Guest Opinion: Will Governor McCrory become Senator McCrory?

Published 7:29 am Wednesday, May 5, 2021

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By Gary Pearce

Maybe you can’t stand Pat, but former Governor McCrory could be future Senator McCrory.

When McCrory announced he’ll run for the Senate next year, many of my fellow Democrats laughed – and pounced. So did Republicans.

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Democrats dismissed him as the Governor who signed into law House Bill 2, the controversial transgender “bathroom bill,” and then became the first North Carolina governor to lose reelection.

Another Republican running for the Senate seat, former Congressman Mark Walker, attacked him saying: “With taking back the Senate majority hinging on our success in North Carolina, why would we gamble on Pat McCrory — a career politician who has lost more statewide races than he’s won?”

McCrory lost to Bev Perdue in the 2008 governor’s race, then soundly defeated Lt. Governor Walter Dalton in 2012 after Perdue decided – late in the campaign season – not to run again.

McCrory took shots from both parties because he interviewed for jobs in the Trump Administration after losing narrowly to Governor Roy Cooper in 2016, but didn’t get appointed.

Walker said, “If Pat wasn’t good enough for Trump’s administration, he’s not good enough for our state.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said McCrory “couldn’t even get hired by the Trump administration.”

But he could get elected Senator.

He enters the race with an advantage in name recognition, as his own campaign’s poll boasted. A Republican primary opponent will need a lot of money to overcome that.

McCrory has been mayor of Charlotte and governor. He has automatic stature.

Critics scoffed when he called himself an “outsider,” but that’s smart positioning. His campaign cited “the strength McCrory has as someone who has not served in Congress but instead has made executive-level decisions as a proven conservative.”

In other words, he’s not associated with the Washington swamp like Walker and another Congressman who might run, Ted Budd.

Lara Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, also might run. But why would she give up New York, Palm Beach and a Fox News gig? Plus, does Donald Trump want to risk his brand before 2024?

McCrory had a media gig too. He hosted “The Pat McCrory Show” on WBT radio. His campaign says that was “the top-rated talk radio show in Charlotte.”

It’s not “The Apprentice,” but it’s a big media market, especially in a Republican primary.

And he’s been a regular on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

It’s noteworthy that McCrory’s announcement didn’t mention Trump. You have to dig deep in his campaign website to find a mention of Trump. The former President is obviously a plus in the primary, but may be poison with Independents in a general election.

Senator Richard Burr, who is vacating the seat, got censured by North Carolina Republicans when he voted to impeach Trump over the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Paul Shumaker, an experienced Republican consultant who worked with both Senators Burr and Thom Tillis, is handling McCrory’s Senate race. Shumaker can provide the skilled professional hand that McCrory lost when Jack Hawke died after the 2012 election.

If McCrory wins the primary, history favors him. Republicans have won the last four Senate races in North Carolina and six of the last seven. Since the two-party era began in 1972, Republicans have won 13 Senate races and Democrats, only four.

The last North Carolinian to be elected both Governor (1960) and Senator (1986) was Terry Sanford.

Now, I knew Terry Sanford. Terry Sanford is a hero of mine. Pat McCrory is no Terry Sanford. But he could win Sanford’s old Senate seat next year – and be both a Governor and a Senator.

Gary Pearce was a reporter and editor at The News & Observer, a political consultant, and an adviser to Governor Jim Hunt (1976-1984 and 1992-2000). He blogs about politics and public policy at