Campaigning by helicopter, McCrory stops by Catawba

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Shavonne Potts
“It’s great being back at Catawba,” Pat McCrory excitedly told a group of supporters who came to hear the Republican nominee for governor speak on the college’s campus Saturday.
With his fists in the air, the Charlotte mayor returned to his alma mater by helicopter on a tour that began in Concord.
McCrory spoke to a small group of people gathered around the steps of the college’s library about bringing a fresh perspective to the governor’s office.
McCrory is in a tight race with Democratic Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue to replace outgoing Gov. Mike Easley. State law prohibits Easley from seeking a third consecutive term.
Greg Edds, a local business owner, welcomed the crowd to what he called the Pat McCrory victory tour. Edds also recognized other local officials who are seeking office. Edds called voter turnout phenomenal.
“There’s always been a Democratic governor. That will change,” he said.
Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz introduced McCrory, calling him a true friend and supporter of Catawba and Salisbury.
Kluttz jokingly said McCrory speaks so highly of Salisbury that she asked him, “Which one of us is the mayor of Salisbury?”
Although Kluttz is a Democrat, she made an exception with the McCrory campaign and endorsed the Republican.
Kluttz talked about McCrory’s work over the years with surrounding counties and mayors in coming up with solutions for problems such as the economy, gangs, transportation issues and and overcrowded criminal justice system.
“He not only identifies the problem but comes up with a solution,” she said.
“We’re going to bring a mayor’s attitude to the governor’s office,” McCrory said.
He said he doesn’t want to hide but find solutions.
McCrory joked that when he received his honorary doctorate from Catawba in the 1970s, his head got so big that others around him helped him return to reality.
“We need the egos in Raleigh to come back to reality,” he said to applause.
In 2007, McCrory joined other mayors, including Kluttz, in going to Raleigh with crime victims and law enforcement officials from the region to address gang problems.
“The governor wouldn’t walk across the street to meet us. He sent his aides,” McCrory said.
He said North Carolina needs a governor who will recruit for jobs and reintroduce an education system where schools throw out calculators and teach the basics.
“We need to start now offshore drilling … to help with the energy crisis,” McCrory said.
McCrory spoke about the negative campaign ads his opponent put on television.
“I’ve seen so many negative ads against me that I’ve decided to not vote for myself,” he joked.
McCrory said Perdue is spreading lies to North Carolinians.
He briefly addressed her TV ad about immigration and “traveling trash,” which refers to a 2007 bill about proposed landfills in North Carolina.
“I need your help and your commitment,” he said.
McCrory told a Post reporter he believes people are looking for proven leadership.
“They need someone who understands all the regions of the state,” he said.
The mayor added he considers Salisbury a second home.
Katie Hill, executive vice president of Catawba’s Student Government Association, spoke about McCrory’s push for education.
“We feel he would benefit not only the state but our school,” she said.
McCrory is focused on getting back to the basics and preparing today’s students to be future leaders, Hill said.
The student government recently endorsed McCrory in a letter to the Post.
Although McCrory is an alumnus of Catawba, Hill said she feels like students have looked beyond that and concentrated on the issues of McCrory’s campaign.
Kevin Flebbe, the association’s executive treasurer, said he’d been following McCrory’s campaign closely. Flebbe is a political science major, just as McCrory was.
Ben Lynch, his wife, Teal, and their 3-year-old daughter, Reagan, attended to “support the future governor,” Ben said.
Lynch said McCrory has been leading by example.
“What he’s done in Charlotte has been fascinating,” he said.
Lynch is also an alumnus of Catawba.
Ben Johnson attended the event with his family รณ wife, Jessica, and son, Caleb, 18 months.
“I would really like to see some of the Republican policies in North Carolina. We tend to end up with Democratic governors,” he said.
Johnson said he agreed with many of McCrory’s issues, including his pro-life stance and positions on education.
“Being able to open up with school vouchers, it’s what will push education forward,” he said.
As to what the future holds for his son, Johnson said he hopes America continues to be a place of opportunity.
Melissa Eller, a volunteer with the Republican party, said she’s been volunteering for years.
When asked what voters’ concerns were, Eller said the economy. The Salisbury resident added that the media was biased against Republicans.
“It’s so evident. I hope people can see it,” she said, holding McCain/Palin stickers.
The helicopter tour, which started in Concord, ended in McCrory’s childhood hometown of Jamestown.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.