Perdue, McCrory will face off in governor’s race
By Gary D. Robertson
RALEIGH ó Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory won their party’s nominations for governor Tuesday and will compete this fall to succeed outgoing Gov. Mike Easley.
With 80 percent of precincts reporting unofficial results, Perdue had 55 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. State Treasurer Richard Moore was second with 41 percent; retired Air Force Col. Dennis Nielsen of Nash County was third with 4 percent.
“I’m a fighter. You know that. I’ve been a fighter my entire life,” Perdue told supporters at a victory rally. “I’m ready to take on the challenges of fighting for all of the people of North Carolina.”
Perdue advances to the general election against McCrory, who led state Sen. Fred Smith 47 percent to 36 percent with some precincts still outstanding.
Smith conceded just before 10 p.m.
“We’ve run a good race,” Smith told supporters at a subdued rally in east Raleigh. “We’re proud of what we’ve done, and we want to congratulate Pat McCrory on winning the race.”
McCrory’s supporters were clapping and chanting “We Want Pat” at a rally at a Charlotte hotel.
“I plan to bring a new culture to the state. A culture that understands that quality of life is our No. 1 goal for the state of North Carolina,” said McCrory, who immediately called for a series of statewide debates with Perdue. “We must protect that for future generations.”
Among other Republicans, Salisbury attorney Bill Graham had 9 percent, former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr had 7 percent and Sampson County pecan grower Elbie Powers had less than 1 percent.
Graham failed to capture his home county, Rowan. Results from Rowan showed Graham with 2,212 votes, or 22.5 percent of the Republican votes cast.
McCrory won with 5,793 votes, or 59 percent of the votes in Rowan’s Republican primary. Smith finished with 1,619 votes, while Orr got 158 votes.
Graham had a private election-night party at his house. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
Graham began his run for governor after a self-financed petition drive and television campaign in 2006 aimed at lowering the state’s gasoline tax.
Moore and Perdue ran a hard-fought campaign for the Democratic nomination, a race at least three years in the making that cost the pair of state government veterans more than $16 million.
“I have to say that I’m very much looking forward to getting more involved in my wonderful family’s life,” Moore said at his campaign headquarters before leaving without taking questions from reporters. “Thank you all for coming.”
The GOP last won a governor’s election in 1988. Easley is barred by state law from seeking a third term.
In her speech, Perdue thanked the powerful N.C. Association of Educators, who endorsed the lieutenant governor early in the campaign and the Legislative Black Caucus, whose members came to her support when Moore ran television ads criticizing her civil rights record.
The primary between Perdue and Moore was expected to be the most anticipated election of the spring ó before the presidential campaign dragged into May. Both embraced Barack Obama and carefully promoted their endorsement of the Illinois senator in the state’s black community.
Perdue touted her 14-year history in the Legislature and seven more years as lieutenant governor, highlighting her efforts to raise teacher salaries and protect the state’s military installations during the 2005 round of base closings.
Moore countered with a resume that includes running two state agencies ó the treasurer’s office and the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, where he managed the state’s response to Hurricanes Fran and Floyd. He has received national attention for his corporate accountability efforts on Wall Street, and the $78 billion pension fund he manages for state employees is rated among the healthiest in the country.
In the GOP race, Smith spent the better part of a year hosting cookouts in all 100 North Carolina counties, slowly building support that was eclipsed in January by McCrory’s decision to get into the race. McCrory ran a short, television-oriented campaign designed to attract moderate voters worried about traffic congestion, public schools and gangs.
Orr struggled to gain traction and hardly campaigned in the race’s final days.
Salisbury Post staff writer Steve Huffman contributed to this article.