2008 North Carolina gubernatorial election

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2008 North Carolina gubernatorial election

← 2004 November 4, 2008 2012 →
  Beverly Perdue official photo.jpg Pat McCrory in 2008 (cropped).jpg
Nominee Bev Perdue Pat McCrory
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 2,146,083 2,001,114
Percentage 50.3% 46.9%

North Carolina Governor Election Results by County, 2008.svg
County results
Perdue:      40–50%      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%
McCrory:      40-50%      50-60%      60-70%

Governor before election

Mike Easley

Elected Governor

Bev Perdue

The 2008 North Carolina gubernatorial election was held on November 4, 2008, coinciding with the presidential, U.S. Senate, U.S. House elections, Council of State, and statewide judicial elections. Democrat Bev Perdue won the election.[1] With a margin of 3.39%, this election was the closest race of the 2008 gubernatorial election cycle.

Because incumbent Governor Mike Easley was term-limited, the open-seat race was contested between Democrat Beverly Perdue, Republican Pat McCrory, and Libertarian Michael Munger. Likewise, Democrat Walter H. Dalton, Republican Robert Pittenger and Libertarian Phillip Rhodes vied to replace term-limited Lt. Governor Perdue.


  • May 6, 2008 – Primary elections.[2]
  • Oct. 10, 2008 – Last day to register to vote in general election.[2]
  • Oct. 16 – Nov. 1, 2008 – "One Stop" registration and early voting[2]
  • November 4, 2008 – General election.[2]


Candidates Richard Moore, Dennis Nielsen, Robert Orr, and Bev Perdue took part in a forum on January 26, sponsored by the state chapter of the NAACP.[3]

The statewide syndicated TV program, NC Spin, held debates for both parties' candidates in April.[4]




Moore and Nielsen appeared on the edition of NC Spin broadcast April 13 on most stations, but Perdue declined the invitation to participate.[8] Perdue and Moore met for their final pre-primary debate at WRAL-TV, which was broadcast on several stations across the state on April 22.[9]

On May 6, 2008, Perdue won the Democratic nomination for governor, defeating State Treasurer Moore and Nielsen.[10]


Primary results by county:
  •   Perdue—71-80%
  •   Perdue—61-70%
  •   Perdue—51-60%
  •   Perdue—41-50%
  •   Moore—61-70%
  •   Moore—51-60%
  •   Moore—41-50%
Democratic primary results[11]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Bev Perdue 840,342 56.21%
Democratic Richard H. Moore 594,028 39.73%
Democratic Dennis Nielsen 60,628 4.06%
Total votes 1,494,998 100.00%




McCrory reportedly commissioned a poll to test the waters for a run for governor in November 2007, shortly after his re-election victory, but well after other Republican gubernatorial candidates began campaigning. A 2007 Rasmussen Reports poll had McCrory leading both major Democratic candidates by three points each.[citation needed]

The Raleigh News & Observer reported on January 9, 2008 that McCrory had filed the necessary paperwork with the State Board of Elections to run for governor.[18] He announced that he was running in his hometown of Jamestown on January 15, 2008.[19]


Republican candidates Graham, Orr, and Smith held their first debate on October 20, 2007 at High Point University.[20] The two Democratic candidates held their first debate at the annual conference of the N.C. School Boards Association on Nov. 6, 2007, which hosted a Republican candidates' debate the same day.[21][22]

UNC-TV invited the three announced Republican candidates and two announced Democratic candidates to participate in the campaign's first debates (officially called "forums") to air on statewide television. Each forum is intended to focus on a single topic: on Jan. 10, the state's economy; on Feb. 7, health care; and on April 24, education.[23] Video of the forums is available on the UNC-TV website.

The Republican candidates, now joined by new challenger Pat McCrory, debated on WRAL-TV on January 17. The debate was also broadcast on stations in Charlotte and Wilmington.[24]

McCrory, Orr, Graham, and Smith met in a televised debate held by WTVI in Charlotte on April 3. Media accounts said that McCrory was the primary target of attacks by his rivals.[25] The same was true at another WRAL-TV debate, held on April 15.[26]

The final Republican debate before the primary was held in Asheville, and featured the only appearance by Elbie Powers in a debate.[27]


Primary results by county:
  •   McCrory—71-80%
  •   McCrory—61-70%
  •   McCrory—51-60%
  •   McCrory—41-50%
  •   McCrory—31-40%
  •   Smith—71-80%
  •   Smith—61-70%
  •   Smith—51-60%
  •   Smith—41-50%
  •   Smith—31-40%
  •   Orr—41-50%
Republican primary results[11]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Pat McCrory 232,818 46.11%
Republican Fred Smith 186,843 37.00%
Republican Bill Graham 46,861 9.28%
Republican Robert F. Orr 34,007 6.73%
Republican E. Powers 4,444 0.88%
Total votes 504,973 100.00%

General election[edit]


If he had been elected, McCrory would have been the first mayor of Charlotte to win the state's highest office.[29]


Source Ranking As of
The Cook Political Report[30] Tossup October 16, 2008
Real Clear Politics[31] Tossup November 4, 2008


Despite a "national Democratic tide" and Perdue's fundraising edge,[32] McCrory led Perdue at first; Perdue slowly gained with help from Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate.[33] Perdue and McCrory remained close, with the two often polling in a statistical tie[32] in what was the closest race for governor in the nation.[34] Perdue ran slightly behind her opponent in polls released the week before the election.[32] Pundits speculated that Perdue was hurt by current Democratic Governor Mike Easley's decreasing popularity due to the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis, and McCrory's efforts to tag her as part of corruption in Raleigh—consultants mentioned Perdue's "difficulty of being the candidate of continuity in a change election."[33]


Early in 2008, Libertarian nominee Munger called Perdue a "Stepford Wife" and said the Republican nominees were "circus clowns."[35] Prior to May 2008, the North Carolina Libertarian Party and Munger gathered 100,000 signatures of voters in order to qualify to appear on North Carolina's ballot. They, along with the Green Party, sued the state unsuccessfully over the ballot access rules. Munger appeared as one of two keynote speakers at the national Libertarian convention in Denver in May 2008.[36]

When Hillary Clinton dropped out of the 2008 presidential election The New York Times mentioned Perdue as a potential pick for Obama's Vice President.[37]

Munger called himself "the only liberal in the race."[38] Munger took more socially liberal positions on many issues than Democratic candidate Perdue. "One reason I haven't been allowed in all the debates is that I'm taking votes from the Democrats. Sixty percent of my supporters are voting for Obama. I'll talk about gay marriage, and Perdue isn't, or doesn't want to."[39] While Democratic candidate Perdue took a hard line on illegal immigration similar to that of Republican Pat McCrory, Munger took a position more aligned with Barack Obama.[40]

Perdue raised $15 million and ran attack ads against McCrory, criticizing him for not being tough enough on illegal immigration.[34]

In October 2008, McCrory received the endorsement of most major newspapers in the state, which typically endorse Democrats.[41] McCrory's candidacy for governor was endorsed by the Raleigh News and Observer,[42] The Charlotte Observer,[43] the Greensboro News & Record,[44] the Winston-Salem Journal,[45] and the UNC-Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel.[46]

Perdue received the endorsement of actor and director Andy Griffith, who filmed a campaign ad on her behalf.[47]

Perdue defeated McCrory and Munger on November 4, 2008 to win the election.


The first general election debate between Perdue and McCrory was a forum at the North Carolina Bar Association meeting in Atlantic Beach on June 21.[48] The first debate between the two that was televised live was conducted by WTVD on August 19.[49][50] Another televised debate was held by WRAL-TV on September 9.[51] Next, McCrory and Perdue met for a debate on education issues at SAS Institute on September 19. The debate was sponsored by business and education groups and was covered by News 14 Carolina.[52][53][54]

Duke University professor and Libertarian candidate Michael Munger made history as the first third-party candidate to participate in a live, televised gubernatorial debate in North Carolina.[36] He made his first debate appearance with McCrory on September 24 at UNC-TV. Perdue declined to participate in that debate.[55] All three candidates debated for the first time on October 15, in the final debate before the general election.[56] The hour-long debate, sponsored by WTVI, WSOC-TV and the League of Women Voters, aired in several television markets.[57]

Analysts said that McCrory tended to perform better than Perdue in the debates, particularly in "sit-down debates that allowed more back-and-forth between the candidates." [58]


North Carolina gubernatorial election, 2008[59]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Bev Perdue 2,146,189 50.27% -5.34%
Republican Pat McCrory 2,001,168 46.88% +4.00%
Libertarian Michael C. Munger 121,584 2.85% +1.34%
Majority 145,021 3.40% -9.34%
Turnout 4,268,941 100.00% N/A
Democratic hold

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gary Robertson (2008-11-04). "Democrat Perdue becomes NC's 1st female governor". Associated Press.
  2. ^ a b c d "North Carolina State Board of Elections Calendar". North Carolina State Board of Elections. Archived from the original on 2010-06-18. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  3. ^ "Four N.C. Governor's Candidates Answer NAACP Questions in Durham". Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc. January 28, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  4. ^ "N.C. Spin debates set". The News & Observer Publishing Company. April 3, 2008. Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  5. ^ Beckwith, Ryan Teague (May 22, 2007). "Moore: "We need a fresh approach."". The News & Observer Publishing Company. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  6. ^ Bonner, Lynn (Apr 13, 2008). "Nielsen has principles but lacks staff and cash". The News & Observer Publishing Company. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  7. ^ Johnson, Mark (October 1, 2007). "Perdue announces bid for governor". The News & Observer Publishing Company. Archived from the original on October 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  8. ^ Johnson, Mark (April 9, 2008). "Dem hopefuls argue issues, criticize absent opponent". NC Policy Watch. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  9. ^ Mark Johnson and Ben Niolet (April 23, 2008). "Perdue, Moore hold civil debate". The News & Observer Publishing Company. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  10. ^ "North Carolina State Board of Elections". May 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  11. ^ a b http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/NC/1875/4822/en/summary.html
  12. ^ "Graham announces candidacy". The News & Observer Publishing Company. May 17, 2007. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  13. ^ McKinney, Matt (January 15, 2008). "Charlotte Mayor Running For Governor". digtriad.com. Archived from the original on January 22, 2013. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  14. ^ "Orr announces bid for North Carolina governor". Triangle Business Journal. January 30, 2007. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  15. ^ Bonner, Lynn (April 13, 2008). "Crop duster wants to run the state as a corporation". The News & Observer Publishing Company. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  16. ^ "North Carolina Pecan Growers Association Leadership". NC Pecan Growers Association. Archived from the original on 2008-11-23. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  17. ^ "Fred Smith enters governor's race". The News & Observer Publishing Company. March 23, 2007. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  18. ^ Beckwith, Ryan Teague (January 9, 2008). "McCrory files campaign paperwork". The News & Observer Publishing Company. Archived from the original on October 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  19. ^ Ingram, David (January 15, 2008). "McCrory announces run for N.C. governor". The News & Observer Publishing Company. Archived from the original on September 21, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  20. ^ newsobserver.com | Debate is first for GOP candidates for governor Archived 2007-10-22 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Perdue, Moore to debate | newsobserver.com projects Archived 2008-10-24 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ http://www.newsobserver.com/1565/story/762356.html[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ UNC-TV schedules gubernatorial forums | newsobserver.com projects Archived 2008-10-23 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ newsobserver.com | Candidates try to show GOP can-do Archived 2008-09-18 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "Rivals rip McCrory in GOP debate" Archived 2008-04-15 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ AP: "McCrory a target at debate" Archived 2008-09-18 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ GOP candidates for governor face off in final debate | CITIZEN-TIMES.com | Asheville Citizen-Times
  28. ^ News & Observer: State Recognizes Libertarians as party Archived 2008-05-27 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ News & Observer: What is the Queen City Curse? Archived 2012-03-07 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "2008 Governor Race ratings". The Cook Political Report. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  31. ^ "2008 North Carolina Governor Race". RealClearPolitics. November 4, 2008. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  32. ^ a b c Johnson, Mark; Benjamin Niolet (2008-11-02). "Race for Governor Remains Close". The News & Observer. Archived from the original on January 4, 2009. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
  33. ^ a b "Is the Southern Strategy Dead?". American Prospect. 2008-10-24. Archived from the original on 2011-08-10. Retrieved 2008-10-26.
  34. ^ a b Romoser, James (2008-11-05). "Perdue, in a first, edges McCrory". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved 2008-11-25.[dead link]
  35. ^ "Libertarian Duke professor wants to be N.C. governor". Raleigh News and Observer. 2008-02-14. Archived from the original on 2013-08-14. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  36. ^ a b Hall, Christine (2008-10-29). "Michael Munger". Duke Chronicle. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  37. ^ Zernike, Kate (2008-05-18). "She Just Might Be President Someday". The New York Times.
  38. ^ "Statewide Offices". Independent Weekly. 2008-10-22. Archived from the original on 2008-11-17. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
  39. ^ "The Third Man". Reason. 2008-10-27. Retrieved 2008-10-28.
  40. ^ "The State of Things: Issues Roundup". WUNC. 2008-10-28. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2008-10-28.
  41. ^ "McCrory visits Chapel Hill". Daily Tar Heel. 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2008-11-25.[permanent dead link]
  42. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-10-29. Retrieved 2013-01-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  43. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-22. Retrieved 2012-05-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  44. ^ http://www.news-record.com/content/2008/10/10/article/editorial_endorsement_mccrory_for_governor
  45. ^ http://www2.journalnow.com/content/2008/oct/12/election-08-governor/
  46. ^ "McCrory for governor: Charlotte mayor would bring fresh and innovative leadership to Raleigh". Daily Tar Heel. 2008-10-26. Retrieved 2008-10-28.[permanent dead link]
  47. ^ "Perdue's Mayberry Miracle?". News & Observer. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008.
  48. ^ "ABC 11/Associated Press: Crime among topics at NC gubernatorial debate". Archived from the original on 2011-05-21. Retrieved 2019-08-28.
  49. ^ "ABC11 Eyewitness News' Gubernatorial Debate". Archived from the original on 2008-09-18. Retrieved 2019-08-28.
  50. ^ Gov. candidates spar on offshore drilling Archived 2008-09-17 at the Wayback Machine
  51. ^ Perdue, McCrory bicker over drilling, vouchers
  52. ^ YouTube: Everybody's Business Coalition Debate Part 1
  53. ^ News & Observer: McCrory, Perdue offer views on education Archived 2008-12-26 at the Wayback Machine
  54. ^ News 14: Gubernatorial candidates on education
  55. ^ News & Observer: McCrory, Munger debate; Perdue sits out[permanent dead link]
  56. ^ News & Observer: Governor candidates meet in final debate Archived 2008-10-17 at the Wayback Machine
  57. ^ WSOC: 3 N.C. Governor's Candidates Meet In Last Debate Archived 2011-05-22 at the Wayback Machine
  58. ^ News & Observer: Dome's Take: Perdue's missed opportunity Archived 2008-10-23 at the Wayback Machine
  59. ^ http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/NC/7937/21334/en/summary.html#

External links[edit]