Kinston Free Press - Interview
Publisher and Editor Patrick Holmes, Content Editor Bryan Hanks and News Editor Richard Clark sat down with Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory Thursday afternoon in The Free Press office. McCrory answered questions from the three, along with questions from viewers from Hanks' blog.
Here are some excerpts from the meeting ...
The Free Press: With Eastern North Carolina identified as a Bev Purdue stronghold, do you feel like you're in enemy territory as you visit this area?
Pat McCrory: Absolutely not. In fact, I think we need to get out of this mindset in North Carolina that one area of the state is opposed to other areas of the state. This "divide and conquer" mentality is hurting our state and I'm hearing it as I go across the state.
Whether I'm in the East, the Piedmont and the West, I'm hearing the same issues of jobs, the economy, gas prices, crime and transportation. No matter where I go in the state, they don't feel like they're getting the attention, especially from the executive branch of the government. They all feel like they've been left out and there's been total inaccessibility in state government.
They feel like the current leadership that runs the state - which is basically five or six people - is invisible, inaccessible and does business in secret. No one is pleased with that type of customer service from our elected officials.
TFP: There's always been a complaint that folks who are east of I-95 don't get their share or their fair amount of attention they need.
PM: I've heard that complaint everywhere in the state. It's a consistent message everywhere I go; people feel like they're not getting their fair share. Part of that is I feel the leaders aren't being accessible and aren't being seen. They feel like no one is listening to them.
I have experience as a mayor that you can't just sit in your office. You have to get out among the people and see them, so they can see you, hear you and make sure they're being listened to. That's not happened for eight years.
I'll give you an example: Over the last eight years as the mayor of Charlotte, not one time has the governor or lieutenant governor come to visit me in my office. Not one time. I'm finding that's true across the state in small towns and large cities alike.
That's not leadership by walking around.
TFP: What differentiates your campaign from Bev Purdue's campaign?
PM: I didn't spend $8 million in the primary (laughs). That's one big difference.
I think we've already had a very positive impact on the future of North Carolina politics. We've already shown that you don't have to run for the last two years. We're the 10th-largest state, but I've only run a five-month campaign. That's a positive, because I think we got engaged in this campaign when the voters were ready to listen, not a year, two or three in advance.
We've also shown that you don't have to be wealthy to run. I am not wealthy. I don't have any money to lend my campaign. I mean, I'm really not wealthy. While others lend their campaigns hundreds of thousands of dollars, including Beverly and some of my opponents, I've proved you don't have to do that.
I showed that you don't have to spend two or three or even $8 million to win a primary.
I also ran a positive campaign. I ran a campaign on the issues and I was very accessible to the people and to the media.
I didn't shy away from one debate in the Republican primary; I accepted every single debate.
In the general election, I'm accepting every single debate. Right now, Beverly - which is very similar to Gov. Easley, in the sense that there is limited accessibility - has shown selective accessibility. She's announced that McCrory and Purdue have accepted five debates; well, I didn't know that. I've accepted every debate.
What she didn't tell you is that she turned down every statewide TV debate. She's been very selective with specific interest groups and which audiences that I can share the stage, that I'm privileged to share the stage with.
I've had seven mayor's elections and whoever challenged me, I accepted every single debate. That's what an incumbent should do and what a challenger should do. ...
My opponent often talks about needing to prepare for a new industry, which is true. But there's a lot of existing industries that need to feel appreciated by state government, especially in this area, too. The agricultural industry has some extremely complex issues that it needs to deal with and they need cooperation from the government and not be pushed back.
The manufacturing industry is still strong in North Carolina. We've lost a lot of manufacturing right here in Kinston, but there is still manufacturing that has a viable future.
We have some very serious issues in education right here in Kinston. ... You have a 30 percent dropout rate, yet if you talk to some of your leading industries, they can't find qualified employees. Now, why isn't there a strategy to match the lack of qualifications of skills needed to fill the labor needs versus the 30 percent dropout rate? There's a mismatch.
We seem to be enacting the same sort of programs that haven't had the same amount of success the past eight or 12 years. I think it's time to re-invent the strategy and get away from the interest groups that want to keep the status quo in state government.
I want to change the status quo of state government and take the leadership skills I've shown in Charlotte and bring it to the rest of the state - where we create jobs, re-invent the economy, diversify the economy and where you have a governor who is accessible to the public and to the media.