By Paul T. Choate
Aug. 9, 2012. The thunder and heavy rain held off just long enough for Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory to take in a tour of downtown Blowing Rock with Mayor J.B. Lawrence on Thursday, Aug. 9.
“There is no better tour than a mayor giving a tour,” said McCrory.
The gubernatorial hopeful was in town to meet High Country residents – and visitors – prior to attending a fundraiser on Wonderland Drive later in the evening. He was also scheduled to make an appearance in Linville at 7:30 p.m.
McCrory and Lawrence met at Kilwin’s Chocolates for ice cream – with McCrory buying – before setting off on a tour of downtown. McCrory candidly admitted that the ice cream at Kilwin’s was some of the best he had tasted.
Mayor Lawrence hit all the hot spots and had McCrory marveling at the antique shops such as Finley House and Windwood. They also stopped by the offices of the Blue Ridge Mountain Club to discuss future developments.
The first leg of the tour concluded at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum, which, despite being in the midst of exhibit transitions, McCrory found very interesting.
Upon reaching Memorial Park – the conclusion of the second leg of the tour – McCrory sat down to discuss his vision for the High Country and North Carolina with High Country Press.
“I’m making a point to reach every area of the state and of course this is a great area to visit,” said McCrory. “I’m also getting a chance to talk to your mayor who has been a good colleague of mine as a peer mayor and also a good supporter. I’m making a point to hit about every area of the state. Blowing Rock is one of the prettiest places in the state. It’s good to be here.”
Despite being the Republican gubernatorial hopeful, McCrory did highlight a few actions by Gov. Bev Perdue that he supported. He commended the governor on her appointments of the Department of Transportation chairman and Commerce Secretary. However, he questioned the Perdue administration’s direction.
“I think the biggest fault was she didn’t have a vision on where she was taking North Carolina in the future,” said McCrory. “I mean, no one knows what the future vision is and it seems to be very reactive. She’s not showing the reform and vision that our competitors are showing across the border in Tennessee, Virginia and South Carolina. While you have some very assertive governors taking some tough stands and reforming government, our governor – and frankly lieutenant governor [Walter Dalton, Democratic candidate for governor] – have been on the sidelines on some very, very important issues.”
McCrory stressed the importance of development in the construction and tourism industries, two of which greatly benefit Blowing Rock and the High Country.
“I’m going to have an economic development plan which will take into consideration the important job creation industries from travel and tourism to construction to agriculture to manufacturing. I’m going to have a firm economic development policy in which everything will center around the understanding that it’s the private sector that is going to get us out of this recession – and we’ve got to build the private sector so we then have enough money to pay the teachers and the police and the fire [fighters],” said McCrory. “Every bit of my policy – my education policy, my economic development policy, my infrastructure policy, my healthcare policy – will be centered around, ‘How can I help those industries that make things, build things, grow things, produce things and innovate things?’ And then that will help rebuild our entire economy, including travel and tourism, which is crucial.”
People walking around downtown Blowing Rock all gravitated to McCrory, wishing him well and many wanting a picture with him. Being the former mayor of Charlotte – the state’s largest city – he knew the ins and outs of the political game. He asked where they were from; he tapped into how they felt about North Carolina’s current government; he tried to win them over… and in many cases, he did. He also hit the high points of local interest.
“This area is really impacted by not having a tax system that is competitive with Florida and Tennessee,” said McCrory. “You have so many people who live less than six months in the Blowing Rock area because of our taxes. I want them to live here 12 months out of the year, not five months out of the year. I’ve met so many people from Florida when they said, ‘I’d love to be here full-time but can’t afford it.’ There is no excuse for that.”
According to realclearpolitics.com, McCrory is currently leading Walter Dalton by six percent in an average of leading polls at 45.3 percent to 39.3 percent.
As for Blowing Rock, “I want the second homes in this area to become the first homes,” McCrory said.