Raleigh, N.C. — Gubernatorial hopefuls campaigned from mountains to coast on Monday, trying to get a share of voters’ attention the day before the state primary.
The total number of early voters had already approaching half a million - more than half of the total number of voters who cast a ballot during the 2004 primary.
"This has had a feeling from Day 1 more like a general election than a primary, and the numbers are starting to reflect that," State Board of Elections director Gary Bartlett said.
Bartlett said more than 85 percent of unaffiliated early voters chose to vote on the Democratic ticket, largely because of the presidential race. In total, more than 323,300 have chosen a Democratic ballot, while 72,023 have voted on the GOP side.
State Treasurer Richard Moore and Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue have been locked in a lengthy, expensive race for the Democratic nomination to replace Democratic incumbent Gov. Mike Easley, who is barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term.
"We are trying to get all of our grass-roots supporters out," said Richard Moore, who ate a bacon-and-egg biscuit drenched in molasses as he greeted supporters at the State Farmers Market. "We're going to spend this last day moving around the state yet again."
Moore was scheduled to stop in Greensboro and Winston-Salem later Monday.
Perdue planned events in Charlotte, her hometown of New Bern and at the Mellow Mushroom, 601 W. Peace St., in Raleigh at 5 p.m.
GOP candidates for governor were split on how to get last-minute support.
Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory urged supporters at Stanly Community College to get out the vote, saying a low turnout in the party's primary could give his opponents a chance.
"I'm asking you to look in the mirror and say, 'I have to get out and vote,'" McCrory said at an event with about 40 people. "This is the time we can make a difference."
McCrory touted his record as mayor of North Carolina's largest city, including successful efforts to build a light rail system and redevelop the city's downtown. He cautioned the crowd that his opponents are trying to spin those accomplishments into negatives in their campaign ads.
State Sen. Fred Smith of Johnston County, McCrory's top rival, was calling supporters, appearing on a Charlotte talk-radio show and meeting with a church group assembled by a supporter.
"We're doing everything we can be doing to get our message out," he said. "We have confidence in our plan."
If the leading candidate in the five-man Republican governor's race fails to get more than 40 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two candidates will be June 24.
Bill Graham, a Salisbury attorney, predicted at a stop on his five-city airplane tour he had an even chance of slipping into that second election.
"Go vote and if you're undecided - vote for Bill Graham. Even if you are decided, vote for Bill Graham," he said, laughing during a stop at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. "I think I'm going to surprise a lot of people."
Another GOP candidate, former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, had no announced events Monday.
Meanwhile, other candidates on Tuesday's ballot, including those for U.S. Senate and lieutenant governor, also planned stops across the state. North Carolina voters also will cast ballots Tuesday in primary races for Council of State, the Legislature, judgeships and county commissions.