Local Politics

Charlotte Mayor Mulls GOP Bid for Governor

Posted December 18, 2007 6:24 p.m. EST
Updated December 18, 2007 10:35 p.m. EST

— Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory hasn't officially entered the race for North Carolina governor, but polls show he would be a strong contender for office.

A new poll by Public Policy Polling, an independent agency with several Democratic clients, shows McCrory would defeat State Treasurer Richard Moore and would run a tight race against Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue. Moore and Perdue are the two leading Democrats in the gubernatorial race.

In addition to the poll numbers, McCrory has started talking like a candidate.

"There's a culture in the State Capitol right now of non-accessibility, of problems with ethics, of a lack of vision," he said.

The perception of arrogance in Raleigh pushed McCrory to reconsider his political future after he had said last spring that he had no plans to run for governor, he said.

"I'm going through a soul-searching process," he said, adding that he expects to announce his decision after the holidays.

State Sen. Fred Smith, Salisbury attorney Bill Graham and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Orr have been campaigning for months, staking out positions and lining up GOP donors.

A sizable chunk of Republican voters remain undecided, however, and David McLennan, a political science professor at Peace College, said McCrory could shake up the primary if he enters the race.

"There's not been a lot of traction (by candidates)," McLennan said.

Although he's in his 13th year as Charlotte mayor – the longest tenure in the city's history – McCrory portrays himself as a political outsider pushing for tougher laws on gangs, illegal immigrants and a bigger commitment to transportation needs from the state.

"I've stepped on the toes of both the far left and far right, but I've done what the voters wanted," he said.

McCrory's record in Charlotte on taxpayer-backed growth could help and hurt him, McLennan said.

"He has pushed and supported mass transit, which is not a very strong conservative Republican issue," McLennan said.

Charlotte mayors haven't had luck in running for statewide office in recent years. Richard Vinroot lost in both of his gubernatorial bids, while Harvey Gantt was beaten twice by former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms.

McCrory chuckled when asked about the so-called "Charlotte curse," and he said there's still time before the May 6 primary for him to enter the race, if he decides to do so.

"I don't think its too late, not just for me but for anyone else. The polling shows that," he said. "No matter who's in the race, it's wide open."