The likely Republican candidate for governor in 2012 is getting money from unlikely sources: former supporters of Gov. Bev Perdue.
More than a dozen featured donors at a recent Pat McCrory fundraiser in Jacksonville gave money to Perdue in the past, including a few longtime Democratic contributors who backed former Govs. Jim Hunt and Mike Easley.
McCrory, the former Republican mayor of Charlotte, lost to Perdue in 2008 but is priming his political machine for a rematch.
His fundraiser - which raised more than $55,000 - took place at the home of George Jones, a former mayor of Jacksonville and a one-time Perdue supporter.
"It's absolutely nothing personal," said Jones, a registered Democrat who helped get Hunt elected. Jones estimated that one-third of the 40 people at the fundraiser were Democrats. "Bev has swung hard to the left," he continued. "I can't support her policies and the direction she's pursuing for this state."
The event showed possible weakness for Perdue in Eastern North Carolina, her base of political support. It's also a sign that some of Perdue's donors are looking for another horse to back in what is expected to be one of the most competitive races in the country.
Perdue's campaign is downplaying the defections, saying it happens every election cycle. "It's part of the usual dynamics when a governor runs for re-election," said Marc Farinella, a Perdue campaign spokesman.
Earlier this summer, former Easley and Perdue contributor Danny McQueen hosted two events in Morehead City for McCrory. Former Wilson County Sheriff Wayne Gay is expected to host a fundraiser for McCrory later this month.
"I raised a ton of money for Beverly," said McQueen, a furniture store owner. He said he bundled $200,000 for Perdue in 2008 but now has collected nearly $100,000 for McCrory in his two events.
McQueen said he wanted Perdue to work across party lines more. "She had an opportunity to work with Republicans, and she chose not to do that," he said. "I think it's time for another change. ... I think Beverly's contributors are thinking the same thing I'm thinking."
A handful of the Perdue donors at the Jacksonville event also gave money to McCrory in the 2008 governor's race. But most of those who contributed to both candidates gave more to Perdue, campaign-finance records show.
McCrory's team is highlighting the Democratic support for McCrory, suggesting it's a trend that could help close the financial disparities that plagued his 2008 campaign.
Farinella, the Perdue spokesman, said McCrory is able to promise all things to all people right now because he isn't an elected official. "Let's remember that Perdue raised several hundred thousand dollars more than McCrory did in the most recent reporting period, despite the bad economy and despite the tough decisions she's had to make," he said.
Perdue's campaign had $1.3 million in cash on hand at the end of June, according to campaign-finance reports. McCrory had $940,000.
For McCrory, a couple of names on the Jacksonville fundraiser may not work in his favor. Billy Sewell, who owns a chain of Golden Corral restaurants, and John Pierce, a business partner, were subpoenaed in a 2009 state investigation about Easley's questionable campaign contributions.
Also in 2008, McCrory called on Perdue - then the lieutenant governor - to return contributions from Sewell and his father, Louis Sewell Jr., a state transportation board member. A News & Observer investigation found that the elder Sewell had steered funds to an intersection and road where he and his son have financial interests.
Perdue's campaign suggested it was hypocritical for McCrory to now take the younger Sewell's money. "In his eyes, Sewell is a 'disgrace' until he makes a contribution to McCrory's campaign," Farinella said. "It apparently doesn't take much money to change McCrory's views of right and wrong."
McCrory's spokesman Brian Nick said the situation is different because McCrory isn't an elected official, like Perdue was at the time. He said the elder Sewell is also no longer on the transportation board. "It created the appearance of impropriety, as opposed to the current situation where there is not," he said.