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Former Charlotte Mayor Vinroot Hopes to Lead the State as Governor

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RALEIGH — Next Tuesday, North Carolina voters will head to the polls and narrow down the choices for the next governor. There are three top candidates running for the Republican nomination, all successful office holders. WRAL's Pam Saulsby sits down with them, starting withRichard Vinroot.

Vinroot is the nominee with perhaps the strongest name recognition, in part because he has been down this road before.

If you think Vinroot has a harder edge -- that he is feistier in his second bid for governor -- you are right.

"My best way to go is to tell the truth, about my record, about my opponent's record," Vinroot says.

While critics call his campaign for governor aggressive and negative, Vinroot calls it proactive.

"I really believe that the whole test of campaigning is learning something about my record, honestly learning something about my opponent's record," he says. "Honestly, as opposed to simply having my Mom go on television, and tell you all the wonderful things I know my Mom would say about me."

Vinroot is hitting hard. Four years ago, the former mayor of Charlotte was prepared to be the next governor, but Robin Hayes beat him, in part by labelling him "closet pro-choice."

"We made a mistake. We supported something we don't believe in," he says.

Vinroot says he did not realize that Planned Parenthood clinics perform abortions.

What did he learn from running in 1996?

"Well number one, I hated to lose," he says. "I don't want to do that again. And two, you've got to have an effective campaign. And you have to tell a coherent story about what you're going to do and what you're about."

For Vinroot, that means clearly distinguishing himself from his two opponents. Like him, they are conservative lawyers, generally well-liked in the party.

"I'm an outsider. I'm new to this and they are probably going to say 'Well, gee, I'm better because I've been here working in Raleigh.' I think they're part of the problem. I think I'm the solution. And the third thing I would say to you, frankly, I have run a government, they haven't," he says.

Vinroot says he wants to govern the state the same way he ran Charlotte, with a smaller government, lower taxes, and more local control.

"We have not taken care of our priorities," Vinroot says. "I think educating children and protecting citizens and developing a good road network on which our economy runs are critical priorities. I want to be the governor who changes that."

Thursday night, WRAL will profile Leo Daughtry.