RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory sought to invigorate his re-election campaign Thursday by accepting in person another key law enforcement endorsement and rolling out a new ad proclaiming a close relationship with police.
Making a public campaign appearance at a Raleigh hotel, McCrory received the backing of the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, the state’s largest law enforcement lobbying group with more than 10,000 members.
Following interviews last month, the association chose McCrory over Democratic rival Attorney General Roy Cooper, who in recent polls has been shown slightly ahead or statistically even with the incumbent in one of the nation’s most watched gubernatorial races.
Association leaders said McCrory pledged to work more inclusively with law enforcement groups, particularly during a time of recent negative stories nationwide about police. In 2012, the association endorsed McCrory’s Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton.
“We believe a vote for Gov. McCrory is a vote for the men and women of law enforcement and for the citizens they selflessly serve each and every day in our communities,” state PBA president Randy Byrd, a Cary police sergeant, said at the event.
McCrory spoke about working as governor to raise pay for state troopers and correctional officers. He also referred to a law he signed that states the footage of police body and dash cameras are not public records, but it can be released in certain situations. He said the law promotes both transparency and the constitutional rights of officers.
“Endorsements are usually about politics and politicians,” McCrory said. “This one is not. This one matters.”
Still, McCrory’s campaign used this endorsement and two previous ones — from the North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police and the North Carolina Troopers Association — in a commercial released Thursday. The ad features Michael Potts, a state trooper shot five times during a Durham traffic stop in 2013. The governor visited him in the hospital and invited him and his family over to dinner after he recovered.
McCrory is “law enforcement’s friend. And, mine,” Potts says, looking into the camera.
McCrory also used Thursday’s event to take verbal swings at Cooper for declining to defend or ending the defense of some state laws in court, and by accusing him of failing to fix fully problems at the state crime laboratory within Cooper’s department.
Cooper said his office wouldn’t defend a state law limiting rules designed to protect LGBT people because it was discriminatory. The Department of Justice defended other laws in court until federal appeals rulings struck them down. Cooper found the problems at the crime lab when he became attorney general in 2001, his campaign said.
McCrory’s “false attack is nothing more than a desperate attempt to mislead voters,” Cooper campaign spokesman Jamal Little said in an email. McCrory didn’t take questions at the news conference.
Cooper previously has been endorsed by the National Association of Police Organizations. His campaign on Thursday unveiled another endorsement from the Professional Firefighters and Paramedics of North Carolina.
McCrory was scheduled to hold a private campaign fundraiser later Thursday in Fayetteville featuring South Carolina GOP Gov. Nikki Haley.