Local Politics

GOP Gubernatorial Race Gets Testy as Primary Nears

Posted April 11, 2008 5:39 p.m. EDT
Updated April 11, 2008 6:58 p.m. EDT

— With less than a month until the May 6 primary, the Republican gubernatorial candidates are heating up the rhetoric to gain an edge among voters.

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory leads in most polls, prompting state Sen. Fred Smith and former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr to begin criticizing his record and his positions on issues.

"If you're going to make claims, you need to be able to back it up," Orr said, contending McCrory takes too much credit for cracking down on illegal immigration.

"Pat McCrory's trying to change from a moderate to a conservative," Smith said. "North Carolina cannot afford Pat McCrory. Charlotte has the highest tax rate in the state."

The fourth candidate in the GOP primary, Salisbury attorney Bill Graham, said he won't criticize his fellow Republicans.

Still, McCrory said he feels like his opponents are aiming their shots at him. "Absolutely, I have a target (on my back)," he said.

As the perceived GOP front-runner, McCrory said he knows defending his record comes with the territory.

"Hearing this criticism, it's a wonder that I've gotten re-elected seven times by the people of (Charlotte). It's not true," he said.

Until Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue pulled her negative ads against State Treasurer Richard Moore on Thursday, the better-funded Democrats dominated TV attacking each other.

Political observers said the Republicans will pick up the attacking pace in the coming weeks as they fight for attention amid the growing interest in the Democratic presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

"I want to make sure the Republicans don't start acting like Moore and Perdue," McCrory said.