Spaulding announces early for 2016 governor's race

rchristensen@newsobserver.comAugust 26, 2013 

Former state Rep. Kenneth Spaulding, a Democrat from Durham, said Monday that he plans to challenge Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016, announcing his plans early in order to build a campaign organization and raise the kind of money needed to take on an incumbent.

Spaulding, a 68-year-old land-use development lawyer, said he would emphasize restoring education funding and improving the business climate, and encourage full voter participation.

“The taxpayers and voters are looking for a reasonable alternative to the extremist positions and actions taken by the governor and his legislative majority,” Spaulding said in a statement. “Business leaders are looking for a restoration to a vibrant business and economic climate. This will assure North Carolinians of jobs and job security during these difficult and uncertain times.”

Spaulding is a member of one of Durham’s most prominent families. His late father, Asa Spalding, was president of N.C. Mutual Insurance Co., once one of the largest black-owned businesses in the country.

Ken Spaulding served in the state House from 1978 to 1984, and on the state Board of Transportation under Gov. Mike Easley.

He has spent most of his career representing land development interests, such as the Streets at Southpoint shopping mall.

He would be the first serious African-American candidate for governor since Reginald Hawkins, a Charlotte dentist who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination in 1968 and 1972.

A primary contender

Spaulding’s entry into the race potentially sets up a Democratic primary with Attorney General Roy Cooper, who has begun testing the waters.

“With all due respect,” Spaulding said, “if Roy chooses to run as well, then I look forward to a very spirited primary when considering Roy’s record at the attorney general’s office and the SBI.”

He was referring to controversy over the bureau’s misuse of evidence that lead to several innocent people being imprisoned.

For a candidate to announce so early in the election cycle is almost unheard of in gubernatorial politics, although McCrory spent a few years on the political hustings after his loss to Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue in 2008. And it should be noted that Chapel Hill businessman and blogger James Protzman filed as a Democratic candidate for governor this spring.

“I think if Ken is serious about it, he really needs to start now,” Durham Mayor Bill Bell said. “He is articulate person. He has run for a congressional race. He has been in the General Assembly. He has a business background. It is going to take someone who can get out and get around the state. He has to raise the money. He understands that. I think he could be a very formidable candidate in our primary.”

McCrory’s numbers low

The Democratic activity shows the perceived weakness of McCrory, whose numbers have been falling in the polls.

“The strongest thing that the taxpayers and voters have said to me is, ‘Why is Governor Pat McCrory so weak, timid and ineffective when it comes to reining in his out-of-control legislative majority on the very crucial issues of education, business, women’s issues, and undemocratic voter suppression?’ ” Spaulding said.

Christensen: 919-829-4532

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