished second to Ballantine by a mere 1,600 votes. Vinroot said he was at peace with his decision.
"My decision gives us the chance to unify our party, heal our wounds and do what is most important -- beat Mike Easley," he said.
Easley said he welcomes Ballantine to the race.
"North Carolina voters will have a clear choice in this campaign," Easley said. "We can continue to move forward on education during these challenging times --- that's what I'm working to do as governor -- or are we going to follow Patrick Ballantine down the path of retreating and cutting education, thus putting our economic future at risk?"
Vinroot said he will work hard to help Ballantine defeat Easley Nov. 2.
"I read an article the other day that said Mike Easley must be smiling as a result of the Republican runoff," Vinroot said. "He better wipe that smile off his face because we are coming at him a lot sooner than he thought."
Vinroot was the only person who could call for a runoff. If he had done so, as was expected, it would have been held Aug. 17 at a cost of about $1 million.
The former Charlotte mayor appeared ready to fight for the nomination Wednesday, when he attacked Ballantine at a news conference. Vinroot found out later in the day that a vote-counting mistake in Ballantine's home county of New Hanover had resulted in Vinroot dropping from first to second in the race.
Vintoot said he decided Wednesday night he would not challenge the results and would respect the decision of voters.
This was the third time Vinroot has run for governor unsuccessfully.