Former state Sen. Patrick Ballantine, with wife, Lisa, left, talks to Lincoln County Sheriff Barbara Pickens during a fund-raiser in Lincolnton on Monday afternoon. Just hours earler, Ballantine had announced his resignation from the Senate as he pursues the GOP nomination for governor. Al Dozier / LTN Photo
Just a few hours after he resigned his state Senate seat Monday, Patrick Ballantine took his campaign for governor to Lincoln County where supporters gathered at Memorial Hall for a fund-raiser.
Ballantine, a Wilmington lawyer, is competing against six other Republicans in the July 20 primary. He said he stepped down from the Senate seat he has held since 1994 so he can devote all of his energies to the race.
A Republican leader in the Senate since 1998, Ballantine is generally considered less well-known than former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot and former N.C. Republican chairman Bill Cobey, but he said it is something he will overcome.
â€œItâ€™s a matter of educating the voters,â€ said Ballantine, who was first welcomed by Lincoln residents Jody Rhyne and Sheriff Barbara Pickens. Some 50 potential supporters were invited to the reception.
Ballantine acknowledged the field offers candidates with similar conservative views reflecting the GOP stance. But he sees himself as a more in-tune candidate, knowledgeable about current budget issues.
â€œVinroot was mayor of Charlotte eight years ago. Cobey was a Congressman 20 years ago. I have been in the Senate for the past 10 years and I understand whatâ€™s going on now, especially with the budget.â€
Sen. Fern Shubert of Union County, Moore County businessman George Little and Davie County Commissioner Dan Barrett are also in the race.
Ballantine underscores fiscal policies when comparing himself to Democratic Gov. Mike Easley, who he says has used local revenues to balance the state budget and has done little to cut waste.
â€œHeâ€™s raised taxes and raided trust funds,â€ Ballantine said.
Ballantine wants to lower taxes on businesses, and lift regulatory restrictions to promote more jobs in the state.
When asked about new tax revenue options for counties, Ballantine acknowledged that the property tax is not the route schools should go for funding new building programs.
Lincoln Countv voters go to the polls May 4 to vote on a $47 million bond issue to construct more schools. But county commissioners have not determine how they will repay those bonds without raising property taxes. They are currently considering a real estate transfer tax that would place more expenses on new homeowners served by the schools.
Ballantine said he does not favor â€œimpact feesâ€ at the local level to pay for schools, but he concedes local governments do need help.
He believes the state should assume a role in new school construction, but says a a major overhaul of the stateâ€™s tax system would be needed.
He said it was something he would tackle â€œin my first termâ€ as governor.
by Al Dozier