Local Politics

McCrory blames defeat on 'Obama factor'

In his first public comments since his defeat in last Tuesday's gubernatorial election, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory said he's not bitter about the campaign.

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After winning 10 straight elections as a city councilman and mayor in Charlotte, Pat McCrory's winning streak came to an end last  Tuesday when he lost the gubernatorial race to Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue.

A week later, the results still sting. But in his first public comments since election night, McCrory said he's not bitter about his campaign.

"I'm proud. It's been a heck of a ride," he said, noting he stuck to his promises to run a positive, issue-oriented campaign and to debate his opponents every chance he had. "It's been extremely emotional (and) fatiguing, but my integrity's intact."

The only element of the campaign that continue to irk him, he said, were the negative ads Perdue rolled out in the week before Election Day. One tried to link him to illegal immigrants in Charlotte, and the other suggested he would support the expansion of landfills in North Carolina to accept out-of-state trash.

McCrory maintains the ads were extremely inaccurate, but he chose not to return fire.

"Strategists and campaign consultants can sleep at night after running dirty campaigns. I can't," he said.

Even with the ads, he said he would have won if it hadn't been for the massive organization Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama built in North Carolina and its effort to get people to the polls to cast straight-party ballots.

"It was politics we've never seen before," McCrory said. "That Obama machine was incredible – just incredible – and that got people not only to vote for him but down the ticket. It's something the polls didn't see."

The nationwide economic crisis that swelled Obama's campaign swamped McCrory's message of opening up state government and ending a string of public corruption cases involving Democratic state officials, he said.

"I was prepared to take on the Bush factor," he said of President George W. Bush's low approval ratings. "I wasn't prepared for the Obama factor."

Outside his mayoral office, McCrory's picture hangs with those of past mayors, several of whom lost in statewide races. His loss last week was the seventh straight by a sitting Charlotte mayor.

Still, he put the so-called "Charlotte curse" in perspective, noting that Perdue defeated him on his home turf of Mecklenburg County as well as other urban areas across the state.

"I think the main reason Charlotte hasn't elected someone from Charlotte is because of Charlotte," he said.

Holding his thumb and index finger an inch apart, he quoted television sitcom secret agent Maxwell Smart to show how close he came to breaking the curse.

"We missed it ... by that much," he said.

McCrory declined to say whether he would run for a record eighth term as Charlotte mayor – or any other public office – after his current term ends next year. He quit his job at Duke Energy several months ago to campaign full time, so he said his priorities now are finding another private-sector job and taking his wife on a 20th anniversary snorkeling trip.

"I'm going to go way under the water and not think about politics for a while, and (I) won't hear my own voice for a while because I'm fatigued by it and (by) barbecue," he said with a laugh.