BURLINGTON — GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory on Tuesday embraced Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has become a hero in conservative circles because of his battles with organized labor.
Barnstorming across the state with Walker, McCrory declared that there was no greater role model than Walker and that he would bring the same kind of strong leadership qualities and pro-growth policies to North Carolina.
Taking up a jibe made earlier this month by his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, that McCrory would be the Scott Walker of North Carolina, McCrory declared, I embrace that.
Walker portrayed McCrory as someone who would fit into the new kind of Republican governors being elected across the country, who are helping push through more pro-business policies.
Two years ago I saw what you see in this state: an economic and fiscal crisis, Walker told about 150 people at a rally on the factory floor of Copland Fabrics. The great thing is, I am here to tell you today that no matter how much you might be worried about how things are, no matter how gloomy the unemployment rate might be, if you elect the right person as the next governor, you can turn things around.
Since Walker took office in January 2011, the unemployment rate in Wisconsin has declined from 7.6 percent to 7.5 percent last month, having risen from 7.3 percent in July. The unemployment rate in North Carolina was 9.7 percent last month.
The Democrats portrayed Walker as part of the tea party movement that helped cut education funding in Wisconsin, slashed millions from the states university system and cut jobs programs.
Pat McCrorys role model is a governor who is so disrespectful to his constituents that they tried to recall him, costing the taxpayers of Wisconsin millions of dollars, Dalton spokesman Ford Porter said. McCrorys entire campaign seems to be based on the many ways he would divide us.
Walkers battles with the unions made him one of the nations most famous governors. Elected in 2010, Walker pushed through legislation despite Democratic lawmakers fleeing the state that removed most collective bargaining rights from public employees. He then easily survived the recall.
McCrory tried to draw some parallels between himself and Walker, saying that the unions were out to defeat him as well.
The labor unions are coming down right in Burlington, in Graham, in Guilford County, in Forsyth County, they are coming along the Piedmont and they are going to try to tear me down, McCrory said.
But North Carolina and Wisconsin are sharply different when it comes to unions.
North Carolina is the least unionized state in the country with a rate of 4.1 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Labor Department. That compares with Wisconsin, which had a 14.1 percent rate of unionization.
North Carolina and Virginia are the only two states with a complete ban on collective bargaining for public employees even more anti-union than the law Walker pushed through in Wisconsin.
The most influential public employee group in the state has long been the N.C. Association of Educators, the state chapter of the National Education Association, a hybrid union and professional association.
In 2008, the NCAE and the NEA spent $2 million in North Carolina, much of it on behalf of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, a longtime political ally, in her primary and the general election. Perdue defeated McCrory that year.
Rodney Ellis, president of the NCAE, suggested the organization would not match the same level of financial support for Dalton but would back him in other ways.
We will be just as aggressive in efforts to get Walter Dalton elected as we were during the Beverly Perdue campaign, Ellis said. Voters right now have a clear choice between candidates who will fight for people in the classroom versus someone who has a different opinion about the future of public education.
The Republican legislature has sought to lessen the influence of the NCAE, by ending the ability to have their dues deducted from state payrolls a move famously made in a specially called post-midnight session of the legislature.
The State Employees Association of North Carolina, which spent $1.3 million helping elect Perdue, is staying neutral in the race.
In a speech to the AFL-CIO earlier this month, Dalton said McCrory would be like Scott Walker in targeting state employees by privatizing state jobs and by designating positions that now have civil service protections for political patronage.