Editor and Publisher
John H. Walker
ROCKY MOUNT — Democrat Walter Dalton and Republican Pat McCrory, down to the final two weeks in their campaign for North Carolina governor, squared off one last time on the campus of North Carolina Wesleyan College Wednesday night.
The pair met for the third and final time in a debate aired statewide on WRAL and UNC-TV and worldwide on CSPAN2. The debate, which drew an audience of about 1,100 persons to Wesleyan’s Dunn Center, was co-sponsored by the college and the Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce.
In his closing statement Dalton, the state’s current lieutenant governor, said he would fight for the voters if elected next month, treat teachers with respect and push for equal pay for women. Throughout the 60-minute debate, Dalton suggested McCrory would support special interests and corporations.
On the other hand, McCrory said, “North Carolina has to get into the energy business,” citing natural gas and offshore drilling as sources of both jobs and revenue.
He also said the state tax system needed to be reformed and to work to reduce regulations and completely reform the education system from pre-K up.
Dalton said McCrory’s call for gas fracturing and offshore drilling wouldn’t provide a solution to the economy because “that’s six to 10 years out.”
McCrory said, “Gov. (Beverly) Perdue said the same thing four years ago … if we had done something then, we’d be in a position to see results. If you keep delaying and delaying, we’ll always be five to six years out.”
Dalton noted he had specific plans and repeatedly referenced his website while pointing out that McCrory offered no specifics.
He said the state is in a position where it has to reinvent its economy and noted his background in a small, textile community where jobs would come and go in cycles until the Fast Track trade program accelerated the loss and exacerbated the economic problems.
Dalton said he would offer tax credits to businesses that hired the unemployed and provide partial benefits — 24 hours weekly — while trying them out.
He noted the need to revitalize rural areas and encourage entrepreneurship.
Dalton said he felt that by implementing his plans, the state’s unemployment rate — currently 9.6 percent and the fifth-highest in the nation — could be lowered 2.5 to 3 points in a year.
He cited the allied health industry, military, biotech and entrepreneurship as ways to reach that number.
McCrory said he hoped North Carolina would at least be beating South Carolina in a year, noting that he wasn’t a forecaster and would be rich if he were.
“We’re a very unfriendly business state,” McCrory noted. “Virginia, South Carolina … we have to be more competitive. Our taxes are some of the highest in the Southeast.”
Both candidates cited a need to concentrate on education.
Dalton cited the need to get money back into Smart Start and More at 4 and to work to get teachers above the national average in pay.
McCrory said despite having the fifth-highest unemployment in the nation, it was difficult to attract employers with jobs because of the poor quality of education delivered.
He cited a need to expand the use of technology, holding up an Ipad for emphasis and the need to concentrate on Pre-K, K-12, two-year education and university level.
Dalton, as he has throughout the campaign, took shots at McCrory in regards to ethics and noted, in answering a final question about how hard it is to tell the truth in politics, that the Supreme Court had “questioned his veracity in regards to an affidavit.”
McCrory, on the other hand, continued to tie Dalton to Perdue and tax increases either passed or proposed during her administration.
The candidates were also queried on a variety of issues, including immigration, labor laws and changes to the mental health system that is having an adverse effect in the smaller, more rural markets around the state.
Early voting continues through Saturday, Nov. 3. The General Election is Tuesday, Nov. 6.