Speaking to the Charlotte Rotary Club last month, Republican Pat McCrory cited one effect of having a double-digit lead in North Carolinas gubernatorial polls.
Ive got a lot of new friends, he announced.
If McCrory or Democrat Walter Dalton wins the governors race Tuesday, each would scramble to put together an administration before their swearing-in in January. New friends and old could vie for positions.
Allies have been quietly planning a transition to a McCrory administration.
Were all obviously being very cautious and not doing very much until after the election, Ed McMahan, a former state legislator from Charlotte, said Friday. I think everybody would understand that either one of the candidates would be doing some planning but everythings being put on hold until after the election.
Dalton, the lieutenant governor, doesnt have even an informal transition team, said spokesman Schorr Johnson. He could put one together within days, Johnson said. He knows what he wants to do and how he would do it.
Dalton is no stranger to state government. He has been in office for four years and served in the state Senate for 12 years before that.
McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, would have a steeper learning curve. And while Democrats have run state government for the past 20 years, Republicans have been out of power and executive branch leadership opportunities since 1992.
Its been long enough now since we had any Republican administration in Raleigh, said former Gov. Jim Holshouser, who in 1972 became the first Republican governor of the 20th century. Hes about starting from scratch like I did. At the same time, there are more Republicans who know their way around the executive branch than there were before.
Holshousers secretary of human resources was Phil Kirk. In 1984, eight years after Holshouser left office, Kirk was quietly planning the transition of another Republican, Jim Martin. For weeks, he scribbled names in a spiral notebook. When Martin was elected, some of those names became Cabinet secretaries.
A governors success and failure by and large is determined by the people he brings into government, said Kirk, who went on to serve in key posts under Martin.
Martin himself has had brief conversations with McCrory recently. His advice: That he needed a balance of talent that would include some people with experience running large departments of state government. Not that many are left from my administration, but there are a couple.
Martin, a former Mecklenburg County commissioner who lived in Lake Norman, found some Charlotte-area talent like banker C.C. Cameron. But he also reached across the state.
McMahan and former Charlotte City Council member John Lassiter, a McCrory confidant, are among those quietly analyzing the steps to a transition. Theyre apparently hearing from more than a few people interested in joining a new administration.
If my phone calls are any indication, every Republican in North Carolina (is interested), said McCrory strategist Jack Hawke, himself a veteran of the Holshouser and Martin administrations. Were just being inundated.
At least two GOP legislators wouldnt mind a call.
I certainly stand ready to give him my point of view on North Carolina issues and some of the broader appropriation issues, said Rep. Nelson Dollar of Wake County, who has developed an expertise on health care issues as chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee.
Rep. Ric Killian of Charlotte said that if McCrory wins, I would love to have that conversation with him.
There are many areas I think I could add value to our state government, said Killian, an Army veteran who helped shape policy on transportation issues.
Neither the candidate nor his advisers are willing to name potential members of a McCrory administration. At least not yet.
Hes not going to start from scratch, but neither is he measuring the drapes in the mansion, said Hawke. By the end of the week of the election, hell have a full transition team in place. Nobody has to worry about him being ready.