Local Politics

Perdue, McCrory to face off for governor

Posted May 6, 2008 9:49 p.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2008 1:51 a.m. EDT

— Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory won their parties' nominations for governor Tuesday, setting up an east-west clash for the state's top office in November.

Perdue easily outdistanced State Treasurer Richard Moore in the Democratic primary. She had 55 percent of the vote to Moore's 41 percent with more than half of the precincts reporting, according to unofficial results.

On the Republican side, state Sen. Fred Smith conceded the race to McCrory at about 10 p.m., although neither candidate had a majority of votes with less than 60 percent of precincts reporting.

Perdue and Moore, two political veterans, hammered on each other for months, with Perdue suggesting Moore was too closely aligned with Wall Street investment bankers and Moore accusing Perdue of cronyism and questionable votes as a state senator.

Perdue decided last month to pull all of her negative ads and focus a positive campaign on issues like improving education and the state's economy.

"It certainly allowed her to focus on her message ... rather than focusing on someone else in the race," said David Kochman, Perdue's campaign manager.

Perdue told her supporters that her nomination was "a victory for our message of opportunity and standing up for the middle class."

Meanwhile, Moore continued to batter Perdue with negative ads, including two attempts to link her to the Ku Klux Klan that many observers likened to race-baiting.

Former State Auditor Ralph Campbell, a veteran Democratic politician, said the negative ads backfired on Moore and solidified Perdue's support among black voters across North Carolina.

A late ad in which iconic actor Andy Griffith endorsed Perdue also helped her campaign, Campbell said.

Carter Wrenn, a veteran Republican strategist known for using racial politics in races for former Sen. Jesse Helms, said the outcry over Moore's late ads hurt his candidacy in the final weeks of the campaign.

Democrats statewide need to pull together after the hard-fought, often bitter, race, said Rufus Edmisten, a former North Carolina secretary of state and another veteran Democratic politician.

"(They) need to make amends and start getting people on their side and not walking around being cocky," Edmisten said.

Smith, who ran a folksy campaign featuring barbecue dinners in each of the state's 100 counties, was following that advice on the GOP side. He quickly pledged to support McCrory in the general election campaign.

"The most important thing is that we help elect a Republican governor," he said in a concession speech. "At the end of the day, I think if we're working together, we can make a better state."

A GOP unity conference was scheduled for Wednesday morning in Raleigh.

McCrory, who campaigned on his experience leading the state's largest city,  told his supporters in Charlotte that he would "bring a new culture" to Raleigh, focusing on a vision for North Carolina's future and solving problems.