Pat McCrory, the seven-term mayor Charlotte loved who became the one-term governor Charlotte helped vote out, is running for higher office now: U.S. Senate.
What’s happening: McCrory, 64, spent the past three-plus years building a successful morning radio show and a fairly comfortable post-politics life as a Myers Park dog dad. But he said on the same show Wednesday morning that public service pulled him back.
- “There’s a calling that I have,” he said. “I’m in. I’m in. I’m in. I’m gonna run for the U.S. Senate. Because I’m simply the best for the job.”
His campaign website went live before the official announcement.
Why it matters: The 2022 race for Republican Richard Burr’s seat in this purple state promises to be one of the most expensive and most watched in the country. And it could determine the balance of power in the Senate, which is currently split 50-50.
- The 2020 Senate race here, won by Republican Thom Tillis, was one of the most expensive on record.
Driving the news: McCrory is at this early stage the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. But all that would change if Lara Trump jumps in, of course.
- A recent poll conducted for McCrory, reported by POLITICO on Monday, shows him with a 35-point polling edge over U.S. Rep. Mark Walker (officially running) and U.S. Rep. Ted Budd (likely to enter).
- But the poll did not include Lara Trump, who recently joined Fox News full-time. Another poll released Tuesday showed her as the frontrunner among eight possible names.
McCrory’s entry is no surprise. He first expressed interest back in 2019, when he officially pulled his name from the gubernatorial contest.
What to watch: McCrory’s campaign will look a lot like a Tillis run. He’s been working with Paul Shumaker, a force in N.C. Republican politics who’s helped five people win U.S. Senate races, including Tillis. Jordan Shaw, Tillis’s former state communications director, is part of the McCrory team, too.
Like it was with Tillis, the most pressing question McCrory will hear in the primary will be about how much or how little space there is between him and Donald Trump.
McCrory, known as a moderate throughout his time as “Mayor Pat,” has been complimentary of the former president, but hardly to the degree of Walker, who boasts about voting alongside Trump 97% of the time.
- McCrory lamented how the national debt increased under Trump — by about $7.8 trillion in some accounts. National spending is a criticism he’s carried over to the Biden administration.
- He also condemned the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol on his show.
McCrory’s relationship with HB2, the notorious law he signed that led to a nationwide boycott of North Carolina in 2016, won’t likely be much of an issue in the primary. But it will no doubt loom large in a general election, should he get there.
- “North Carolinians remember exactly who Pat McCrory is —a failed politician who signed hateful and divisive legislation into law, hurt our national reputation, and damaged our state’s economy,” N.C. Democratic Party chair Bobbie Richardson said in a statement. “We have some free advice — don’t quit your day job, Pat.”
The big picture: That day job actually was appealing to McCrory. I spent several days with him in early February and whenever he talked about the radio, he was loose.
He became more straight-faced when he talked about political office and the inevitable attacks from opponents. He’s grown fond of trips to Lake James — or “Lake Jimmy,” as he calls it — near Morganton. He says he spent last weekend there finalizing his plans.
Yes, but: After a quarter-century in public office — he was first elected to city council in 1989, mayor in 1995, and governor in 2012 — he said he missed being part of big decisions.
- When we talked about the transition from one job to the other, he laughed and said, “One day these sound bites are going to be used against me.”
McCrory choked up with co-host Bo Thompson in the final few minutes of their last show Wednesday morning while The Beatles’ “Revolution” played. “Freedom, baby,” he said.
- Finally, after the song’s chorus lines, “Don’t you know it’s gonna be (all right),” he said, “Ain’t that the truth,” and then he was off the air.