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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pat McCrory Prepares For Victory In 2012, With Bev Perdue's Help

Pat McCrory Prepares For 2012 Rematch As Bev Perdue Continues To Screw Up

Pat McCrory's calendar seems penciled with listings for someone ready for a rematch with Gov. Beverly Perdue.

McCrory, who stepped down as Charlotte mayor after 16 years last fall, has become a popular speaker statewide on the Republican Party's chicken dinner circuit, headlining many GOP fundraisers. He's been a frequent visitor on local and even national television political roundtables after narrowly losing to Perdue in November 2008.

Now he has started a political action committee to raise money for legislative candidates and highlight issues he promoted in the 2008 race, including transportation, criminal justice and getting rid of what he called "a culture of corruption" in state government.

"North Carolina state government is in a mess," the 53-year-old McCrory said in a video announcing his New Leadership PAC and identifying Democrats, including Perdue, whom he believes are part of the problem. "It's time for new leadership in our state and it must start now in 2010."

What about 2012?

McCrory said in an interview he's going to strongly consider a repeat gubernatorial bid. A longtime observer of his political career is more certain.

"He's going to run for governor," said Ted Arrington, a political science professor at University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Arrington said it's a challenge for McCrory to keep his name in front of the general public now that he's the ex-mayor. He also needs to avoid negative publicity that could harm him politically while satisfying both the business community that backed him for years and the new tea party movement to avoid a bruising GOP primary.

"I think he's still popular, but he's just disappeared from everything," Arrington said. "He's behind the scenes. He's working the party leaders."

McCrory almost became just the third Republican since 1901 to move to the Executive Mansion in Raleigh when he lost to Perdue by 3 percentage points in the closest governor's race in 36 years. A month later, he announced he wouldn't seek an eighth two-year term as mayor in 2009.

Since leaving the mayor's post, McCrory joined a Charlotte law firm as a public policy consultant in addition to working with his brother's business and boosted his outside political involvement. He kicked off the New Leadership PAC this spring with a mass fundraising letter. The PAC's treasurer is Jack Hawke, McCrory's chief political consultant in the 2008 campaign.

A political action committee is a common tool for someone interested in running for federal office such as president. John Edwards had one, as does current Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. But it's unusual for someone seeking a North Carolina state government office.

McCrory said he plans to use social networking, electronic town hall meetings and other technology to communicate with supporters about candidates and issues. He said President Obama's use of technology during the 2008 campaign played a role in helping Perdue win by energizing Democrats to vote.

"I felt the impact first hand in my race, and I want to help other candidates not be behind the 8-ball in that area," McCrory said.

The political committee collected nearly $25,000 by mid-April. Retired accountant Ken Collins of Monroe gave $100 to McCrory's new venture because he said the ex-mayor "seems to be a guy that can get along across political lines. You can't say that about everybody."

State Democratic Party executive director Andrew Whalen said the ex-mayor's New Leadership PAC "seems to be nothing more than an attempt to repackage those same failed ideas from his failed gubernatorial campaign."

McCrory also went on the defensive in February when the campaign committee acknowledged it failed to report two helicopter flights in the waning days of his 2008 bid. Perdue and former Gov. Mike Easley have taken heat for dozens of flight disclosures over the past year. The Democratic Party made one of those flights the centerpiece of a news conference.

The PAC is not the only effort by McCrory to stay on the political radar screen. During his last year as mayor, McCrory was asked to speak to large crowds in person and on the air about his concerns with the federal stimulus package and President Obama's health care overhaul.

McCrory was the only speaker to get a standing ovation from more than 1,000 conservative and tea party supporters meeting last September in Raleigh to hear Obama's address on health care to a joint session of Congress. Helping social and fiscal conservative feel comfortable with McCrory could help him win over the Republican base and avoid a tough primary in 2012.

Arrington said McCrory's strategy to attempt to remain salient after his failed gubernatorial shows he's not the same guy who won a Charlotte city council seat as a relative political unknown in 1989.

"He started out in politics a very naive fellow," Arrington said. "He's learned a lot."

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Sources: McClatchy Newspapers, Youtube, Google Maps

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