Local Politics

McCrory's passion for politics drives gubernatorial campaign

Posted October 14, 2008 5:55 p.m. EDT
Updated October 15, 2008 4:19 p.m. EDT

— Family, friends and foes describe Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory as driven, passionate and sometimes impatient.

"I'm open, direct, and at times, I step on the toes of even supporters," said McCrory, the Republican candidate for governor, who believes such qualities are needed at the top levels of state government in Raleigh.

"Pat likes to say sometimes, 'I don't need a committee of 100 to solve this problem. I need a committee of 10 or one because the issue needs to be resolved now,'" said Charlotte City Councilman John Lassiter, a close friend of McCrory.

McCrory's decisive, hands-on style is a product of his upbringing and early career.

When he was growing up in Worthington, Ohio, his father was a city councilman. When the family moved to North Carolina, the younger McCrory won his first election – student body president at Ragsdale High School in Greensboro.

"He knew he wanted to do community service. He wanted to serve," said Linda Sebastian, McCrory's sister, who lives in Raleigh. "When he sees a problem, he wants to fix it."

After college, he moved to Charlotte, where he eventually got a job with Duke Energy Corp. He also refereed high school basketball games for the likes of future NBA star Michael Jordan.

"That personality that can take a lot of abuse," Lassiter said.

Adversity pushed McCrory into politics. In 1989, he was frustrated he wasn't being appointed to local government commissions, and his recruiting job at Duke Energy was eliminated around that same time.

"It was a wake-up call to me to start taking more control of my life and do what is my passion," he said.

So, he ran for the Charlotte City Council and won. He also got another job at Duke Energy.

After three terms on the council, he was elected mayor in 1995 and has won an unprecedented seven terms since then.

"It's really just energy and ambition," Charlotte Observer reporter Jim Morrill said.

During his tenure as mayor, the Queen city's growth exploded. He vowed to reduce crime, and he helped push for an arena for the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats and for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

"He's been a cheerleader for the city. He's worked to get businesses here," Morrill said.

"He's so much fun – just great fun – but he's also very serious about his work, and I think that's a good combination," Sebastian said.

The Republican also has bucked the party, advocating a local sales tax increase for mass transit.

Along the way, he's made plenty of enemies.

"I'm not a Pat McCrory fan, so to speak," said Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess, who sports a campaign sticker on her sport utility vehicle for McCrory's gubernatorial opponent, Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue.

"He has a short fuse," Burgess said, adding, "I won't say he's a leader for all the people of Charlotte. I would say he's a leader for the business leaders of Charlotte."

McCrory conceded that he's not out to please everyone, but he said his longevity as mayor of North Carolina's largest city proves he must be doing something right.

"The best compliment I've ever gotten as mayor during my 13 years is, 'Mayor, I don't agree with everything you're doing, but I know your intentions are right,'" he said.