By BRYAN ANDERSON, Associated Press / Report for America
MOUNT AIRY, NC (AP) – In the November 2016 political upheaval rankings, the loss of North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory was far behind. Yet when the Republican best known for signing the transgender toilet bill narrowly lost as Donald Trump comfortably won the state, it left a lot of people stunned.
Now McCrory, a rising star of the pre-Trump GOP, is trying to make a political comeback in a post-Trump era. McCrory is in the running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, taking on far-right politicians who may not have been lucky many years ago and struggling to position themselves in the midst of a debate distorted by politicians. Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.
The main fight for the seat vacated by GOP Senator Richard Burr is one of many across the country who will test Trump’s influence. The former president turned the race upside down this summer by backing U.S. Representative Ted Budd, a conservative who backed his attempt to overturn the election results. This forced McCrory to try and win over Trump loyalists who took over the party in his absence.
It was not easy for the former governor, who once said that Trump is “destroying democracy.”
“I’m the most attractive candidate in the general election, no ifs and no buts,” McCrory said in an interview with The Associated Press last month.
McCrory was once considered a good candidate for the changing politics of North Carolina. He was considered a pro-business moderate – in line with many suburban voters driving growth in the state’s expanding tech and research industries.
He spent 14 years as mayor of Charlotte before narrowly losing his first gubernatorial bid in 2008. He was then elected governor in 2012 by more than 11 percentage points. He won, in part, by convincing voters he was best qualified to jumpstart the struggling economy in a state with the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country. Having previously worked at Duke Energy and then his brother’s sales consulting firm, McCrory has often touted his business background.
But McCrory’s career took an unexpected turn with the passage of Bill House 2, a law he signed in 2016 that required transgender people to use public toilets of the gender listed on their birth certificates. The bill has become a flashpoint in the still burgeoning transgender rights movement.
McCrory, a religious conservative, defended the measure, even as several large corporations and sports leagues have relocated events to other states. The bill was partially repealed in 2017 by McCrory’s Democratic successor Roy Cooper.
“We remember HB2, and we remember the damage it caused to our state and the loss of jobs,” said Bobbie Richardson, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party. “I don’t think people are going to forget, and I know that we as Democrats are not going to allow people to forget.”
McCrory now refuses to say whether he regrets signing the measure. His campaign also refused to share McCrory’s attitudes on a bill Republicans introduced this year, but ultimately failed to pursue what would have prevented transgender girls and women from participating in sports designed for those who were born female.
“I do not relive the circumstances. I’m looking to the future, ”McCrory said.
House Bill 2 was among many factors that contributed to its defeat in 2016. It was also repelled by its support for the construction of toll lanes along Interstate 77 north of Charlotte and angered activists environmentalists who accused him of having a pleasant relationship with Duke. Energy leading to the 2014 coal ash dump along the Dan River.
“I gave Duke Power the biggest fine in North Carolina history,” said McCrory. “Duke Power was not happy with what I did.”
It took him nearly a month to concede the election to Cooper, which he did after it became clear he was outside the 10,000-vote margin needed for a recount at the statewide. Some of his supporters face a libel lawsuit over allegations they have made falsely accusing a handful of voters of having voted multiple times.
Days after his concession, McCrory was interviewed for a position in the Trump administration, offering to provide his expertise on infrastructure and transportation. But he was pushed back. McCrory said he later learned that Trump disliked his criticisms after the “Access Hollywood” video showed Trump making lewd comments about women.
McCrory says he wouldn’t take it back: “I believe what I said, what I said basically, a lot of us, including Mr. Trump, need to wash our mouths with soap.”
After his loss, McCrory hosted a popular radio show on politics. The show kept him in Republicans ears, but that didn’t necessarily endear him to the new wave of Trump loyalists in the state.
Two days after the 2020 election, McCrory expressed his belief that Trump had lost. On November 23, McCrory accused Trump of “destroying democracy” by his efforts to overturn legitimate election results. The day after the Jan. 6 Capitol uprising, McCrory argued that Trump lost “because of his personality.”
Since announcing his candidacy this year and quitting his radio show, McCrory has reconsidered his criticisms of Trump.
“I was a strong supporter of President Trump’s policies, especially with regards to immigration, tax cuts, the military, foreign policy,” McCrory told the PA. “The only thing I continue to be discouraged about is deficit spending, and I totally disagree with (how) the federal government got involved in unemployment and started paying people. more not to work than to work. “
McCrory was referring to the increase in federal unemployment benefits that the Trump administration extended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the election campaign, McCrory attempted to portray himself as a political foreigner ready to shake up Washington – an attempt to compare himself to Budd, a three-term congressman.
Budd voted to overturn the 2020 election results and called the Jan. 6 insurgency on Capitol Hill “a few hours on a bad day.”
Former Rep. Mark Walker is also in the running, though he’s struggling to stay viable after a horrendous fundraising spell between July and September in which he grossed $ 122,000, far less than the $ 1million. dollars that McCrory and Budd raised.
Among the Democrats running for Burr’s seat are Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and Jeff Jackson, a state senator.
Many undecided voters remain split between Budd and Walker, which could increase McCrory’s chances of winning a plurality of primary votes in a three-way race.
Nancy Sieber, a 70-year-old resident of Winston-Salem, said she couldn’t decide between Budd or Walker.
“Obviously, Trump putting his all-in for Budd is an impressionable thing for me,” she said.
But for some voters, Trump’s support won’t be the only factor.
At a recent event where all three candidates spoke, Rion Choate, a Charlotte resident and Mecklenburg County GOP member, wore a Trump 2024 hat. He said he believed Trump had defeated Biden and admitted Budd got Trump’s approval, but noted that he supported McCrory “just because I’ve known him for all these years.”
Follow Anderson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BryanRAnderson.
Anderson is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.
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