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Walter Dalton Optimistic In Run For Governor

Walter Dalton
Office of the Lt. Governor

Earlier this year Bev Perdue announced she would not seek reelection as governor of North Carolina. The Democratic Party had to quickly find a suitable candidate to try to replace the state's chief executive. They voted for Walter Dalton, the man who had replaced Perdue as Lieutenant Governor four years earlier. Jeff Tiberii reports on the former six-term state senator, now vying for the Governor's mansion.

Walter Dalton is trailing in the polls. One day it feels like you can hear the tension in his voice, stressing certain points. The next day he's got visible bags under his eyes. He surely didn't think he'd be running for governor a year ago, and while Dalton might lack the exuberance and outward confidence of his Republican opponent Pat McCrory, he has held an elected office for 15 years. He's a veteran to politics and knows how to work a room, which is exactly what he did, briefly, following a campaign stop in Greensboro last week.

Walter Dalton: "Hello, how you doin' man? Hey, how are you?"

Politics and North Carolina have been instrumental in Dalton's life. The 63-year-old Lieutenant Governor grew up in Rutherford County, southeast of Asheville. His father was a former state senator who died when Walter was eight-years-old. He still has many fond memories of his childhood though. There were summer trips to the mountains and Rutherford County remains one of his favorite places.

Dalton: "One of the most beautiful visions you will ever see is float on Lake Lure at Sunset Cove and watch the sun go down at Chimney Rock and the light reflect off the lake. And depending on the weather sometimes you'll get this beautiful orange or red sky. What I say is there is when you're there and you're looking at that sunset, you know God is in his heaven and it looks a lot like North Carolina."

Dalton earned undergraduate and law degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill. He served as an attorney, a six-term member of the general assembly and was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2008. Since first taking office in 1997 Dalton has seen many challenges and set backs for the state. He says if elected Governor he would restore cuts to education and support tax incentives in an effort to lure businesses to North Carolina.

Dalton: "The ultimate dream I think is prosperity for our citizens, reducing the poverty rate, seeing discretionary income go up for everybody. That means creating jobs now and jobs for the future and that means investing in education, and making us great in education."

Dalton talks a lot about dreams. He believes one of the biggest tools for rebuilding the economy is the community college system. In contrast with Republican Pat McCrory Dalton stresses education in most of his campaign appearances. McCrory has enjoyed a lead in all of the polls for the past few months. Dalton says he's fine with running as the underdog to McCrory.

Dalton: "He ran four years ago, spent probably, I'm going to guess around eight million dollars running for governor, had a lot of name recognition, ran for Governor the next four years. I got into this race late January of this year. He had no primary; I had a very substantial primary. So what money we raised, we spent all of it there so we had to raise it again."

Dalton says McCrory has more money, but he says he has more friends. The Lieutenant Governor remains upbeat and says despite all of the recent challenges, the next governor must remain optimistic.

Dalton: "There's an old proverb that says we should never be pushed by our problems, we should be pushed by our dreams. I agree with that. It does not mean you ignore the problems. You've got to fix the problems, but as you fix them never lose sight of your dreams. Don't cut so deeply that you hurt that future and damage that dream."

Dalton is running out of his time for his comeback. He has two more debates with McCrory and just a few weeks to try to close the gap. He says he'll run his campaign diligently through November 6th, shaking one hand at a time.

Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
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