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Former Gov. Pat McCrory campaigns in Wilmington for US Senate seat

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 1:38 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The primary election to replace North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is only six months away. Former Governor Pat McCrory came to Wilmington Wednesday to ask residents here to pick him.

The Charlotte Republican spent the last three years hosting his own radio show, but said he has missed taking a more central role in politics.

“While on the sidelines, I really saw the American dream being lost. Because of a lot of the legislation being passed and a lack of leadership in Washington, DC,” McCrory said during an interview at the WECT studio. “The thing that really had an impact on me is when we started paying people more not to work than to work. And I was in Wilmington last night and there were several restaurants that are half closed because they couldn’t find the people to come to work. And that’s really a form of socialism. Especially towards the young people when they’re being offered jobs and they’re going, ‘I’m getting a better deal from government to stay home.’”

McCrory said he encountered - and solved - a similar problem after being elected North Carolina’s Governor in 2013. At the time, he said North Carolina had the fourth highest unemployment rate in the country. He decided it was due in part to how much the state was paying people in unemployment benefits.

“We paid very high unemployment compensation. So in my third month in office I reduce the unemployment compensation to what South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee were paying, and three months later we had the largest drop in unemployment in the United States of America,” McCrory recalled. “We need that North Carolina experience in Washington D.C.”

McCroy will face at least two GOP challengers in the March primary, former US Rep. Mark Walker, and current US Rep. Ted Budd, who represents the Piedmont area in Congress. McCrory said he leads those challengers in the polls by 20%, and has 84% name recognition with voters across the state. He believes with the Senate split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, keeping this seat under Republican control is critical to the trajectory of our nation.

“It’s a 50-50 tie with Kamala Harris breaking the tie. This race has major national implications and the polls show that I am the Republican who has the best chance to hold the seat. But then I have to appeal not just Republicans, but to independents and I think my message appeals to both,” McCrory said of his politics and common sense approach to problem solving.

In his previous campaigns for Mayor of Charlotte and Governor of the state, his focus was on North Carolina issues. This time, he said the scope of what is at stake is much bigger.

“I really consider myself running against (Senator) Chuck Schumer, (Vice-President) Kamala Harris, and (President) Joe Biden. Not them personally - their policies. Their policies are radical extreme left on spending, and public safety...infrastructure, and taxes, and really destroying the American dream. So I’m not running against anyone personally. I’m running against the extreme policies,” he said.

When asked about the current state of affairs where so many Americans distrust public officials, McCrory blamed government officials pretending to know more than they do when talking to constituents about issues like COVID-19. He says it’s okay for elected leaders to level with their constituents and admit they don’t have all the answers and aren’t always sure what’s going to happen.

After winning the Governor’s seat in 2012, McCrory lost his bid for reelection by a razor-thin margin to Roy Cooper in 2016. Many blamed the loss on McCrory’s strong support of House Bill 2. The controversial legislation effectively banned transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice if it didn’t align with the gender they were assigned on their birth certificate.

The passage of that law prompted major backlash from supporters of the LGBTQ community, including a boycott of North Carolina by a number of major companies. The boycott ultimately cost the state hundreds of millions in lost revenue.

“One lesson I learned is don’t get distracted by these issues that really have very little impact, except for people on the left and the right trying to raise money,” McCrory said of the fallout that supporting this relatively obscure legislation had on his political career.

He said looking back, it would have been smarter to keep the focus on issues like infrastructure and the economy. But he also thinks that the entire situation was manufactured by his political opponents.

“It was only in the last three months of my whole term in office. And it was brought up by the Democrats [on Charlotte City Council] not the Republicans, which was kind of ironic. It was a well-coordinated effort to take me out of office,” McCrory said, noting that then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, led the charge on the North Carolina boycott.

Moving forward, McCrory said we owe it to the next generation to turn the tide on out-of-control government spending, before the tax burden to repay all of the money we’re borrowing becomes all consuming.

“They are being taught that everything is free. The next generation is being taught free education, free healthcare, free infrastructure. Nothing is free. It sounds great but I’m gonna be honest with the next generation. You know what. This is how much it costs and we need to prioritize our spending,” McCrory said.

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