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Who the hell is Pat McCrory?

Voters outside Charlotte sound off on the man who would be governor

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Unless you've been under a rock in Gastonia for the last 12 years, then you're undoubtedly familiar with the man named Pat McCrory.

As the seven-term mayor of Charlotte, McCrory brought light rail to town, told the state that they needed to light up the Q.C.'s highways, advised African-American kids to pull up their saggy pants and became the slick face of the city. And now he's set his sights on the big governor's seat in Raleigh.

It's been 16 years since a Republican has occupied the state house. But McCrory -- and fellow GOP candidates Sen. Fred Smith, former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr and Salisbury attorney Bill Graham -- hope to change that.

McCrory officially announced his intentions to seek the office in January. And he did it in Jamestown, the small Guilford County town where he grew up. Hundreds of his friends showed up -- but of course they would. Who doesn't want to see the small-town boy they know and love grow up and do good?

But what do people outside of his hometown and the city of Charlotte know about McCrory?

And more importantly, will they vote for him come May 6, when North Carolina heads to the polls?

Creative Loafing decided to take a trip east down Highway 74 to see what folks who don't live around here think about hizzhonor the mayor.

First stop, Richmond County.

Located outside of Anson County (Wadesboro), Richmond County is the kind of place where you have to watch out for deer if you're driving at night. Some of the big attractions in Richmond include Rockingham's Wal-Mart and Hamlet's sign boasting that it's the birth place of jazz legend John Coltrane.

Richmond County will become a big player in transportation once Interstate 74 is completed. For now, however, this is small-town USA.

Logging on to the Richmond County GOP Web site, McCrory isn't even mentioned on the list of 2008 Republican candidates (ouch).

Pulling into a gas station off Highway 74 in Rockingham, the sleepy little town that holds the county seat and home to the Richmond County High School Raiders, I notice a man sitting in the café section of the station, waiting for his meal of fried chicken and potato wedges and sipping on a small cup of coffee that would cost $3 in Starbucks. But, like McCrory's presence on the GOP's Web site, there is no Starbucks here.

"Do you know who Pat McCrory is?" I ask.

The man, who prefers not to give his name, replies: "I've heard that name around Charlotte, I believe. He's a politician. I don't know his position."

"He's the mayor of Charlotte," I say, "and now he's running for governor."

"Oh, OK," he replies.

"Would you support him in the election?"

"I don't know enough about him to make any judgment right now," he says, leaning back in the shiny, orange wooden seat. He admits that he hasn't given much thought to whom he plans to vote for in the gubernatorial race.

His order is ready, and it's time to say goodbye.

Further down Highway 74 sits Scotland County. Once I reach the city limits of Laurinburg, the county seat, I'm fully aware that I've entered conservative country.

How?

Signs showing support for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and former candidate Mitt Romney dot main streets. Even in residential areas, there isn't a sign of support for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

The county is on the border of South Carolina's Pee Dee region, and according to some who live here, the only news they get from TV is about South Carolina. That means no WSOC (which can be picked by neighbors in Marlboro County, S.C.), and not much news about McCrory.

And they don't know much about CL either. When the head of the county's GOP returned my call, his first question was, "Are you from McCrory's office?"

Mark Schenck, chairman of the Scotland County GOP says they'd been trying to reach McCrory to have him come speak to the Republicans in the area.

"We're trying to get to know everybody," says Schenck.

So far, according to Schenk, candidates Fred Smith and Bill Graham have come to the county. Local Republican officials plan to ask McCrory to visit in March.

"We want to get to know them, do a little Q&A and see if our needs blend with their objectives."

The lack of news about North Carolina, he says, puts the county at a disadvantage when it comes to finding the right candidate to support.

But there has been some news about McCrory in Scotland County.

The Laurinburg Exchange, the local newspaper in Scotland, has written much about our dear mayor. In the most recent piece to appear in the paper about McCrory, columnist John Hood writes: "For McCrory, the elect ability argument is a valuable one. He's correct in believing the 'Charlotte Curse' is an overblown, simplistic invention of the chattering classes. He recognized that Republican frustration with feckless gubernatorial campaigns runs deep."

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