Money talks in politics and there is more money – a lot more – in Charlotte than anywhere else in North Carolina. So the emergence of two new candidates from Charlotte may be Republicans’ best hope of nominating candidates who can match the Democrats’ – until now – huge financial edge in the campaigns for Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
First, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has emailed supporters that he’s taken a poll about the Governor’s race – so it sounds like he’s serious about moving from a potential to an actual candidate. According to McCrory’s poll, even before announcing he leads Fred Smith, Bill Graham and Bob Orr in the Republican primary. And he’s running neck and neck with either Beverly Perdue or Richard Moore in the General Election.
McCrory’s candidacy would change the whole chemistry of the Governor’s race: He has one political strength no other candidate (Democrat or Republican) has – a huge regional base. Combine that grassroots support with running from Charlotte, North Carolina’s financial center, and he has the potential to build a powerful campaign. In a Republican primary, simply winning one other of North Carolina’s geographical regions in addition to his Charlotte base makes him virtually unbeatable.
Because of their personal wealth he would face real challenges from Senator Fred Smith and Attorney Bill Graham. But unless one of them fractures McCrory’s Charlotte base he will be difficult to stop. His one big potential disadvantage: Among conservatives there is skepticism about McCrory’s record as Mayor. Conservatives’ initial response to his candidacy may be lukewarm. Ideologically, McCrory could find himself flanked on the right.
The most interesting new candidate is State Senator Robert Pittenger, who’s entered the race for Lieutenant Governor. Conservatives will not be lukewarm about Pittenger at all. They’ll embrace his candidacy with open arms. And Pittenger has the ability to give Republicans one thing they are sorely missing in statewide campaigns: a true clear issues agenda. He has been one – probably the – leading Republican spokesman in the State Legislature for cutting taxes and spending. He is a candidate who cares passionately about issues and wants to talk about them. Traditionally, Lieutenant Governor’s campaigns have taken a back seat in election years. But Pittenger could be an exception. He may give Republicans exactly what they need – a free-wheeling debate with Democrats on every issue from gay marriage to soaring state spending.
And as a respected business leader in Charlotte, Pittenger has the ability – perhaps even more than McCrory – to raise the money to run a competitive campaign. Given his ideology and ability to back it up with fundraising Senator Pittenger may energize the base of the Republican Party as no candidate has done in years.
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