GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory is skipping the North Carolina NAACP state convention this week, a move that comes amid accusations from black leaders and his Democratic rival that he doesn't understand the needs of African Americans.
The group invited McCrory and Democrat Walter Dalton to a debate Saturday afternoon as part of a three-day convention. McCrory's campaign said it look at all its debate requests and picked the ones it could accommodate. "We turned down lots of debate requests because we obviously can't do them all," spokesman Brian Nick said. "Just the nature of a campaign that you can't do everything ... only so much time."
Dalton is scheduled to attend the state convention this week, where Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue will give the keynote speech Friday. The national president of the NAACP Benjamin Todd Jealous is also expected to attend.
McCrory will spend Saturday at a fundraiser in Gastonia.
A recent McCrory TV ad -- featuring a white sheriff who blamed race for his failed re-election -- stirred complaints from black leaders in North Carolina who asked the campaign to remove it from the air.
Melvin "Skip" Alston, the former state NAACP president, called the TV ad "race-bating."
The NAACP's invite -- and McCrory's decision not to participate -- came well before the recent controversy about race in the governor's campaign, the spokesman said.
McCrory -- and other GOP gubernatorial candidates -- also skipped a NAACP forum in January 2008 citing scheduling issues. A conservative columnist wrote at the time that snubbing the minority group "was an insult."