For 14 years, we watched closely as Pat McCrory served as mayor of Charlotte. This is what we saw:
Energy. An unfailing work ethic. Consistent passion representing Charlotte to prospective employers.
We saw ethical government. We saw an advocate for long term planning. We saw a steady hand who helped steer the city through its boom years, leading it during a time of tremendous growth and change. We saw a moderate Republican who could work successfully with Democrats and who would alienate his own party by fighting for what he believed in even when it conflicted with party orthodoxy.
Its that performance over a sustained period of time that makes us confident Pat McCrory is the best choice for governor.
Over the past 12 years, with Democrats Mike Easley and Bev Perdue in the governors mansion, North Carolina has seen ethical lapses, dwindling voter respect in the capitals leaders and a notable lack of economic innovation.
McCrory, in contrast, promises a bigger vision. He has been disappointingly bereft of details in this campaign, a political calculation that we and many voters find frustrating. But he does articulate an ambitious agenda, including fundamental tax reform, changes in education and a 25-year infrastructure plan. Those are all things this state needs, and none of them appears high on the agenda of McCrorys opponent, Democrat Walter Dalton.
McCrory also understands urban needs and the importance of addressing them, something we havent had from most past governors.
We have disagreed with McCrory on various issues, especially social ones, and he can have a thin skin. But McCrory does have a record of taking the long view and making wise investments for the future. He was the regions leading advocate for light rail, and fought for the half-cent sales tax that helped fund the Lynx Blue line, which runs from Pineville to uptown and, soon, on to the university area. He pushed for a better bus system, smarter land use planning and infill development. He fought for tougher billboard restrictions, led on efforts to protect trees from developers and used his veto to require more sidewalks.
He was an effective ambassador for Charlotte in Washington and around the country, and in business recruitment efforts. And he won the scorn of many for defying the odds and getting an uptown arena built.
Our biggest question about McCrory as governor is the extent to which he would stand up to his fellow Republicans controlling the state House and Senate. But just as only Nixon could go to China, perhaps only a Republican like McCrory can effectively have the GOP leaderships ear. In any event, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger would surely ignore Daltons pleas, just as they did Perdues.
There are things to like about Dalton. The lieutenant governor and former top budget writer in the state Senate knows the state and its government well. He understands the need to connect education and the work force, and would probably propose more funding for education than McCrory, from pre-K to the UNC system.
But Dalton has not articulated big ideas in this campaign nor demonstrated that he would represent any kind of transformation from the failings of the Perdue administration.
Its time for a change. The Observer endorses Pat McCrory because he brings the vigor, the outside-Raleigh perspective and the willingness to try new approaches that North Carolina needs.