N.C. voters face a difficult choice for governor on Nov. 4. We recommend a vote for Republican Pat McCrory. We believe McCrory's experience, approach to government, outsider perspective and willingness to take a stand make him a better choice than Democrat Bev Perdue.
McCrory would bring an urgently needed energy to the office. While we don't agree with him on every issue, he knows where he stands on most aspects of state government and why he stands there. He's too sure, sometimes, that his position is right, but that certitude is preferable to Perdue's tendency to base her stands on what she believes is politically expedient.
As Charlotte mayor for 13 years, McCrory, 51, has shown steady leadership. He has presided over a prosperous age for the city driven in large part by people and factors that had little to do with him. But he has generally kept city government clean and helped make Charlotte a place where people want to live, and one which has attracted thousands of newcomers.
As mayor, he has been involved in issues ranging from growth to crime to transportation. That experience gives us confidence that, while he faces a steep learning curve, he can handle the challenges that will confront the next governor.
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McCrory has more experience with vexing transportation issues than most other politicians in the state. He understands the importance of mass transit and encouraging people to walk and bicycle as well as drive. He has led on the issue, and showed political courage. Many in his own party vilified him for pushing Charlotte's fledgling light rail system. He also bucked powerful developers in the 1990s when they fought an ordinance requiring more sidewalks. He vetoed a City Council vote that had caved in to developers' objections.
Decisions by the state Department of Transportation and the board that governs it have consistently been driven by politics and conflicts of interest. McCrory pledges to shake up the department and its board by appointing members based on qualifications, not campaign contributions. He promises a “total reorganization” of DOT, including new formulas for allocating transportation dollars. He is not the first candidate to promise DOT reform, but we like his alarm and his pledge not to appoint any of his fund-raisers to the board.
He also vows an open and transparent government and to veto state budgets built by closed-door negotiations. Perdue for years has been part of a Senate leadership that secretly slipped items into the budget at the last minute and stifled debate. McCrory says he won't allow that.
McCrory is a veteran politician. But he hasn't been part of the Raleigh network that has dominated state government for so long. We believe he would bring an outsider's perspective, which would be healthy, particularly with entrenched Democrats in control of the House and Senate.
Charlotte is already experiencing some of the changes that are barreling toward the state, including changing demographics and a global economy. That perspective, too, will be valuable in Raleigh.
We disagree with McCrory on illegal immigration and his desire to open the N.C. coast to oil drilling. We don't believe he has a sufficient understanding of education, particularly K-12. And we are disappointed in his inconsistency: Sometimes he'll stand up for what he believes, but at times he'll pander to the far right and special interests. He sometimes shows a short temper and a thin skin, which will make it difficult to work with Democratic leaders in the legislature. If he's dogmatic, he'll get nothing done. He needs to be practical and figure out how to lead North Carolina into a new era, even when he and legislative leaders don't agree.
Bev Perdue has done a number of important things for the state as a state senator and lieutenant governor. We admire her knowledge of and commitment to education. She ran an effective campaign against teen smoking and helped protect N.C. military bases.
But we detect no core compass within her. She speaks in platitudes, not specifics. She often appears governed by polls, changing her stance, for instance, on oil drilling and refusing to lead on the issue of illegal immigration. On immigration, Perdue seems not to understand either the law or the reality, and doesn't explain a rational basis for her position, giving the impression it's simple political convenience.
McCrory's success will depend in large measure on his willingness to seek wise counsel, study the issues without political blinders and make independent decisions. He has done so in some, though regrettably not all, cases as Charlotte mayor, taking the right course even when it brought some heat. That's more appropriate to the kind of leadership North Carolina needs.