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Rocky Mount Telegram - McCrory Balances Campaign, Mayor's Duties

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Rocky Mount Telegram - McCrory Balances Campaign, Mayor's Duties

Mike Hixenbaugh

In between handshakes and photos with wealthy Rocky Mount campaign donors, Republican gubernatorial candidate and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was on his cell phone making plans with Wells Fargo executives.

The San Francisco-based company announced Thursday it expects to complete its purchase of Wachovia, after rival suitor Citigroup broke off talks. McCrory learned of the news while in the midst of a fundraiser hosted by former Republican N.C. Rep. Gene Arnold.

"I said at the start of this that I wasn't going to let my campaign for governor get in the way of me doing my job as mayor," McCrory said in between phone calls from the front porch the Arnold home on Greystone Drive. "I've stuck by that. And I'm going to take that mentality of action with me to Raleigh."

More than 40 residents turned out for the private fundraiser, including Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs, N.C. Rep. Bill Daughtridge and Rocky Mount Councilman W.B. Bullock.

"We need reform in Raleigh," said Bullock, who is running against Democrat Randy Stewart for the District 25 House seat being vacated by Daughtridge. "Pat is the best guy to do that because he has no ties, no obligations, to anyone in Raleigh. He's the only outsider running."

McCrory laughed when former Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner asked him his thoughts on recent polling numbers that show him leading by a few points over Democrat Beverly Perdue. Most other Republicans are trailing in statewide races.

"I was hoping to ride on John McCain and Elizabeth Dole's coattails," McCrory said, shaking his head. "I didn't anticipate it the other way around. But things can change the next three weeks. The dynamics are incredible, but we're not going to change our message, no matter how negative this thing gets."

Arnold, who said he hoped the private party would draw between $20,000 and $25,000, admitted that most residents of Eastern North Carolina are weary of candidates from the West. But McCrory is different, he said, because his policies are good for the entire state, regardless of demographics or location.

"He knows where the East is because he's been down here enough to find out that we are real people," Arnold said, introducing McCrory in his living room. "And I'm sure he's going to look after us a hell of a lot more than that other fella who used to live here."

Arnold was referring to Democratic Gov. Mike Easley, a Nash County native.

McCrory said Rocky Mount and other eastern towns have been receptive of him throughout his campaign. Continuing his message of reform, McCrory attempted to ease concerns over the location of his hometown.

"Listen, you've had an easterner in the governor's mansion for eight years, and look what have been the results," McCrory said. "People are beginning to understand that it's not where the leader comes from that matters. It's what the leader will do once elected."

McCrory said he would be a governor of action who works to ensure businesses locate and grow jobs throughout the state.

"I'm not going to govern from within the governor's mansion," McCrory said. "I've never even been in there before. I'm going to be a hands-on leader. That's who I am."

Moments later, McCrory stepped outside to speak with Wells Fargo representatives, the future owners of one of his city's more prominent companies.

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