@NCCapitol

McCrory, Dalton to square off for NC governor

Posted May 8, 2012 10:52 p.m. EDT
Updated May 9, 2012 10:35 a.m. EDT

— As he did four years ago, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory will face a sitting lieutenant governor in the race to become North Carolina governor.

McCrory breezed to the Republican nomination, grabbing 83 percent of the vote in unofficial results.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton beat back a challenge from former Congressman Bob Etheridge in the Democratic primary by a 45 to 38 percent margin.

Dalton immediately went on the attack against McCrory, linking him in his victory speech to the Republican-led General Assembly, which he said is moving North Carolina backward by cutting education funding.

"The choice is very clear – are we going to be bold and move forward or be stagnant and let others pass us by," he said.

Because McCrory gave his acceptance speech so early in the evening, he didn't yet know whom his opponent would be in November. But he painted all of the Democratic candidates with a broad brush, saying they were part of a good-ol'-boy system that had no plan to improve the state.

"No. 1 in quality of life, No. 1 in employment, No. 1 in education, that's our goal," he told supporters in Charlotte.

McCrory said he planned to build on his successes during 14 years as Charlotte mayor.

"We built a city. We initiated a vision. We developed a strategy. We created jobs," he said. "We're going to bring that leadership to the rest of North Carolina."

Later, upon learning that he would face Dalton, he called the lieutenant governor "an understudy" to Gov. Beverly Perdue and former Gov. Mike Easley and reiterated that the state needed a change in leadership.

Dalton said in an interview with WRAL News that Republican efforts to link him to Perdue won't work.

"She's not running," he said. "We were elected separately (in 2008)."

Dalton said his message of creating jobs now and for the future "has resonated with people," and he has a record of success in education and economic development.

"If (voters) look at my record and my experience of innovation and creativity," he said, "they'll see I'm the candidate they need."

David McLennan, a political science professor at William Peace University in Raleigh, said Dalton starts the general election campaign as an underdog, given that McCrory has had his campaign organization in place for months and has a huge lead in fundraising.

"(Dalton) is basically starting over. He spent a lot of his money just to win the nomination," McLennan said.

Still, he said, Democrats will likely be energized in the fall and work for Dalton.

"They're concerned about keeping the Governor's Mansion because they don't have the General Assembly," he said.

Etheridge pledged his support to help Dalton win in November.

In a somber concession speech, he said his campaign simply didn't have enough time and money to overtake Dalton in what was essentially a three-month campaign after Perdue's surprise announcement that she wouldn't seek re-election.

"From where we started to where we ended up, if you look at the numbers today, what really happened was we lost the early vote," he said.

As Dalton and McCrory shift into the next stages of their campaigns – Libertarian Barbara Howe also will be on the November ballot for governor – Etheridge said he planned to return to his Harnett County farm and slip on his jeans and work boots on Wednesday morning so he could tend to his cattle.

Many statewide races headed to runoffs

In the race to succeed Dalton as lieutenant governor, state personnel director Linda Coleman easily won the Democratic nomination over state Sen. Eric Mansfield. The Republican race is headed to a runoff, with either Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley or state Rep. Dale Folwell facing Wake Forest architect Dan Forest.

Democratic Secretary of State Elaine Marshall will face the winner of the Republican runoff between Chowan County Commissioner Ed Goodwin and former Wake County Commissioner Kenn Gardner.

Wake County school board member John Tedesco and former educator Richard Alexander face a runoff for the Republican nomination for education superintendent, with the winner to face Democratic incumbent June Atkinson.

Former House Speaker Richard Morgan and insurance agent Mike Causey will battle for the Republican nomination for insurance commissioner, with the winner to face Democratic incumbent Wayne Goodwin.

Republican Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry will face the winner of the Democratic runoff between former commissioner John Brooks and lobbyist Marlowe Foster.

Wake County school board member Debra Goldman and businessman Greg Dority will face a runoff for the Republican nomination for state auditor, with the winner to face Democratic incumbent Beth Wood.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler won his Republican primary and will face Democratic farmer Walter Smith in November, while State Treasurer Janet Cowell won her Democratic primary and will face Republican accountant Steve Royal in the general election.