Gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory speaks in Salisbury

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
During a brief speech to a Rowan County church congregation Sunday morning, Pat McCrory talked about greed on Wall Street, some politicians’ addiction to power and, of course, God.
McCrory, the Republican mayor of Charlotte who is running for governor, accepted an invitation from Cornerstone Church on Webb Road in Salisbury. He addressed the congregation during two church services.
The 51-year-old graduate of Catawba College said he’s been guilty of enjoying power a little too much, too.
One time, McCrory said, his wife met with the president in Tennessee about homeland security the same day he flew to New York on a jet. He couldn’t help but feel important.
“I got home … and my ego was this big,” McCrory said, extending his arm for emphasis.
But he quickly got a reality check later that day, he said.
“I heard my wife say, ‘Pick up your socks and go walk the dog.’ ”
McCrory’s power theme extended to the recent financial collapse.
The policies that helped spur the meltdown, like irresponsible mortgage lending, were by “people making millions upon millions of dollars, knowing the bubble was going to burst,” he said.
McCrory said that kind of power can be addictive. But he cautioned against it, especially in government.
“This is not about power,” he said. “It’s about public service.”
McCrory began his speech by saying the world revolved around God ó a sentiment that drew applause.
“God has given us so much more than we deserve,” he said. “It’s our time to give back.”
After the service, some churchgoers said McCrory came across as a regular guy who is in tune with regular people.
“I think he spoke from his heart,” Jim Phillips, of China Grove, said.
Phillips said he will vote for McCrory.
Devina Derrick, of Salisbury, called McCrory’s speech “uplifting.” She liked that he mentioned God.
Derrick, a Democrat, said she wasn’t sure if McCrory will get her vote.
“I don’t know,” she said. “We’ll see.”
But she gave his speech credit ó “from a Republican standpoint, anyway,” she said.
Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz, a Democrat, introduced McCrory to the congregation.
The mayor’s job is a non-partisan office, and Kluttz said she’s not in the habit of involving herself in partisan politics.
But she’s making an exception for McCrory.
“I realize how outstanding he would be as governor of North Carolina,” Kluttz said.
“You can’t just be one party or the other and get things accomplished,” she continued.
Kluttz praised McCrory for organizing a trip to Raleigh more than a decade ago so mayors could tell state lawmakers that their cities needed help, like more jobs and gang prevention.
McCrory has served as Charlotte’s mayor since 1995. He grew up in the Greensboro area and had planned to attend the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
He was heading down Interstate 85 to visit the university when he made a pit stop in Salisbury. That’s when he saw Catawba College.
“I fell in love with the town and the campus,” McCrory said. “I never went further.”
He said he served on the student government at Catawba. He graduated in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and education.
During an interview after the church service, McCrory said he will revamp the N.C. Department of Transportation if he is elected governor.
Replacing the Interstate 85 bridge over the Yadkin River would be one of his “first priorities,” he said.
McCrory said he drives across the bridge three or four times a week and understands its safety issues.
“It’s extremely dangerous,” he said. “Literally, people are dying on that bridge.”
McCrory criticized what he called connections between the DOT and his opponent, Democrat Bev Perdue, who is lieutenant governor.
He also clarified his position on school vouchers ó a stance he said Perdue has misconstrued.
McCrory said he supports the state giving vouchers to parents of students with disabilities so those students could attend private schools if they want to.
He called Perdue’s advertisement that said he supports vouchers for all students “misleading.”
“We can’t afford (that),” he said. “The money’s not available for across-the-board vouchers.”
He added, “But choice is good.”
Perdue has criticized McCrory on the issue, saying vouchers would take tax money away from public schools.
In this race, McCrory said he is running against “corruption and power elite” in Raleigh.
Perdue came to Rowan County earlier this month, when she addressed a group at the Rowan County Democratic Party headquarters.