McCrory, Dalton hit on tried themes in last debate
ROCKY MOUNT (AP) — The major-party candidates for North Carolina governor worked to leave lasting impressions in their final televised debate Wednesday night, with Democrat Walter Dalton saying he'd fight for the people and Republican Pat McCrory saying he'd fix how government interacts with the people.
The debate lacked some of the rancor of previous TV meetings between the leading candidates this year, but Dalton still sought to provoke the former Charlotte mayor. Dalton accused him of lacking details about his tax and education plans and raised questions about his work activity and mayoral decisions.
"Big corporations, special interests pay a lot of money for people to fight for them," Dalton, the sitting lieutenant governor, told the debate audience at North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount. "I'll fight for you and working together, I will build that bright future for North Carolina."
McCrory said he would push a four-part plan to improve the state's economy, tax and education systems and reduce government regulations on small businesses. He warned that his efforts would focus upon long-term goals because "short-term remedies usually don't have long-term solutions."
Many in the live audience of about 1,000 people laughed when he recalled the long lines he stood through at a crowded Division of Motor Vehicles office last year to get his license renewed. Although a likely candidate at the time, McCrory said that's when he realized he needed to run for governor.
"We've got a broken government in North Carolina," McCrory said.
Dalton, who has acknowledged he's behind in polls and fundraising, kept trying to pick at McCrory's record and tried to show himself as someone knowledgeable in budgeting and taxes. He spent three minutes during the hourlong debate explaining where he'd find $1 billion to raise teacher pay, give tax credits to small businesses and set up other job-creation proposals — without raising current tax rates.
"I have the detailed plans for economic recovery, education for ethics," Dalton said. "I have seen nothing from my opponent detailing anything" except a comment from an adviser saying releasing tax reform plans would doom it from the beginning. McCrory has released principles and some new ideas but has largely stayed away from tax details except to say he wants to see income-tax rates reduced to the levels of surrounding states.
McCrory criticized Dalton for taking a piecemeal approach to the state's tax policy and for agreeing with Gov. Beverly Perdue on a three-quarter-cent increase in the sales tax earlier this year to restore public education cuts by the Republican-led Legislature. Dalton backed the idea in the primary campaign but backed off of it this summer.
Dalton said he believed through his job-creation plan he could reduce the state's unemployment rate — currently fifth-highest among states at 9.6 percent — by 2.5 to 3 percentage points during his first year in office. McCrory said he wouldn't use specific numbers, while taking a mild swipe at North Carolina's neighbor.
"The best way to measure things is to benchmark against your competitors, and within a year I hope we're at least beating South Carolina — my gosh, we ought to be at least beating South Carolina," McCrory said. South Carolina's rate is now 9.1 percent.
McCrory sounded irritated by Dalton's argument that he would be a rubber stamp for GOP policies at the General Assembly and had some role in getting them passed in 2011 and 2012 when he was a private citizen.
"It's almost like I had more power not being governor then my opponent had when he was lieutenant governor. It's just amazing," McCrory said.
Dalton continued to trumpet that he had released his tax returns while McCrory had not. State law doesn't require their release. Both have filed economic disclosure statements.
"I've been transparent. ... People know what I am doing," Dalton said. McCrory did give more details about his job at a Charlotte law firm but refused to disclose what he makes because he grew up in a family where it wasn't proper to talk about such things. "I'm not going to break my mom and dad's code," he said.
McCrory was noncommittal about Debra Goldman, the Republican nominee for state auditor, when asked whether she still had his support. But he proceeded to distance himself from her by complimenting the work of her opponent, Democratic incumbent Beth Wood.
Goldman is a Wake County school board member who in 2010 named another board member as a suspect in her home's burglary, according to a police document The News & Observer of Raleigh obtained and reported on last weekend. The police narrative also showed the two board members gave conflicting statements about whether they had a romantic relationship.
Wood, he added, has "done a good job."
"She at least had the courage to stand up to the Perdue administration on some broken government issues."
Libertarian Barbara Howe wasn't invited to participate in any of the three televised debates held this month.
Wednesday's night debate, sponsored in part by the college and the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce, aired on WRAL-TV in Raleigh, the University of North Carolina Television network and other media outlets.