State News

McCrory, Perdue battle for final undecided votes

Republican Pat McCrory vows to keep Dorothea Dix Hospital open in Raleigh, while Democrat Beverly Perdue promises to work out of Charlotte a few days each month.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Fighting for votes on the final days before the gubernatorial election, Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory said Monday that Dorothea Dix Hospital should remain open until problems in the state mental health system can be resolved.

Meanwhile, Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue promised to open a second Governor's Office in Charlotte and work in the Queen City three to four days each month to ensure the needs of the state's largest city were addressed.

Both candidates criss-crossed the state to shore up their support before voters head to the polls Tuesday. Perdue began the day in Asheville and also made stops in Winston-Salem, McCrory's home turf in Charlotte and her home town of New Bern before ending the day with a rally in Raleigh. McCrory started in Raleigh and made stops in Greenville, Lexington and Asheville before heading home to Charlotte.

A WRAL News poll released last week showed Perdue holding onto a 46 to 44 percent lead, smaller than the margin of error, with 9 percent of voters still undecided.

During a Monday morning rally outside the State Capitol, McCrory said he would keep Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh open. The move would be indicative of his plans to shake up state government, he said.

"It's the passion for new leadership that is desperately needed in North Carolina," he said.

Campaign consultant Jack Hawke said McCrory, upon taking office, would establish a crisis management team to assess the state's mental health system. Given the problems mental hospitals have encountered in recent months, Hawke said, McCrory would keep Dorothea Dix open to ensure the state has enough beds for mental patients.

Campaigning in Charlotte, Perdue said she was counting on winning over independent voters in the city to boost her statewide effort to become North Carolina's first female chief executive.

"I think the undecideds, the Democrats and the Republicans all want a candidate for governor and for president who will build on the future," said Perdue, who has never lost an election.

Political analysts have said a historic turnout of African-American voters and excitement for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama could turn the election in Perdue's favor.

Democratic volunteer Queen Whaley said Democrats are more likely to vote a straight-party ticket in state races, which would drain a lot of support McCrory received from Democrats in his seven elections as mayor.

"When you get to this level, Democrats are going with Bev Perdue," Whaley said.

Charlotte City Councilman James Mitchell said Perdue's campaign stop and her pledge to open an office in the city are important messages for voters.

"I think this sends a message that Charlotte is still a priority for her," Mitchell said.

McCrory and his backers rejected the notion that the state's record pace of early voters have given Perdue and other Democrats an advantage.

"I don't think we know what the impact is of early voting until we know who votes on Tuesday," he said. "I think I've created a wave of support in North Carolina in which the power elite are very, very nervous."

"They want people to think that the Republicans have no hope, that all of the cards are stacked against us. But I truly don't believe that," said Stephanie House, a McCrory supporter.

"This is a difficult year for a Republican, and the fact that we're even close in this election says a lot about the quality of the candidate," said Robert Attaway, a McCrory supporter.

Perdue also fended off criticism of a recent string of ads she had run claiming McCrory would turn the state into a dumping ground for out-of-state trash and would shift highway funding away from rural areas. McCrory's campaign and outside observers have said the ads are inaccurate, but Perdue said she stood by the claims.

Libertarian candidate Mike Munger was working at Duke University on election eve, having completed a three-day campaign trip from Murphy in the west to Manteo in the east.