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The Daily Advance - McCrory Stumps in Region

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The Daily Advance - McCrory Stumps in Region

Charlotte mayor not ceding east to Perdue

Toby Tate

Regardless of whom becomes North Carolina's next governor, keeping the state's revenues in the black next year could be a tough job, Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory says.

"I think it will be a big challenge," he said. "I think our revenue will be impacted next year. We'll have to look at ways to do things better with education and social services."

McCrory, the mayor of Charlotte, is hoping he'll get to tackle the job of steering the state's finances through the economic downturn. He's locked in a tight race with Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue to replace current Gov. Mike Easley.

On Friday, McCrory made a campaign swing through the Albemarle, making several appearances before attending a fundraiser at Montero's restaurant in Elizabeth City.

During an interview at the offices of The Daily Advance, McCrory touched on a number of issues, including the Navy's proposed study of Camden County for an outlying landing field, drilling for oil off the coast of North Carolina, economic incentives and education.

McCrory also used the opportunity to disagree with the notion that Perdue, because she hails from eastern North Carolina, is more in touch with residents of the region.

"When she comes to Charlotte, she says Charlotte is her second home," McCrory said. "I'm not appeasing any one area or any town. I'm giving the same message tonight that I gave in Charlotte. We have to recognize that what's good for one area of the state is good for another."

McCrory said one of the most common complaints he hears from people he meets on the campaign trail is a feeling of being left out of their government. He said the problem stems from the "elite" leadership style of the current administration.

"The power elite lives inside the beltline and flies over the state on the way to their vacation homes," McCrory said, referring to Easley and Perdue. "Conflicts of interest have become the norm for our state governor."

Closer to home, McCrory said he believes the Navy's consideration of sites in both Camden and Gates counties has not been handled well.

"I just met with the county commissioners," he said, referring to the Camden Board of Commissioners, with whom he met Friday afternoon. "The first thing I wouldn't have done is blindside them with (the OLF). You have to work in partnership with them. You have to work across jurisdictions and develop trust."

McCrory was referring to the Navy's announcement that it was studying sites in Gates and Camden before officials in those counties knew about the study.

McCrory said the OLF the Navy's proposing would not bring enough jobs to the area.

The Charlotte mayor says he's a strong advocate of offshore oil drilling, believing that damage to North Carolina beaches would be non-existent.

"There would be more damage from shipping than from offshore drilling," he said.

He also favors pushing forward with alternative forms of energy such as nuclear and clean coal.

"Our role should be to solve the energy crisis," he said. "Natural gas has the greatest potential of anything. It's a way we can rebuild our economy. We could negotiate for 35 percent of the revenue."

The main focus for any region, including northeastern North Carolina, should be it's economic strengths, McCrory said, and he sees manufacturing and biotechnology as among them.

"I think every region should find its niche, and the governor should have a hand in that," he said. "I'd be selective in filling niches."

One way to get manufacturing jobs into any region is to offer incentives. But for McCrory, offering incentives is a hard pill to swallow.

"I hate incentives, but I understand the need for them," he said. "I'd like to take the politics out of it as much as possible. In reality, an incentive is a tax break."

On education, McCrory said he favors vouchers targeted at special needs kids and private facilities. He also would like to see the state put more emphasis on technical training for high school students who don't want to attend college.

"We need to give kids a choice between college and vocational school," he said.

"We've lost focus on the reasons for school, which is to train people to get jobs. We have a shortage of technically trained people."

McCrory said he is not going to let politics affect his job as mayor of Charlotte, or his run for governor. He said he is ready to make the jump from one to the other, and believes people from all political persuasions will turn out to vote for him.

"Being mayor has been a great training field for governor," he said.

"I'm convinced we'll get a lot of Democratic votes" in November.

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