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Wineka column: McCrory will be in the race for governor

SALISBURY — No matter what he might say now, Pat McCrory is running for governor again.
Most people, in normal conversation, don’t talk about their vision for North Carolina, what leadership is, how to mix economic prosperity with quality of life or how some things in politics — such as who will be the Republican presidential candidate in 2012 — are out of their control.
But I talked with McCrory about those things Thursday at the Koco Java coffeehouse on North Main Street.
Yes, McCrory will be a gubernatorial candidate.
Salisbury is like a second or third home to McCrory, the former mayor of Charlotte and the Republican who lost to Democrat Bev Perdue in the 2008 gubernatorial election.
He graduated in 1978 from Catawba College, where he’s now a member of the board of trustees. He became good friends with Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz during their work on the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition. Through the years, he also has spoken here at various political events or even in environmental forums at Catawba.
McCrory was in town Thursday to speak with Rowan County Rotarians, meet with the new interim president at Catawba, Joseph B. Oxendine, and talk later to a political science class.
While at Koco Java, McCrory also chatted with old friends and acquaintances such as Jake Alexander, John Holshouser, Terry Osborne and Marie Leonard Hartsell.
Osborne, general manager of the Rowan-Kannapolis Alcoholic Beverage Control board, left and reappeared three times to lobby McCrory about the ABC’s future, as though McCrory already was holding the state’s highest office.
McCrory said he probably hears from Osborne about once a week. He also described himself as being part of a tight GOP team with N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.
Yes, McCrory will be running for governor.
After the 2008 election and shunning an eighth term as Charlotte mayor, McCrory found himself in the position many North Carolinians have experienced in recent years. He was unemployed.
McCrory said he had to reinvent himself, essentially becoming a small business unto himself. Pat McCrory Inc., if you will.
He hasn’t gone wanting. He serves on three different boards, including LendingTree. He consults for companies and speaks in cities across the country, mostly on implementing transportation infrastructure. Next week, he’ll be speaking in Atlanta.
On the political side, he campaigned heavily for Republican House and Senate candidates in 2010, which would have been a much better year for him to run for governor than in 2008.
His “real” job these days is working for the Moore & Van Allen law firm in Charlotte as “senior director of strategic initiatives.” He’s not a lawyer. A better description would be strategic planner — process engineering type of work, he said.
His employment opportunities have come from a combination of his knocking on doors and receiving calls from total strangers.
“It totally surprised me,” he said.
But being on his own made him realize what small businesses and entrepreneurs are doing every day just to exist. He also has learned, McCrory said, to not take anything for granted and deal with change.
“We all better learn to adapt,” he said.
Speaking of adaptation, McCrory thinks the mindset of state government in North Carolina is stuck in the last 75 years, rather than looking forward to the next 75. It’s still organized, he complained, like it was in the 1920s, and there needs to be a sense of urgency to updating how it works.
He likes what Republican governors are doing in states such as New Jersey and Wisconsin. Yes, they have stepped on a lot of toes, but sometimes that’s what leadership requires, McCrory said, rather than holding up a finger to test the political winds.
But McCrory said a vision for North Carolina would have to come before any retooling. “Otherwise, you go in circles,” he said.
As for his vision, McCrory talks about building a state economy based on making things, not buying things; adapting education to what the market needs, so high school and college graduates can find jobs; making North Carolina more business friendly; and having a state infrastructure plan that addresses safety, congestion and economic development.
McCrory said he plagiarizes his father when he talks about walking the line between economic prosperity and protecting the quality of life “that brought many of us here.” He wants to see the state integrate things such as job training, health care, tax structure, communications and ethics within a 25-year vision.
State government today is putting out fires without any strategic plan behind it, he said.
McCrory wouldn’t say that losing the 2008 election turned out to be a good thing because of all the lessons he learned. He would rather be living today in that particular “public housing” in Raleigh known as the Executive Mansion.
He doesn’t pull punches when talking about the current occupant, Gov. Perdue. He said she already has increased three different taxes, has ongoing ethical issues related to her abuse of campaign finance laws and made campaign promises he knew she would never be able to keep.
A March poll from Public Policy Polling showed Perdue’s approval rating at 30 percent. In a hypothetical 2012 matchup with McCrory, he leads her 50 to 36 percent, according to the same survey.
McCrory said he hopes to be running for governor again but for now is working toward that day when he can make a definite decision.
Duh, he’s running.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@ salisburypost.com

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