GREENSBORO Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory formally accepted his partys gubernatorial nomination Saturday, promising to clean up Raleigh after 20 years of Democratic control and bring a leaner vision of government, including lower taxes, less regulation and more aggressive energy exploration.
Amid a swirl of balloons, placards and the sound of The Whos Wont Get Fooled Again, a fired up McCrory said the state must regain its lost momentum with new policies.
Referring back to the North Carolina of his youth in the late 60s, McCrory said the state had lost its reputation for good roads, good schools and low taxes, and it had become a state with some of the regions highest income, corporate and gasoline taxes.
This is the Perdue-Easley machine and the Perdue-Dalton machine, McCrory told about 2,000 delegates and guests. Right now this is not the state I grew up in. We can do so much better.
He was referring to former Gov. Mike Easley, current Gov. Bev Perdue and Lt Gov. Walter Dalton, the current Democratic nominee.
But the Democrats also continued to nip at McCrorys heels, questioning his corporate connections while Charlotte mayor with a plane flying over the convention center trailing a banner that read: Who is Paying McCrory?, with a figure dressed as an owl holding an anti-McCrory sign outside, and with Democratic groups running TV ads questioning his corporate ties.
The GOP convention had an upbeat mood with Republicans confident of extending control of the state Legislature and talking about the possibility of picking up four congressional seats the biggest GOP gain in the country.
We have an opportunity for 10 Republicans and three (Democrats), and thats incredible, said U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn.
There was also plenty of presidential talk, with the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney sending in three surrogates hotel mogul Donald Trump, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
When you put Mitt Romney up against Barack Obama, I think North Carolinians will be wise in being able to see the difference between a failed president, a president who is still 1.4 million jobs in the red, so to speak, versus a president who understands how to get people back to work, Perry said at a news conference.
Although he acknowledged not always saying complimentary things about Romney during the primary, Perry compared it to the Tar Heels playing the Wolfpack, and said that state pride was now kicking in. It should be no contest as people in this country make a decision about whether: Are we better off today than we were four years ago? Perry said.
Pawlenty revved the GOP engine Saturday in a luncheon address at the state party convention. He said Republicans are tired of Democrats kicking the shins of our entrepreneurs and job creators in our country.
Barack Obama stood before the nation and gave incredibly well-read speeches off teleprompters, Pawlenty said. But that doesnt put food on the table; that doesnt make the car payment; that doesnt make the health insurance payments, and that doesnt save for college.
At a news conference outside the convention, the Democrats responded.
Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney are selling something that North Carolina voters arent going to buy, said state Sen. Don Vaughan. They both support the same back-to-the-future economic scheme, a scheme that would explode the deficit by trillions while showering the wealthiest with new tax cuts he was even accused of proposing the Bush tax cuts on steroids.
McCrory said he is facing some of the same extreme radicalism that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker confronts in the effort to recall him, including from national forces. McCrory said he would ask Walker to campaign in North Carolina after he wins his recall battle.
McCrory highlighted the comments made a couple of weeks ago by Dustin Ingalls, the assistant to the director of Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning polling firm in Raleigh. Ingalls made inflammatory comments about McCrory while speaking to a Fayetteville Democratic club.
He twice read Ingalls comments, in which he said: We have to eviscerate McCrory. There is no way to prop up Dalton enough.
I didnt know what it meant, McCrory told the crowd. It means they are going to open me up and take (my) guts out.
Bring it on! shouted a man from the crowd.
Ladies and gentlemen, McCrory said. They can try to eviscerate me. But I am tired of them trying to eviscerate jobs in North Carolina.
McCrory said as governor he would work to lower the corporate and income taxes to make them more competitive with surrounding states. He said he would push more aggressive energy exploration including offshore drilling for oil and gas and for inland shale drilling for natural gas.
And he said he would work to improve education, including merit pay for good teachers, making sure all high school graduates can read, and expanding vocational education.