Let's talk for a second about The Race That's Not Official Yet But Wow Would It Be Fun.
Pat McCrory, our former mayor-for-life (14 years!), will announce Tuesday that he's running for governor. Anthony Foxx, our current mayor, is pondering a run after Gov. Bev Perdue's surprise announcement that she won't run for re-election.
McCrory is a Republican, Foxx is a Democrat, and that means two Charlotte mayors could face off in November for a chance to run the state.
This is like Carolina playing Duke in the Final Four. Well, to be geographically correct, more like the Charlotte 49ers playing Davidson. But still.
There's one man who would understand a Foxx-McCrory governor's race better than any other. And so I asked Richard Vinroot if he had any advice.
"Do it different than I did it, because I didn't win," he says.
Vinroot, who was Charlotte's mayor from 1991-95, ran for governor three times. He lost twice in primaries and once, in 2000, to Mike Easley in the general election.
He's also good friends with both potential candidates. McCrory was Vinroot's mayor pro tem, and Vinroot encouraged him to run for the top job. Vinroot also has been friends with the Foxx family for years. Anthony Foxx went to West Charlotte High with Vinroot's son, Rich. Vinroot serves with Foxx's mother, Laura, on the board of Sugar Creek Charter School.
Vinroot's a Republican. He's throwing his support to McCrory whether Foxx runs or not. But he did have some thoughts for both of them on being a Charlotte mayor trying to win a race statewide.
"Being mayor is a man-eater," he says. "Running for governor is another man-eater. A bigger one."
Vinroot remembers an early campaign trip to a mountain town near North Carolina's western tip. He mentioned how he had spent a lot of time in the western part of the state, up around Asheville. The folks at the rally narrowed their eyes. To them, Asheville might as well have been Down East.
You don't understand how big North Carolina is until you drive it. It's nearly 600 miles from Murphy to Manteo. Most of it is small towns and farmland. And a lot of the folks who live Out There don't think a whole lot of Charlotte.
"They saw us as sort of a city on a hill, and they were in the valley, hurting like the dickens," Vinroot says. "In the city, I think we feel like we have a lot of options. In a lot of other places, there might be just one option, and it wasn't a good one."
The other part of running for governor that wore Vinroot out was raising money.
"When I was really running hard, I started making phone calls at 9 a.m., put down the phone at 3, and went off to a fundraiser," he says. "I raised $8.5 million the year I won the primary. That was a ton of money for back then. Mike Easley raised $11 million. And the numbers are even bigger now."
Charlotte mayors keep whiffing when they run statewide. Eddie Knox couldn't get out of the Democratic primary for governor. Harvey Gantt lost to Jesse Helms twice for the U.S. Senate. McCrory lost to Perdue last time around.
The good news is, a McCrory-Foxx race would mean a Charlotte mayor would finally win.
The bad news is, we've already got the Democratic National Convention coming here, and people are just now coming out of their basements now that the S.C. Republican primary is over. Sometimes, especially when it comes to politics, you can be overblessed.