Looking ahead to 2016, Charles Meeker completes 'listening tour'

Posted by John Frank on March 18, 2014 

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Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker delivers the 2011 State of the City address at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts. The speech was part of a Raleigh Rotary Club meeting.

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In preparation for a potential gubernatorial bid in 2016, former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker recently completed a “listening tour” that took him to four communities in eastern North Carolina.

“I’m getting better informed on issues outside Raleigh, going to some midsize cities and rural communities nearby,” said Meeker, a Democrat, in an interview Tuesday.

Meeker, who served as mayor from 2001 to 2011, visited Morehead City, Kinston, Wilson and Greenville. The informal tour began in December. He has not formed a political committee and is paying for it himself.

“These areas of the state and people have been really hurt” by the legislature’s decisions not to expand Medicaid, extend (federal) unemployment benefits and better fund education, he said.

“On the positive side,” he continued, “the agricultural economy is strong and we have a remarkably diverse and productive group of farmers.”

Meeker does not have plans to visit other parts of the state at this point. But he is scheduled to give a few speeches in coming weeks, including a discussion at the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce about the need for an independent redistricting board to prevent gerrymandering.

Meeker disclosed his interest in running for governor in September, a move now overshadowed by Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper’s more vocal bid to challenge Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016. Another Democratic candidate making a bid is Ken Spaulding, a former state representative and Durham attorney.

The former mayor, who is an attorney at the Parker Poe law firm in Raleigh, said he expects to make a decision about running a year from now. His choice will depend on the electoral landscape. “A year is a long time and it’s hard to know what things are going to look like,” he said.

Asked how he would contrast against a Cooper candidacy, Meeker said he would promote less partisan-charged issues “and focus on some ideas that would move the whole state forward,” such as agriculture and solar energy.

“People just need to be thinking about something less partisan and (not) these battles we keep having in Raleigh,” he said.

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