Promising to bring this state together, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory easily won election as North Carolinas first Republican governor in 20 years, and first in modern history with a Republican-led General Assembly.
For McCrory, who ran and lost in 2008, the second time was the charm as he beat Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton 54.68 percent to 43.16 percent. Libertarian Barbara Howe had 2.12 percent.
Our goal is not just to become governor, our goal is to be governor and to lead, McCrory told hundreds of jubilant supporters at the Westin Charlotte hotel. And we plan to start that work tomorrow.
McCrory, 56, will become the first Republican governor since Jim Martin left office in 1992. His win leaves Arkansas as the only Southern state with a Democratic governor.
Hell become the first Charlottean to hold the office since Cameron Morrison in 1925. McCrory served a record 14 years as Charlotte mayor before leaving office in 2009.
On Tuesday night, he gave a shout-out to his four immediate predecessors who tried and failed to win statewide office.
It can happen, he said.
Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue was among the first to call and congratulate her successor.
Tonight, I ask all North Carolinians to come together, put the acrimony behind us, and work with Gov.-elect McCrory to move North Carolina forward, she said.
McCrory plans to hit the ground running. Hes expected to hold a news conference Thursday in Raleigh to outline transition plans, according to two advisers. His transition team will be headed by John Lassiter, a former Charlotte City Council member and McCrory confidante, one source told the Observer. McCrory has just over two months to assemble a new administration.
Dalton jumped into the governors race in January after Perdue suddenly announced she would not run. The late start made it harder to mobilize support and raise money for TV ads. A report last month showed McCrory with a 6-1 cash advantage.
We knew it was tough when we got in this race, and we did the most we could with limited resources, Dalton said in his concession speech in a Raleigh hotel ballroom. But we always ran to win, and I am proud of that.
McCrory paid tribute to Dalton, a former senator from Rutherford County elected to the states No. 2 post four years ago.
I know what hes going through, and my heart is with him, McCrory said. I thank him for his service to my state.
McCrory won with strong support in the Piedmont and by carrying a span of rural counties in the east and the mountains that Perdue won in 2008.
McCrory reversed his fortunes in his home county of Mecklenburg. After losing in 2008 by 337 votes, he won the county by about 2,500 votes despite a Democratic wave that saw Barack Obama win the county by 100,000 votes.
He won with the support of ticket-splitters like Norman Massengill of Charlotte. Massengill, a Republican, voted for Obama and McCrory.
I have not been pleased with the way Democratic governors have led this state, said Massengill, 53, a warehouse worker. I was pleased overall with what McCrory did for Charlotte.
Rachel Demeter, 28, a Charlotte real estate broker, voted for Obama because of his stands on social issues. But she also voted for McCrory. I liked what he was doing for the city, said Demeter, who is unaffiliated.
We won the right way
McCrory credited what he called a positive campaign. Though some outside groups ran negative ads on his behalf, his campaign did not.
We won the right way, he said Tuesday night.
Senior strategist Jack Hawke, a veteran of two previous Republican administrations, credited a great candidate, a good campaign plan and the money to implement it.
Hes an outstanding candidate, Hawke said. He meets people well. They like him. They trust him.
Hawke said the tone for the campaign was set in August with a 60-second ad that aired statewide. It showed McCrory in a vacant warehouse saying the states economy was struggling because of partisanship. He described Charlotte as an economic powerhouse under his leadership while people of all parties worked together.
McCrory triumphed in an election in which Republicans hoped to strengthen their legislative majorities.
Since the GOP took over the General Assembly last year, they began reshaping state government. They tout efforts to curb government regulations, balance the state budget despite a revenue shortfall, and bring more accountability to schools. Critics say they led the state down an ideological path that resulted in a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and new restrictions on abortion.
Perdue vetoed a record 19 bills. The legislature overrode several, but not all. One veto that was upheld: a controversial voter ID bill that McCrory has said he would sign.
Asked often whether he would act as a rubber stamp for GOP lawmakers, he had a stock answer. Ive stepped on the toes of the right and the left, he would say. Im going to be my own man.
McCrory campaigned on a platform of principles rather than policy specifics: cutting taxes, curbing regulation, and boosting energy exploration.
McCrory has become an outspoken proponent of oil and the controversial gas extraction method known as fracking.
Power from Mecklenburg
With McCrorys win, two of the states three most powerful leaders would be from Mecklenburg County. House Speaker Thom Tillis is from Cornelius. With population growth and redistricting, about half the states lawmakers will hail from urban areas.
The last three Democratic governors Perdue, Mike Easley from Rocky Mount and Jim Hunt from Wilson came from the east. So did powerful General Assembly members.
In a state long dominated by rural interests, the looming shift of political influence is causing some angst.
Folks in Eastern North Carolina are concerned about kind of the balance of political power in the state swinging toward the more metropolitan areas, D. Jordan Whichard III, former publisher of Greenvilles Daily Reflector, said during the campaign.
After losing to Perdue in 2008 by less than 4 percentage points, McCrory has said, he assumed my political career was over. But a year later, with Perdues popularity sinking amid a budget crisis that forced her to cut state jobs and salaries, he had started laying the groundwork for another run.
He stumped the state for GOP candidates and started the New Leadership Political Action Committee that helped fund their campaigns.
It all paid off. Unlike 2008, McCrory faced no serious primary challenge this year.
Staff writer Jeanna Smialek of the News & Observer contributed.