One believes in the power of conservative ideas. He jumps into issues with single-minded focus and the intensity of a pit bull.
The other believes in the power of persuasion. More pragmatic than ideological, hes willing to negotiate to get what he wants.
Robert Pittenger. Jim Pendergraph.
After an avalanche of attack ads and a primary that went into overtime, voters on Tuesday will choose one as the Republican nominee in the 9th Congressional District. The winner faces Democrat Jennifer Roberts and Libertarian Curtis Campbell.
In the heavily Republican district, Tuesdays winner will emerge as the strong favorite to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick.
Both candidates are conservative. They agree on most issues though Pittenger questions Pendergraphs consistency and Pendergraph challenges Pittengers credibility.
But what kind of congressman would either make? What do their records and styles suggest about how they would perform in Washington?
Pendergraph, 61, was Mecklenburg Countys sheriff for 13 years and a county commissioner for the past two.
Hes a person whos more of a consensus builder, says Myrick, who has endorsed Pendergraph.
He tries to find solutions to problems and I know hed do that up here. Were in deep doo-doo.
Pittenger, 63, is a real estate investor who served in the state Senate for five years.
First and foremost hes a strong conservative and will fit in with the North Carolina delegation, says Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Cherryville Republican who backs Pittenger.
Hell try to push the ball forward Hes not going to cave to leadership but will work with them to achieve big goals.
Not a bomb thrower
Pendergraph promises to be a congressman in the mold of Myrick, who for 18 years has been a consistent conservative but not always aligned with her partys leadership.
Im not going to be a bomb thrower, but Im not going to be run over either, he says.
As sheriff, Pendergraph was re-elected three times. He was one of the nations first sheriffs to adopt the so-called 287(g) program, which allows local officials to enforce federal immigration laws.
As county commissioner, he generally votes with the boards other Republicans, though sometimes he joined bipartisan coalitions on issues such as economic incentives to attract new jobs.
Republicans say Pendergraph helped engineer last years coup that unseated Roberts as board chair in favor of her fellow Democrat Harold Cogdell, who promised to preside in a less partisan manner.
GOP Commissioner Bill James, who hasnt endorsed either candidate, credits the change with this years property tax cut as well as new restrictions on nearly $19 million of county funding for Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.
The tax cut that we achieved this past year was related to Jim because Jim helped orchestrate that (coup), James says.
We also got the restrictions on CMS. And that was a huge thing.
James says Pendergraph at his core is a blue-collar guy a good ol boy with a forceful personality. He tells people what he believes in and he follows through.
Commissioner Dumont Clarke, a Democrat, says Pendergraph doesnt crave attention but will say something when hes got something to say.
Jim is not one to take up a lot of time telling the world what his views are on every topic, which some commissioners on both sides have a tendency to do, Clarke says.
Pendergraph describes himself as a negotiator willing to reach across the aisle.
Im not going to go to Washington and make enemies when I may need those people later, he says. The American people want things accomplished.
Sometimes during the primary campaign, Pendergraph appeared less familiar with issues than some of his rivals. Instead of detailed policy prescriptions, he tended to offer broad philosophical approaches such as fewer regulations and lower taxes.
When he brought in Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to stump for him, Pendergraph appeared unaware that the man known for being tough on illegal immigration was also a leading birther, a skeptic of Barack Obamas U.S. birth. The ensuing controversy caught him off-guard.
Pendergraph says hed bone up on issues in Congress and, like Myrick and other lawmakers, rely heavily on staff.
Its like drinking out of a fire hose, he says. Its going to take a while to learn it all.
Hit the ground running
The day Pittenger was sworn in as a state senator in 2003, he introduced a bill to cap medical malpractice awards. A few weeks later, he brought 3,000 doctors from around the state to the General Assembly to lobby for it.
Robert Pittenger hit the ground running as soon as he got to Raleigh, and not every senator did that, says John Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation.
Pittengers malpractice bill went nowhere, nor did many of his other initiatives in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
As he continued to call for shrinking government while criticizing Democrats, his effectiveness rating fell during his Senate years. Ranked 39th in the 50-member Senate as a freshman, he fell to 49th by 2007, according to the nonpartisan N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.
It had to be Roberts way or no way, says state Revenue Secretary David Hoyle, a former Democratic senator. He had his agenda and there was no compromise.
As chair of a Senate Republican campaign committee, Pittenger worked to defeat Hoyle, who nevertheless is an investor in one of Pittengers real estate partnerships.
Pittenger so alienated Democrats that in his second term Senate leaders didnt appoint him to two committees on which hed sat in his first term. There was even a confrontation with then-Senate Leader Marc Basnight of Dare County. Basnight, Pittenger said at the time, just went ballistic.
Roberts very intense. Hes actually a likeable guy if you get to know him, says Republican Sen. Fletcher Hartsell of Cabarrus County. He did have very distinct attitudes and approaches . But he would listen.
Pittenger focused on fiscal issues, including rooting out waste, fraud and inefficiencies. If blocked in his own initiatives, he would try to win Democratic support for his goals by enlisting nonpartisan advice from software experts at SAS and number crunchers at Deloitte and Touche.
He certainly knew more about complex public policies than the average senator did, Hood says.
Pittenger could tap large networks of supporters. For example, he recruited business leaders Democrat and Republican to write lawmakers letters advocating lower taxes. As with the doctors, he never hesitated to mobilize allies or spend money to further his goal of smaller government.
In 2005 his nonprofit, The Foundation for NC Future, aired radio ads in Charlotte and Raleigh urging lawmakers to cut taxes. In 2007, when then-Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was urging city voters to save a sales tax for his signature light-rail system, Pittenger ran TV ads urging them to repeal it.
He was a leading critic of those who warned of global warming, inviting outside skeptics to state hearings.
He had a significant impact on the state debate, says Hood. There was a real expectation of state regulations to combat global warming. That didnt happen.
Pittenger says he would fight for the same issues in Washington and demonstrate the same consistent conservative philosophy.
Theres no question that (he) would be a hard worker, says Hood. The difference is he was in the minority in the state Senate and he would probably be in the majority in the U.S. House.