CHARLOTTE — As the first Republican governor in North Carolina since 1993, and only the third in the past 100 years, Pat McCrory has a vision of change for the state.
McCrory, former Charlotte mayor, won a decisive victory in the N.C. gubernatorial race Tuesday and vowed to return the state’s economy to prosperity and reform its education system.
“It’s time for a Carolina comeback, and it starts tonight,” said McCrory in a victory speech to party supporters in Charlotte.
According to unofficial results, as of 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, McCrory won 54.7 percent of the vote, with 98 of 100 counties reporting.
The Democratic candidate, N.C. Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, captured 43.2 percent of the vote. Libertarian Barbara Howe won 2.1 percent.
The win represents the culmination of a four-year campaign for governor by McCrory, who lost to Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue in the 2008 N.C. gubernatorial election.
Aided by a large financial advantage over Dalton, McCrory led his opponent by double digits in most polls throughout the campaign.
“We did the most we could with limited resources,” Dalton said in his concession speech. “We always ran to win, and I am proud of that.”
McCrory’s comfortable margin of victory shows what a phenomenal campaign McCrory has run, said Henry Hinton, president of Greenville-based Inner Banks Media, who worked closely with the campaign.
“N.C. voters across the state have accepted him as their next leader,” he said.
Dalton conceded the race in a brief speech in Raleigh.
“It looks like time has run out on this campaign, but we have not lost,” he said. “This campaign is not a loss, but it is an ending. I wish (McCrory) the very best, and the very best for North Carolina.”
In Charlotte, an animated crowd of GOP supporters voiced excitement about the McCrory victory.
Fred Steen, former mayor of Landis, a Charlotte suburb, said McCrory will bring the state’s leaders together on a range of issues.
Reforming the state’s education system while balancing the budget will be a challenge, but McCrory will tackle it head-on, Steen said.
“He recognizes the importance of higher education,” Steen said. “He’ll make sure the funding gets into the classrooms where it belongs.”
McCrory’s platform provides two degree pathways for high school students — one for four-year colleges and universities and one for workforce training or community colleges.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, who was re-elected Tuesday, said she has talked with McCrory about education and hopes to protect funding.
“I believe I can work collaboratively and cooperatively with the new governor and the (N.C.) General Assembly,” she said.
Charlotte resident Dennis English said McCrory recognizes the need for both college and trade school graduates to fill jobs in the state.
“He has a plan that will put everyone to work.”
Staff writer Claire Williams contributed reporting.
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