McCrory tests waters

Published 1:06 am Sunday, June 19, 2011

U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., (left, foreground) stands by to introduce likely gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory (right, rear) Saturday at a political event near Washington. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

Former and perhaps future gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory tested the political waters in Beaufort County Saturday in an outdoor gathering near Washington.

More than 50 supporters welcomed the 2008 Republican nominee to a farm setting arranged by host Ashley Woolard, a one-time congressional candidate and a local businessman.

McCrory, former mayor of Charlotte, was asked how important the east – call it an eastern strategy – is to a hypothetical victory over Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue, who hails from New Bern.

“If we run it’s crucial to our victory,” he said, “and it’s a crucial part of the state for future economic development, too, and agriculture.”

He didn’t expound on that last assertion.

Initially, McCrory answered the question of whether Perdue has a home-court advantage in the east with one word: “No.”

Against the backdrop of a cornfield and a makeshift trailer-stage decorated with American flags, the would-be candidate indicated denial of the notion that he’s a creature of the state’s metropolitan centers.

“In fact, we had a major event right next to (Perdue’s) house in New Bern with a large crowd,” he said. “I’ve got some of my best feedback, encouragement to run, from people from New Bern.”

In 2012, Perdue “has to defend her record of higher unemployment since she’s been elected and a worsening economy,” McCrory said.

“Some of her policies, in addition to (President Barack) Obama’s policies which she has supported, have not worked,” he continued.

Again, he didn’t delve into specifics, apparently preferring to hold off for the big show.

McCrory suggested he doesn’t fear getting caught in the crossfire of conservative lawmakers and public-sector workers – allied professional associations, advocacy groups – upset about the budget cuts pushed through by Republicans and five Democrats who voted to override Perdue’s veto of the state spending plan.

“What we’re trying to do is save North Carolina from living on a credit card,” he said, “and if we continue to live on a credit card both public sector jobs and private sector jobs will be gone forever.”

McCrory drew some local and regional heavy-hitters to the rally by the cornfield. Among the players on hand were GOP Beaufort County Commissioners Hood Richardson and Stan Deatherage, U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., of Farmville, and other elected officials from outside the county.

Jones was scheduled to introduce McCrory from the stage.

“It’s a long ways to filing date for all of us, really,” Jones said in an interview. “But I’ve learned a lot about Pat as a person. He’s a man of high character and I think that his leadership as mayor of Charlotte is important. Being a mayor of any town’s important, but that’s probably the largest in the state.”

One of the GOP activists who turned out to meet McCrory was 19-year-old Worth Loving of Greenville.

Asked why he supports McCrory, Loving responded, “He’s the type of conservative that I think we’re looking for. I think he’d do much better this time against Gov. Perdue. He’s got my all-out support.”

Asked why McCrory would do better in the next campaign, Loving said, “I think the political environment is much better for him. I think the only reason that Gov. Perdue won last time was that she had the support from President Obama, and I don’t think (Obama) has quite that much support this time.”

He also pointed to the “landslide victories” Republicans enjoyed in last year’s legislative races.

McCrory ran against Perdue in 2008, losing to her with 46.88 percent of the vote to her 50.27 percent.

On that same Election Day, Obama narrowly carried North Carolina over Republican rival John McCain.