Local Politics

Parties try to unify after bruising primaries

Posted May 7, 2008 7:10 p.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2008 8:10 p.m. EDT

— The day after Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory emerged from the primaries as the final candidates for governor, the Democratic and Republican parties tried to unite behind them.

The Republicans got off to a better start, with former rivals standing side-by-side with McCrory at a news conference outside the Capitol.

"This is Pat McCrory's day," said state Sen. Fred Smith, who elected not to push for a runoff election after finishing second to McCrory in the primary.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr, another GOP gubernatorial candidate, also appeared with McCrory Wednesday, while the fourth candidate in the primary, Salisbury lawyer Bill Graham, sent word of his support.

State Treasurer Richard Moore did not attend an event where Gov. Mike Easley endorsed Perdue. She easily beat Moore after an often bitter campaign.

Although his campaign officials didn't return phone calls Wednesday, Perdue said Moore did talk to her Tuesday night.

"He congratulated me on the win, and as we move forward this week, I hope we'll have an opportunity to further talk about what it is for us as a team to build a new North Carolina," Perdue said.

Easley said Perdue's experience tackling state issues make her well-qualified to be the next governor.

"We've had a unique relationship where we didn't just park her in the corner," he said.

Perdue cited education and economic development as her top priorities, if elected. She said she would make the budget process more transparent, forcing lawmakers to save money, which she said could go toward scholarships for low-income students.

"Of all people, I understand the (budget) process," she said. "I chaired the Senate budget for six years, and I will be as prepared as any governor in the state's history as we develop our first budget."

McCrory said he would use recent cases of political corruption to highlight his status as an outsider who plans to change state politics in Raleigh.

"I think this (election) is going to be a very clear choice between the old style of politics of North Carolina and a new vision and strategy and changing the culture of politics in North Carolina," he said.

Getting tough on crime would be his top priority, he said.

"The crime rate is going up, and it's not because the police aren't doing their job. It's because the state is not backing up the police and victims of crime with prosecution and prison time," he said.

Both candidates said they're ready and willing to debate as they move toward the general election, and they said that persuading voters to cross party lines would be the key to winning in November.

"I'm proud that the Republicans are united, but I'm going to try to get the Richard Moore supporters to support me," McCrory said.

"I'm asking not just Democrats (for support). I'm asking Republicans and independents, too, because we need everybody in this state to build that North Carolina together," Perdue said.