By Nikki Stoudt | Technician – NCSU
As Gov. Bev Perdue readies herself for civilian life, three new candidates are gearing up for the race to the Governor’s Mansion this fall.
Walter Dalton, Pat McCrory and Barbara Howe are on the ballot this November, and according to Andrew Taylor, professor of political science, all are poised and ready to take over.
“It’s difficult to determine who will win,” Taylor said. “It is clear, however, that North Carolina needs a governor who will be willing and able to work with the General Assembly.”
North Carolina has not had a Republican governor in almost 20 years but has regularly voted Republican in presidential elections since 1980, making it a historically “purple” state.
In 2008, President Barack Obama won the state by 14,000 votes, and is expected to do the same in this election, by perhaps a slimmer margin. However, with a changing economic landscape and the emergence of new social issues, Taylor said he thinks Mitt Romney could turn North Carolina “red.”
Walter Dalton, a Rutherfordton native and the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has served as lieutenant governor for four years under Perdue. Although he was elected by popular vote, Dalton is virtually unknown by the voters.
“[Dalton] is really trying to distance himself from Perdue,” Taylor said. “He’s not very well-known, so he needs to form his image away from Perdue.”
After serving in the state senate for 12 years before being elected lieutenant governor, Dalton has experience to spare. He is known for his understanding of business, his support of working people and for being a staunch pragmatist, according to Taylor. Nevertheless, the seasoned politician is having trouble raising campaign funds.
“He’s not only behind financially, but also in the polls,” Taylor said. “This is coming as a shock to the Democratic party because Dalton is their last hope. He’s the only one standing in the way of the Republicans taking over the capital.”
Since 2010, the Republican Party has controlled the General Assembly, taking both the state House and Senate. This creates a clear path for former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the Republican gubernatorial nominee.
McCrory served the Queen City for 14 years, retiring from the public sector after the 2008 election when he narrowly lost the gubernatorial election against Perdue. A well-known technocrat, McCrory gained a very early lead in both fundraising and polls and has managed to hold on strong.
“McCrory’s lead is a really good sign for the Republican Party,” Taylor said. “They could potentially sweep the election which would bring huge changes to the state.”
However, McCrory’s success worries some constituents. The former mayor may have years of political experience, but McCrory has never served on a state-level governmental branch in Raleigh, Taylor said.
This setback doesn’t seem to affect the voters’ opinion of him as his tax reform and spending cuts have won the votes of thousands already, according to Taylor.
“The fact that [McCrory] is not known in Raleigh isn’t hurting him at all,” Taylor said. “If anything, the freshness of his face is attracting votes.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Barbara Howe, the Libertarian gubernatorial candidate, has very seldom received more than 2 percent of the votes in four bids for the North Carolina House.
“The fact that she’s even on the ballot is kind of amazing,” Taylor said. “It’s a really big victory for the state Libertarian Party.”
After running for governor twice before, once in 2000 and again in 2004, Howe knows the challenges she will face in the upcoming months.
As a former chair of the North Carolina Libertarian Party, Howe holds traditional libertarian views — a decrease in government influence on the citizens’ daily lives and tax regulations — but has been known for being more moderate than most, according to Taylor.
While her election is unlikely, Howe and the Libertarians continue to fight a foothold for change in the capitol. According to Taylor, a close race between Dalton and McCrory would be bad for Howe and as a result she has showed no signs of relaxed campaigning. Howe has committed to visiting all 100 counties in North Carolina and will be hosting a 5k run in each.
“She’s well aware of what this election means for her state and for her party,” Taylor said. “She’s really trying hard to make a point as an unlikely third party candidate.”
After Perdue steps down this January, Taylor said North Carolinians should expect change and new direction.
“At this point, it’s pretty hard to judge just who will win,” Taylor said. “But it’s obvious they’re going to have to be willing to work together with the legislature if they want to get anything done. It’s going to be about compromise.”