NC governor's race heads down to finish

NC governor's race heads down to finish
May 4, 2008 8:40:30 AM PDT
Nothing about the race to replace outgoing North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has been easy.

Beverly Perdue and Richard Moore have spent nearly $16 million since 2005 to win the Democratic Party's nomination. In the final days of their campaign, they found themselves overshadowed by the first competitive presidential campaign in North Carolina in two decades.

State Sen. Fred Smith spent the better part of a year hosting cookouts in all 100 North Carolina counties, time on the campaign trail matched by candidates Bill Graham and Bob Orr. Then Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory jumped into the race less than five months before Tuesday's primary.

"It was probably a down day for all of the other candidates when Pat got involved," said Bill Cobey, a former state Republican Party chairman and unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2004.

For all those efforts, polls indicated a sizable slice of voters remained undecided in the week before the primary. And there's a chance it won't end Tuesday -- unless one of the five GOP candidates wins more than 40 percent of the vote, the top two will head for a runoff election next month.

Political veterans Moore, the state treasurer, and Perdue, the lieutenant governor, have for years made plain their desire to seek the Executive Mansion. Easley was barred by state law from seeking a third consecutive term.

As it became clear the presidential race would run through the state's primary, they both moved to embrace Barack Obama and carefully promoted their endorsement of the Illinois senator in the state's black community.

But both campaigns say it's only a guess as to how the presidential vote will affect the outcome of their race.

Perdue won an early key endorsement from the powerful N.C. Association of Educators and would become the state's first female governor. She has touted her 14-year history in the Legislature and seven more years as lieutenant governor, highlighting her efforts to raise teacher salaries and to protect the state's military installations during the 2005 round of base closings.

"I don't just talk it. I have been able to do it and deliver for people," Perdue said.

Moore counters with a resume that includes running two state agencies -- the treasurer's office and the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, where he managed the state's response to Hurricanes Fran and Floyd. He has received national attention for his corporate accountability efforts on Wall Street, and the $78 billion pension fund he manages for state employees is rated among the healthiest in the country.

Moore has spent the past two months criticizing Perdue's voting record, accusing her of voting for excessive college tuition increases and against laws that he said show Perdue does what is politically expedient on issues such as gun control and abortion.

"We made up our minds when we got into this race that we were going to talk about records," Moore said. "You will see that she has been on all sides of issues that are important to Democrats."

But Moore has taken plenty of heat for ads questioning Perdue's civil rights record, including one that points out that a family business in Georgia sold hats and beer cozies featuring images of the Confederate flag. Perdue's campaign likened Moore's tactics to those employed by Sen. Jesse Helms, and several black politicians

were quick to praise her efforts at helping black citizens.

"I am a woman, for goodness sakes," she said. "I've spent a lifetime making sure everyone gets a shot."

Once he entered the Republican race, McCrory immediately became the front-runner over Smith; Graham, a Salisbury attorney; and Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice. He has focused on what he believes are shortcomings in the state's government, pointing out his own frustration with Easley and lawmakers for failing to pass anti-gang legislation or spend more money on the courts.

Smith has chipped away at McCrory's record as mayor, accusing him of runaway government spending and failing to combat rising rates of crime in North Carolina's largest city. A developer, Smith built a following of social conservatives and activists during his 100-county barbecue tour and campaign concerts featuring country singer Lee Greenwood.

"We have had a plan from day one to have a different type of campaign," Smith said. "We have believed the whole time that our campaign would work ... We'll see who wins next week."

A poll in the final days of the campaign showed Perdue ahead of Moore, with McCrory and Smith essentially tied. But all the candidates were focused in the final weekend on winning over the large number of voters who said they had yet to make up their minds.

"I take the polls seriously. But I know there's a group of undecided voters out there and that we're going to campaign until the last polls close on Tuesday," McCrory said.


Load Comments