CARY — At an event two years ago, Gale Adcock sat down next to state Rep. Tom Murry and told him she had no plans to run against him.
“She told me she had no reason to,” Murry recalled.
The Democratic Cary Town Councilwoman says she now has plenty of reasons to challenge the Morrisville Republican for the House District 41 seat.
State legislators declined to expand Medicaid, cut pay for teacher assistants, eliminated higher pay for teachers with master’s degrees and passed a controversial voter ID bill that Murry sponsored, Adcock said.
“The electorate is in a very different place now than it was two years ago,” she said during a recent interview. “People aren’t happy, they’re worried.”
While candidates in some other races are gearing up for primary races, Adcock and Murry are focusing on each other. They are the only two candidates who filed for the race, which voters will decide in November.
Adcock faces an uphill fundraising battle to represent the 80,000 people in the district.
Campaign finance records show Murry began the race with about $70,000, while Adcock has just over $30,000.
Political action committees account for nearly $44,000 of Murry’s lead.
A pharmacist and attorney, Murry received money from PACs related to his career fields. Kerr Drug gave him $3,500.
But he also garnered big donations from businesses like Bank of America, John Deere and R.J. Reynolds.
Adcock received a combined $6,000 from two PACs, both related to her career field. A registered nurse and family nurse practitioner, she works as chief health officer for SAS Institute in Cary.
The N.C. Association of Nurse Anesthetists donated $2,000. NP PAC, a political action committee Adcock helped create in 2005 to lobby for nurse practitioners, donated $4,000.
Individuals and Adcock’s political friends accounted for the rest of her donations. Former Cary councilman and Wake County Commissioner Erv Portman contributed $1,000, while Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and Town Councilwoman Lori Bush each gave $500.
Adcock admits that she may not be able to match Murry dollar for dollar. But she thinks her message will ring true in one of the most politically moderate districts in the state.
The district includes about 49,000 registered voters from rural New Hill to Research Triangle Park to stretches north of Cary and Morrisville. About 35 percent of registered voters are Republicans, 35 percent are unaffiliated, and about 30 percent are Democrats.
Murry garnered 52 percent of the vote in 2012, and he outspent Democratic opponent Jim Messina $500,000 to $200,000.
Better off than in 2010?
In the last few years, Adcock said, the General Assembly has made changes that “aren’t reflective of the state I’ve been in since 1976.”
Murry argues that North Carolina is better off now than in 2010, the last time Democrats controlled the legislature.
“We were just coming off the year when Democrats raised the personal income tax, the sales tax and the corporate tax all in the same year,” Murry said.
The jobless rate peaked at 11.3 percent under the Democrats’ control, he noted, “and they were talking about furloughing teachers.”
“So it was high taxes and cuts for teachers,” he said. “Why would we want to go back to that?”
Murry said the state’s Republican leaders made “tough decisions” that helped lower the unemployment rate to 6.9 percent and freed up state money to spend on teachers.
“The North Carolina economy is growing, and we’re able to make sure every teacher in North Carolina makes $35,000 a year,” he said, referring to Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed plan to increase pay for early-career teachers.
Murry said he and Adcock have more similarities than she lets on.
For instance, Murry voted against the Republican-led effort to delay a Jordan Lake cleanup plan enacted in 2009. His political colleagues favor a $1.6 million pilot program that uses solar-powered water circulators.
Murry also voted against House Bill 150, which prohibits municipalities from regulating residential development based on appearance.
“She texted me, thanking me for my vote,” Murry said of Adcock.
That was March 20, 2013. Things have changed since then.
“If I thought he was doing a bang-up job, I wouldn’t be running,” Adcock said.
Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht