RALEIGH, N.C. — A week ago, six Republican candidates for governor were in a race against each other to win their party's nomination. Monday, they stood together with one goal: Putting a Republican in the Governor's Mansion.
The men and woman who ran for governor in Tuesday's primary say they are unified in supporting Patrick Ballantine, the winner of the Republican primary, as the party's candidate for the office.
Wearing Ballantine buttons and holding his campaign signs, the former candidates gathered in Raleigh for a news conference Monday. They say they are united in their goal unseat Gov. Mike Easley in November.
"This is not a photo op. This is not for show. Every one of us up here believes there is a better way. This isn't about me and the Ballantine campaign. It's bigger than the Republican Party. This is about the future of our state," Ballantine said.
"This was always about our party and putting the right person forward during an election," former candidate Richard Vinroot said.
Ballantine says with Vinroot out of the running, campaigning will be easier.
"I won't have to run against Richard," he said. "We can all unite and run against the incumbent governor."
Republican insiders say, for the first time in a long time, the party is energized.
Ballantine says he plans to incorporate ideas from all of the other candidates campaigns; his former challengers will even campaign for him.
"I just believe they feel there's an opportunity to win the governor's race. I think they see Patrick as a young, dynamic leader," Republican strategist Ballard Everett said.
Ballantine will campaign in 16 cities over the next three days.
A spokesperson for Easley says he will hit the campaign trail later.
The Easley campain questions the Republican party's unified stance, pointing to Vinroot's attacks on Ballantine just a day before dropping out of the race.