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8 candidates want to become NC lieutenant governor

RALEIGH (AP) ó North Carolinaís lieutenant governor wields little power, yet a crop of eight candidates are competing for the stateís No. 2 spot.
The position is at the least a stepping stone for higher office and a bully pulpit. Some of this yearís candidates want better education and more protection for the environment. Others have promised tax cuts and ending wasteful government spending.
The wide-open race, created because incumbent Beverly Perdue is forced to step down after two terms and is running for governor, features attorneys, local politicians and two sitting state senators.
Voters will choose among the four Democrats and four Republicans in primaries Tuesday. If the leading candidate in each party primary fails to get more than 40 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held June 24.
The Democrats want to build upon their partyís accomplishments in the Legislature and governorís mansion. Republicans say itís time to use the post to promote a conservative agenda. The GOP also is running against history. In the last 100 years, a Republican has held the job for just four years.
During that stint beginning in 1989, a Democratic-controlled Legislature stripped the position of most its powers beyond presiding over the Senate and sitting on a handful of commissions, including the State Board of Education.
iIt is an office that doesnít have a whole lot of authority … but itís still the No. 2 elected position in this state,î said Canton Mayor Pat Smathers, one of the Democratic hopefuls. iThe lieutenant governorís office at this time is pretty much what you want to make it.î
Republicans say controlling debate on the Senate floor would help them move their agenda forward in a chamber that likely will be controlled by Democrats.
iThey canít take the gavel away. The gavel is constitutional,î said Sen. Robert Pittenger, a GOP candidate.
The lieutenant governor also would be in line to replace the governor if the head of state was for some reason unable to serve.
Among other Democratic hopefuls, a six-term lawmaker is touting his experience in state government. Sen. Walter Dalton said he has been involved in almost every significant piece of spending legislation since he became one of the Senateís chief budget-writers in 2003. Heís often pushed proposals supported by Democrats Gov. Mike Easley and Attorney General Roy Cooper.
iIím the only candidate that has a proven record of improving education, expanding health care and creating jobs,î said Dalton, a Rutherfordton attorney. iWe have laid the building blocks for competing in the 21st century.î
Daltonís opponents, however, have tried to portray themselves as the progressive candidate.
Hampton Dellinger, a Durham attorney and former adviser to Easley, has criticized Daltonís support for the construction of Duke Energy Corp.ís new power generator in Rutherford County and accused him of proposing education and health care spending cuts while in the Legislature.
iDalton is the most conservative Democratic candidate Iíve seen run statewide in over 20 years,î Dellinger said. iI have great respect for him personally … but at the same time there are great policy matters between us.î
Dan Besse, a Winston-Salem city councilman, has touted his work on the stateís Environmental Management Commission and various conservation groups over the past 30 years.
iI am passionate about stewardship of our natural resources. I am passionate about equal opportunity for all and I have the experience to make that passion count as lieutenant governor,î Besse said.
Smathers, the mayor, said he wants to help local governments attract new jobs and build infrastructure. He also wants to get them more authority to generate taxes and fees.
On the Republican side, Pittenger, a Charlotte businessman, has brought attention to inefficiency in government and argued for lower state tax rates. He has received endorsements from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and former Gov. Jim Martin.
But like the Democratic race, the sitting senator has a record his opponents have targeted.
Beaufort County businessman Greg Dority said Pittenger has been ineffective and soured his relationships with Democratic senators.
iWeíve got to give some hope to some people because state government is so broke now,î said Dority, who is proposing less taxes and a 5 percent across-the-board cut in state spending.
Jim Snyder, the 2004 GOP nominee and an attorney, has proposed consolidating the State Bureau of Investigation and Highway Patrol to make government more efficient. He also wants to merge two early childhood education programs, the Smart Start and More at Four.
A fourth GOP candidate, Timothy Cook of Brown Summit, finished second to Snyder in the 2004 GOP primary and planned to spend little money toward this yearís campaign. He also ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2002.

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