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Gubernatorial Candidates Clash In Second Debate

Dalton and McCrory
Jeff Tiberii

Prior to the Presidential debate last night, North Carolina’s major party candidates for governor squared off as well. Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Walter Dalton debated for nearly an hour in Research Triangle Park.

There was plenty of the same old wrangling on Tuesday night as Lieutenant Governor Dalton and former Charlotte Mayor McCrory disagreed on how to most effectively grow the economy, what to do about corporate tax rates and just how big government should be. Some new wrinkles did emerge though, as the candidates discussed the Racial Justice Act, gas prices and even faith.

Dalton has criticized McCrory for not being transparent about his time with Duke Energy and his current work for a Charlotte law firm. On Tuesday, Dalton introduced a new criticism of his opponent, one he has not leveled before. It’s in regard to an incident Dalton said happened more than 15 years ago.

Walter Dalton: "The North Carolina Supreme Court and Justice Lake had a case and they said when he was Mayor Pro Tem he collaborated with his employer, Duke Energy to have the city of Charlotte condemn a family farm in order to enhance Duke’s profit line. And then they said he filed a sworn affidavit and didn’t tell the truth. He was looking after that special interest. He wasn’t looking after the people. He certainly wasn’t looking after the farmer."

McCrory worked for Duke for 28 years. He denied the allegations, briefly.

Pat McCrory:" Um, this is the first I’ve ever heard of this. Um, just amazing; this attack on the private sector. You know, I was, I’m proud to be employed by a great law firm. A law firm in fact in which he just wrote to get donations from for his political campaign.""

As in the first debate, Dalton spent more time on the attack while McCrory repeatedly mentioned Governor Bev Perdue in an effort to connect Dalton with the current Governor.

Meanwhile, the candidates were asked about education initiatives. McCrory said he wants to implement a system where high school students could have the choice between two different diplomas.

McCrory: "One concentrating on vocational courses and then another concentrating on college curriculum courses. To me, this would help reduce the dropout rate, help our market. And help kids again become productive because my goal is to get our kids jobs."

McCrory has said if elected governor he wants to continue funding for early education, but is in favor of reforming middle and high schools. Dalton offered this rebuttal

Dalton: "He’s talking about really taking it back to a 15-year-old and defining their career before they define themselves. Governor Perdue has some of those same ideas and I think it’s far too early. The career tech is very important, but the early college high schools that are something I had something to do with. I did a bill in 2003, the innovation education act and we laid the foundation for those."

Dalton didn’t offer a specific educational initiative of his own during the debate. In terms of common ground the men agreed on capping gas taxes, keeping I-95 toll-free and on the importance of faith in their lives. But of course, most of the night was spent with differing opinions, including the responses to a question about the Racial Justice Act. That law prohibits racial bias when sentencing a convict to death. Dalton was asked if he thought people had been sentenced to death because of ethnicity.

Dalton: "I do believe that race played a factor. I think there are some cases and individual situations that have shown that. And what I have said, again, is I support the death penalty but when you have the death penalty you need to be sure it’s only for the most heinous crimes and you need to make sure it’s not for someone’s skin color."

McCrory: "Listen, almost every district attorney, republican, democrat, said this is a lousy bill. And it is a lousy bill, basically it’s an anti-death penalty bill."

With less than three weeks before Election Day Dalton trails McCrory by 10 points in the latest Public Policy Poll and 14 points in the latest Rasmussen poll. Libertarian Barbara Howe is polling at 5 percent. She was not invited to participate in these forums. The third gubernatorial debate is next Wednesday in Rocky Mount. Early voting begins tomorrow.

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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