McCrory says campaign message won't change
Posted January 30, 2012
Updated January 31, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. — Hours from formally entering the race, Republican candidate Pat McCrory said Monday that the departure of Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue from the 2012 gubernatorial campaign won't alter his message of overhauling North Carolina state government.
McCrory, who will kick off his campaign Tuesday at a Guilford County meeting hall, said he's sticking with the same plan he had before Perdue announced last week that she won't seek re-election – a move that's created a Democratic primary race and sent other potential candidates scrambling.
McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor who narrowly lost to Perdue in the 2008 general election, said it wasn't a total shock that he would no longer face a once-likely rematch with Perdue this fall.
"Our schedule has not changed. Our message won't change and our strategy won't change," McCrory said. "This scenario is one we saw potentially happening, so it didn't come as a huge surprise because we knew she's been in trouble for various reasons, and part of it was me being a strong candidate."
McCrory said Perdue's departure would allow many Democrats who felt obliged to support their party's incumbent to back his campaign, noting that "phones have been ringing off the hook" in recent days. He had already found some success during 2011 with receiving contributions from Democrats who had supported Perdue in 2008.
Still, he said, he expects the campaign to be hard-fought, regardless of his eventual opponent.
Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and state Rep. Bill Faison of Orange County already are running in the Democratic primary, and a half dozen others are considering whether to become gubernatorial candidates in a compressed time schedule – filing starts in two weeks and the primary is May 8.
Thirteenth District Congressman Brad Miller and former State Treasurer Richard Moore released statements Monday that they're still considering bids, while Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said he will not run.
Democrats also are encouraging former University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles to run.
McCrory took aim at Perdue's plan to press lawmakers for more education spending, including her call for a 0.75-cent increase to the state sales tax rate to help restore some of the funds schools lost in last year's budget battle.
"She's asking for a 15 percent sales tax increase during one of the worst recessions and highest unemployment rates this state has seen (in) decades," he said. "That's the last thing we need to do.
"We need to reform and fix the (tax) system we have now before we ask the public and struggling businesses for any more money," he said.
He also began laying out his legislative priorities, such as paying teachers for performance, opening up North Carolina for more energy exploration and changing the system of incentives the state uses to attract businesses.
"It's gotten so bad that we have to offer cash upfront for outside companies to come to North Carolina, and there is no guarantee (of jobs), regardless of what they say," he said. "We should have a consistent policy for the whole team, including existing businesses."
McCrory declined to single out any potential Democratic opponent, but he said he believes all of the possible candidates have a common thread – they enabled the Democratic policies of the past dozen years under Perdue and predecessor Mike Easley that he insists have broken state government.
"All of them have been closely linked with the Easley-Perdue culture and policy," he said, adding that he hopes to change the culture of state government.
"The only thing I take to my grave is my ethics," he said. "I take those values to the executive branch of North Carolina government as I did to the mayor's office in Charlotte."
If McCrory gets a clear path to the primary – he's spent the past year trying to close out potential GOP competitors by running a quasi-campaign of speeches and fundraising – he'll keep accumulating money while Democrats battle it out for at least three months to win their nomination.
McCrory "has the ability to focus on the November election and not the primary," said Paul Shumaker, a longtime Republican consultant whose clients have included U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. And with more than $2 million in his campaign coffers at the end of last year, McCrory has a definite money advantage over all of the announced candidates, Shumaker said.
But McCrory's campaign will have to do some retooling for another candidate, and the uncertainty of who that person will be could take him out of his comfort zone, said Dennis Wicker, the Democratic lieutenant governor from 1993 to 2001.
"It's a game change for Pat," Wicker said of Perdue's decision. "I'm sure it's thrown them off stride a little."