GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, now helping the No Labels movement be prepared for the 2024 presidential election, reminds us that he remains a Republican but is helping prepare a possible alternative for the millions of Americans who aren’t thrilled about a Biden-Trump rematch – even though he says North Carolina officials are pushing back against that effort.
McCrory was in New Hampshire on Tuesday as No Labels conducted two town-hall gatherings, featuring Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Va.) and former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-Utah) – its co-chairs – somewhat drawing speculation that Manchin might be a presidential candidate for the movement.
President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, in a crowded Republican field, are the front-runners for 2024, and McCrory called them “two candidates that most people don’t want.” He cited that 63% of those responding to polls say they don’t want either of them.
McCrory also mentioned the number of unaffiliated voters in North Carolina, where, as of Saturday, more than 36% of 7,289,147 registered voters were unaffiliated. Another 33.1% were Democrats, and 30.2% were Republicans. Almost all the rest were Libertarians. In 2020 about 75.35% of them cast ballots.
McCrory’s role is to help No Labels get a position on the ballot in all 50 states, but he says political power is stymieing that process in North Carolina, which he says is in violation of the state’s constitution. Last week the NC Board of Elections acknowledged that No Labels has gathered 14,797 verified signatures but said it would make a final decision about ballot status on Aug. 13.
“Well, they’ve already waited three months [since No Labels met ballot requirements],” McCrory said. “They’ve had the certified names, so they’ve waited three months. Last time they deferred their decision. And they’re forcing us to pay a lot of money on lawyers and other things, which is not the right thing to do, and they ought to be ashamed of themselves.”
That is part of why he joined forces with political activist Benjamin Chavis, whose resume includes work with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to push No Labels in the state.
No Labels’ founding chair is former Democratic vice-presidential candidate and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, and vice chairs with Chavis are former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and businessman John Hope.
McCrory said that if after Super Tuesday on March 5, when North Carolina and 15 other states are scheduled to hold primaries, Biden and Trump appeared to be headed for nomination, No Labels would have a nominating convention and put forth a slate for November. That would occur in April, he said.
In the meantime, No Labels released a document stating its positions on issues that the movement thinks voters are seeking clarity and progress and that politics are impeding.
McCrory cited immigration as an example of where that progress was needed in addressing the “Dreams” – immigrants born in the U.S. to families here illegally – and border security.
“Well, most of the American people say: Why don’t you do both and solve this problem instead of doing nothing which is compounding the problem? And that’s a No Labels position for example.”
He said people are tired of the constant name-calling, which he too had endured as being too conservative for some and too liberal for others.
“The two political parties and the media love to label people is because it stifles discussion,” McCrory said. “It’s like cussing when you’re a young kid. When you run out of logic, you cuss. And that’s what we do in politics now. We are just calling people a name.”
He expounded on many issues in a roughly 15-minute interview with WGHP via Zoom on Monday afternoon. Here are WGHP’s questions and his responses, edited for clarity and brevity.
WGHP: So you’re up there with the No Labels people in New Hampshire. What have you been up to since you announced your affiliation?
PAT MCCRORY: Well, I’m still a Republican. I’m still registered Republican, and I plan to vote in the Republican primary. But I’m a strong proponent of the possibility of a third party for the presidential election. Face it, especially considering that 65% of the voters do not want either Biden or Trump in the race, which means the two parties are not listening to the vast majority of the American people. And if that happens, we’ll put another ticket on to give the American people possibly another choice and a better choice. Of course, our biggest challenge is in getting on the ballot in all 50 States and right now, the North Carolina elections board is doing some political maneuvering, as they have a history of doing, and not allowing No Labels at this time to get on the ballot despite them verifying that they have all the signatures.
WGHP: I thought you met the requirements.
MCCRORY: We did.
WGHP: What are they asking you to do?
MCCRORY: That’s a good question. They’re making up rules as they go along, which is against North Carolina law, and they’re also working against the Constitution of the United States. But you have some national fingerprints on some very powerful Washington groups that are trying to influence some of our board members and possibly other elected officials in North Carolina to prohibit competition in our state. But in the meantime No Labels is coming out. We came out today in New Hampshire – I’m in Manchester with the New Labels “Common Sense Policy” agenda. [He holds up a policy manual.] And this is where we have 31 issues that we spell out where the American people are saying, ‘This is how politicians ought to make the decisions and on what issues.’ And that’s pretty courageous of a group to do, especially when most politicians are avoiding providing viable solutions to some complex problems we’re having today.
WGHP: Give me a couple of the best headlines out of the document. Where do you differentiate?
MCCRORY: Well, I’ll give you a couple of examples. A major example is immigration, but the Republicans and Democrats are failing us. The Republicans refuse to accept the Dreamers, and the Democrats refuse to have a border that’s very strong to prohibit illegal immigrants to come through drugs to come through and also human trafficking. Well, most of the American people say: Why don’t you do both and solve this problem instead of doing nothing, which is compounding the problem? And that’s a No Labels position for example.
WGHP: That sounds similar to what is in a bipartisan bill that’s probably not going to get any traction in the House, although it kind of does some of those same things.
MCCRORY: Well, there’s been legislation like that, and it refuses to get through because the political parties are more worried about the primaries and their party than they are the country, and what No Labels is doing is putting country over party. And we mean it because that’s why we call it “No Labels.” We’re not accepting any labels of you being a RINO or a radical left-wing or radical right-wing. Most people in this country take issue by issue and maybe are conservative on one issue, moderate on another and maybe would be considered liberal on others.
But both the media and the political parties tried to put us, pigeonhole us into titles. Believe me, I know because during my political career – as a mayor and city councilman, governor and U.S. Senate candidate – I’ve been labeled as a right-wing extremist and a left-wing RINO, and neither one is accurate.
And sadly, those stick, and one reason the two political parties and the media love to label people is because it stifles discussion. It’s like cussing when you’re a young kid. When you run out of logic, you cuss. And that’s what we do in politics now. We are just calling people a name. And shutting off any debate and the civility that we have to have in our nation now more than ever.
Listen, I’m a part of No Labels also with Ben Chavis from North Carolina. We’re both co-chairmen of this group along with [former U.S. Sen.] Joe Lieberman and [former Republican Maryland] Gov. Larry Hogan. I’m worried about civility versus anarchy. And as governor of North Carolina, I had to call the National Guard to Charlotte to stop anarchists from attacking our police station and fire-bombing buildings. In Washington, DC, we had anarchists attacking our police and our Capitol building. One was from the left; one was from the right. Both are unacceptable, and No Labels wants civility and problem-solving and results, and the only thing that separates from that is our Constitution.
And I think our political parties are not fighting hard enough or working hard enough against this type of anarchy and need to get back into solving problems and putting country over party. And if they don’t, we’re going to run a candidate after Super Tuesday in the General Election. We’ll have a convention in Dallas, Texas. And if the parties look like they’re going to select Biden and Trump and the American people still don’t want either one of them by a vast majority – which we’ve never seen these numbers before – then we will select a ticket, a president and a vice president to run against them. After we get on the ballots of all these states, including North Carolina.
WGHP: You said you have a plan to do a convention after Super Tuesday?
MCCRORY: In April.
WGHP: How would a candidate come forward for No Labels? How would you go about choosing? You have a convention, but how would the nomination process work?
MCCRORY: We’ll have a nominations committee. A search committee, and then a nominations committee – and we’ll take those names to our convention with delegates from all states, and then vote on a ticket. But we’ll also see what the American people want, and people will approach us, and we may approach people, so there’s no doubt, I don’t think we’ll have a shortage of people who would be interested in running in a General Election because there’s so many Democrats and so many Republicans who do not want Biden or Trump. And there are a lot of independents. I mean, heck, North Carolina has 36% now registered as independent voters. They’re not represented on the Elections Board. But it’s time the elections board let more choices and make it easier to get on the ballot. The law actually makes it pretty easy to get on the ballot. Only the bureaucracy, the political bureaucracy is stopping us.
WGHP: I thought you had met the signature threshold. I had not heard that they’d put up some obstacles for you.
MCCRORY: Well, they’ve already waited three months. They’ve had the certified names, so they’ve waited three months. Last time they deferred their decision. And they’re forcing us to pay a lot of money on lawyers and other things, which is not the right thing to do, and they ought to be ashamed of themselves. The Democrats, control the majority, but I don’t see the Republicans fighting it either. You know, listen, I’ve played this game. I’ve been a part of the game, and now I’m here to change the game, which is detrimental to our country, to our state, and I think the people deserve better, and I’m not interested in running anymore. So we need to tell it the way it is and be honest with the people. And I always have been, that always hasn’t gotten me elected, but me and Joe Lieberman and Ben Chavis, we’re good friends, and we help get this information together for the American people and we agree on it.
WGHP: What’s your response to people who say No Labels only exists to get Donald Trump elected by siphoning independent votes from Democrats?
MCCRORY: It’s people trying to protect the status quo. Their best argument to vote against us is that it’ll get someone else to get elected. That’s totally ridiculous. In fact, if anything, I could maybe argue that either Biden or Trump might be the spoiler for No Labels. If 60 to 65% of the people don’t want either Trump or Biden, this is one time in our history where a third party might actually work.
The same pundits that said Barack Obama and Donald Trump would never be president are the same pundits we’re hearing on the Sunday talk shows and in The New York Times and every other editorial saying there’s no way this will work. So we have the power elite in DC. And many of their lobbyists who want to protect the status quo, and right now the people are saying, ‘But they aren’t providing any positive results for our country.’ Never have we seen so many people in our country unhappy or not confident in the future. Then I’ll take that as a signal to either change between now and then, run on some of these issues that we’re talking about, or they’re going to have competition. And I’m a Republican who believes in competition. Competition is good. Debate and civility are good also, and we have a choice right now between civility and anarchy. And I’ll take civility any day of the week.
WGHP: You know your old job is kind of on that same platform right now. The governor’s race is coming down to civility versus anarchy in a way too, right?
MCCRORY: I don’t know yet. We’re focusing on the presidential election, but hopefully, we can be role models. When Ben Chavis and I can get on stage at the University of North Carolina together – a place that hasn’t been real friendly toward me in the past – but when we get on the stage together and show students that here is Ben Chavis, a civil rights pioneer – a very courageous person, a man of incredible integrity and courage – can stand on the stage with a Republican conservative who’s been a mayor and governor, and we can get along and not only get along but become friends and working partners. We hope to be role models for the rest of the country, not just North Carolina. And today in New Hampshire we had Sen. [Joe] Manchin and former Gov. [Jon] Huntsman review the common-sense agenda and say some very favorable things about it. And so we kicked off the whole common-sense agenda today in New Hampshire. What better place to do that?
WGHP: You’re having a town hall a little later today [Monday].
MCCRORY: Yeah, we’ve had one today at lunch and we’re going to have a major town hall today at the dinner at some very famous places where a lot of former presidential candidates have campaigned since the days of Eisenhower and Kennedy and many more after that.
WGHP: What kind of what kind of reaction have you seen so far up there?
MCCRORY: You know, I think what we’re seeing is there are a lot of people in our country who don’t feel they have a political home anymore, especially if the two choices are Biden and Trump. … As I said on “Meet the Press” one time, I said if I brought these two names up for the Downtown Rotary Club leadership, the board would say, ‘Can’t we do better?’ And we’re talking about the president of the United States. And we’ve seen both these people, and 60% of the people are going, ‘Can’t we do better?’ And that’s why we have groups trying to stop our effort to get on the ballot. It’s all about them trying to keep power. And this is happening in Maine. It’s happening in North Carolina. It’s happening in Arizona, where people are trying to stop our effort.
WGHP: Same problem in all three places?
MCCRORY: Yeah, and it has fingerprints from the Washington power brokers. They want to keep the status quo. I know these people.
WGHP: Are you familiar with the legislation that’s in progress right now that would change the way the election boards are made up in North Carolina?
MCCRORY: Yeah, and it’s a concern of ours because the election board is delaying this decision. And if they delay any further and then they have to change the Election Board again, what could happen? Especially if it’s a 4/4 [partisan split]. So right now, the Election Board is very politicized, and in the future, it looks like it might become more politicized. One thing I did as governor was I took the politics out of the election board. Although we had a four-three majority, it might have be to my detriment in my election, but I made sure our chairman just followed the rules, follow the rules. They didn’t make up rules as they went along. And right now I would say that’s what they’re doing, and it’s shameful. And, as Ben Chavis would say, they’re trying to take away the rights of people to vote and to have a choice. And he’s right. And who better than Ben Chavis to be able to say that?
WGHP: That legislation could have a difficult time getting in place in a timely manner because there could be a court challenge because of a previous court decision in which you’ve been involved.
MCCRORY: Berger versus McCrory [a decision about the governor’s rights in seating members of the elections board] may come back, and you know, I firmly believe in the separation of powers. And I fought for it as a Republican against my own Republicans. But right now I’m fighting against a Democratic-majority board that seems to be stalling on approving what they’ve already said are valid signatures and plenty of enough signatures. So they did this to the Green Party, too, and got caught. And had to reverse after they had to spend a lot of money. You know, they’re using a lot of legal means to make other people spend a lot of money for lawyers to just follow basic law, and that’s inexcusable. Especially as part of being No Labels here. Me and Ben Chavis and Admiral Blair, leaders of this movement and this opportunity, and we have to report back to our leadership and go, yeah, North Carolina is not doing their job. And that’s with 36% of the people who are registered as independents who are not represented on the Board of Elections.
WGHP: The argument that the lawmakers are making is that this system will allow them to put independents on the board.
MCCRORY: Well, either way, you’ve got politicians selecting the board, and right now you’ve got the governor controlling the board. So whether the governor or the legislature controls the board, the problem is the board’s only job to do is to follow the law. And they’re not fulfilling their responsibility at this point in time.
I think what most people in America right now are looking for in the presidential election is civil dialogue, results and solutions and choice if they don’t like the choice that the two parties are providing. In fact, what I don’t want the two parties to do — and, again, I’m still a Republican, plan to remain a Republican — but the parties can’t take for granted the voters of America and just expect them to concur with their choices, regardless of who their choices are. That system’s got to change.
George Washington even warned us of this. And sadly, they’re becoming what George Washington predicted.
WGHP: That doesn’t sound very Republican to me the way things have been going.
MCCRORY: I’m putting country over party and I hear both Democrats say that. I hear Republicans and Democrats say country over party, but the minute they start running, especially in the primary, they’re doing the opposite, and that’s not to the benefit of the American people.