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Fracking views contrast in final debate

Posted October 25, 2012

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— The leading candidates for North Carolina presented their closing arguments to voters during their final televised debate Wednesday night. 

Democrat Walter Dalton and Republican Pat McCrory clarified their positions on economic and education policies they spared over in two prior debates while staking out positions on topics that haven't gotten as much attention. Gubernatorial debate Watch segments of gubernatorial debates

N.C. Wesleyan College, the Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce and WRAL-TV hosted the debate. 

The pair shared a brief moment of mutual admiration when asked by WRAL's Ken Smith what impressed each about their opponent.

"Anyone who has been in public service should be commended for that," Dalton said of McCrory. "He's been dedicated to his public service."

McCrory says he likes some of Dalton's ideas on using community colleges to prepare students for four year degrees.

Calling Dalton, "a great family man," McCrory went on to say, "I know the people of his town have a great deal of respect for him."

Candidates agree on abortion, immigration

The pair also shared similar views on several questions. 

Abortion: WRAL's Laura Leslie asked about the Woman's Right to Know Act, a bill that placed limitations on those seeking abortions and providing them in North Carolina. "If you're elected governor, what further restrictions on abortion would you agree to sign?"

McCrory replied, "None."

Dalton said, "I didn't agree with this restriction. I would put no further restrictions on a woman's right."

McCrory's simple, one-word answer, elicited chuckles from the audience, as it confounded the moderators for a moment. Opponents have pointed out that McCrory checked "no" when asked by the N.C. Family Policy Council if "organizations that provide abortions should be allowed to receive state funds."  

Dalton didn't answer that survey. 

Immigration: On immigration, the two agreed that it should be up to the federal government to enforce immigration laws.

"Anything you do on illegal immigration at a state level is an unfunded mandate," Dalton said.

McCrory said that he didn't think new anti-illegal immigration action was needed by the state at this point. However, he added that he liked joint local-federal programs that allow sheriffs to find and detain criminals who come to the country illegally. 

Unions and new hires: Both men also agreed that the state should not relinquish its "right-to-work" status, which has minimized the impact labor unions can have here. And both said they would consider individuals in the other man's political party for high-ranking posts in their administration.

"I'm not going to give you names right now," Dalton said. "You talk about about creating a frenzy, that would be it." 

McCrory said that he didn't promise anybody anything, but said he would seek the advice and assistance of Transportation Secretary Gene Conti, Revenue Secretary David Hoyle and Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco. 

Sweepstakes: In one final point of agreement, both men said the state had tried to ban video sweepstakes which mimic gambling. Dalton and McCrory both said that if the state Supreme Court strikes down the current ban, they would look at taxing and regulating the industry. On the Family Policy Council survey, McCrory checked "yes" when asked if North Carolina should keep the current prohibition on video gambling. My Ballot logo My Ballot: Compare candidates side-by-side

On other topics, the two men displayed more differences: 

McCrory sees fracking as job creator 

Asked how he would create jobs and raise tax revenue in the state, McCrory twice pointed to fracking, the controversial practice of using horizontal drilling and high-pressure injections to drive gas out of the ground.

"I think North Carolina has to get into the energy business," he said. "Other states that have moved quickly (on fracking) have much lower unemployment." 

Ohio and Pennsylvania cleared the way relatively recently for fracking. Ohio's unemployment rate was 7 percent in September, down from 7.2 percent in August. Pennsylvania's unemployment rate is 8.2 percent for September, up from 8.1 percent in August. Both rates are lower than North Carolina's 9.6 percent unemployment rate for September, although it's unclear how much credit fracking can take for those lower rates of unemployment. 

Dalton is skeptical that fracking will bring jobs and said the state needs to move cautiously. 

"Fracking and offshore oil are six years out," Dalton said. "We need jobs now."

McCrory said the state would be that much closer to having revenue from gas exploration if Dalton and his fellow Democrat, Gov. Bev Perdue, had moved more quickly.

"That's exactly what Gov. Perdue said four years ago. Had we started four years ago, we'd be within a year or two of doing it right now."

Tax talk difference: Reform or tweak

Leslie asked both candidates about their tax plans.

Dalton says that he would not raise the state's sales tax and can pay for his policy proposals with a combination of economic growth, closing tax loopholes, collecting sales tax from online retailers and other uncollected income.

Overall, Dalton has proposed tweaks to North Carolina's current tax system, offering plans for new small business tax breaks and the like.

McCrory says he favors a complete overhaul of North Carolina's tax system. When pressed for details of his plans over the past three weeks, he has sometimes been light on specifics. The Republican has said he would like to lower or eliminate state income and corporate taxes. But those taxes make up 60 cents of every dollar that comes into the state treasury.

"Let's have comprehensive reform supported by Republicans and Democrats alike," McCrory said, again eschewing details. He explained that he wanted to lead the discussion about how to remake the tax system, rather than lay down his own preferences which may or may not be well received by lawmakers.

McCrory did say he believed revenue from fracking could offset some revenue loss and that simplifying the tax code would allow the economy to grow more rapidly.

Employment goal: Beat South Carolina

Asked about his plans to create jobs, Dalton said he believed that his plans could reduce state unemployment by 2.5 to 3 percent. 

McCrory refused to provide a specific number.

"I think think 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 at least be beating South Carolina, shouldn't we," he asked.

South Carolina's September unemployment rate was half a percentage point lower than North Carolina's, at 9.1 percent. 

And lest McCrory's remark sound like a dig on our neighbors to the south, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley did campaign with McCrory in September. 

Dalton shot back that North Carolina was already besting South Carolina in business climate rankings such as those put out by Forbes and Site Selection Magazine. 

McCrory adds iPad to education plan

McCrory and Dalton have differed on education policy. Those who watched the prior two debates should not have been surprised when McCrory said he believed high schools should provide a more defined non-college track for students.

"Another pathway is a vocation degree curriculum," McCrory said. "We're forcing way too many people to go into a college curriculum when many of these people have skills to build things, repair things, to fix things."

Dalton, who strongly backs high schools that provide exposure to community college course work, disagreed.

"His (McCrory's) tracking system defines a 15-year-old's career before that 15-year-old defines him or herself," Dalton said. 

One new policy note from McCrory: He held up an iPad, saying that it would revolutionize education and help replace text books.

"It's also going to help provide education to urban and rural areas alike," he said. 

Using tablet computers to replace textbooks and give students access to other materials seems to be a new idea from McCrory, one that didn't show up in his written education plan and has not been discussed in most news reports. 

He didn't give details of how the state might use them or pay for them. The Apple tablet computers retail for around $300 before any extra software is loaded. There are roughly 1.4 million students in North Carolina public schools in kindergarten through 12th grades.

Dalton defends record as lieutenant governor

Dalton recycled an old charge to closely link McCrory to the Republican leadership at the General Assembly.

"Speaker (Thom) Tillis says he talks to Pat every day," Dalton said. "That was his quote. I don't know what they're talking about but I assume he is weighing in on these issues."

McCrory, Dalton said, didn't object to the school funding cuts pursued by the legislature.

But the Republican pointed out he hasn't held a government position for the past four years.

"It's almost like I had more power not being governor than my opponent had when he was lieutenant governor," McCrory said. 

McCrory piled on with a charge that Dalton had shirked his duties. 

"One of the main responsibilities of lieutenant governor is to attend community college board meetings and the board of education meetings. His attendance rate was less than 40 percent." 

Dalton said the law allows the lieutenant governor to appoint a sworn designee.

"That's an acknowledgment we do have other duties," Dalton said, calling McCrory's jibe "a bogus hit." He pointed to his attendance record as a state senator, saying that he had a "99 percent" attendance record.

In fact, the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research said Dalton was present 105 of 113 days during the 2007 session, a 93 percent attendance rate putting him in the middle of the pack. In the 2005 Senate session, Dalton was present 96 percent of the time. 

Odds and ends

45 Comments

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  • Damien Thorne Oct 26, 2012

    "McCrory said he would use the taxes from gas production to offset his tax breaks to the wealthy. Problem is, he is either simply ignoring the experts who point out the paltry reserves and the miniscule tax rate = very, very little revenue, OR MrCrory knows this and is simply lying through his teeth in order to get uniformed people to vote for him. (probably both, right wingers?)"----geosol

    Funny, the US is poised to become the largest producer of oil there is. I have heard estimates that we are sitting on the biggest oil reserves in the world.

    As far as ignoring the experts? No one knows what is underground.

    And why don't you post what tax breaks actually are, allowing people to keep more of their money. There are not enough "rich" people in this state to fund it. Not to mention the "rich" people they talk about all the time are people like my employer that uses his profits to give us employees bonuses and benefits.

    Take away his tax break and all his employees suffer. Not him

  • geosol Oct 25, 2012

    McCrory said he would use the taxes from gas production to offset his tax breaks to the wealthy. Problem is, he is either simply ignoring the experts who point out the paltry reserves and the miniscule tax rate = very, very little revenue, OR MrCrory knows this and is simply lying through his teeth in order to get uniformed people to vote for him. (probably both, right wingers?)

  • mtnmama Oct 25, 2012

    Fracking-bad. McCroy= pro fracking.

  • DoingMyBest Oct 25, 2012

    "It certainly works better than cutting funding......"

    Crabbit, where is the link for this one mate! I am sure they figured this one out across the pond, so it must be true.

  • Damien Thorne Oct 25, 2012

    "" It will take a bit to fix, but throwing money at it is not the fix."

    "How do you know that? its never been tried in NC."----Grand Union

    Just when you think you have seen the biggest lie here comes an even bigger one. The democrats have thrown money at problems for years and not seen any result from it. Maybe you should open your eyes some.

  • Damien Thorne Oct 25, 2012

    "" This problem has arisen from a democrat controlled state for over 100 years."

    "Please show us the connection and in any case today's democrats bear little resemblance to the Dixicrats that help power for most of the time."-----Grand Union

    How about they are still promoting the "throw money at it" solution to everything and blaming Republicans. How about the fact that the problems of the last 8 years in this state are still the same problems?

  • Damien Thorne Oct 25, 2012

    "" NC is not first in education and it is not due to spending."

    we are about last in spending so I don't know what you base that claim on....Grand Union

    How about the fact we are not last in education? So spending the most money does not equal the best education. Nice point.

  • Damien Thorne Oct 25, 2012

    ""The problem with throwing money at something that is broken is that it does not fix the problem."

    It certainly works better than cutting funding......Grand Union

    No, it rewards bad policy and compounds the original problem.

  • Damien Thorne Oct 25, 2012

    "The first issue is that you are not objective. The second is that you have misdiagnosed the problems and thus no clue to what the solution would be."----oldaltar

    I am afraid you are wrong in a couple of aspects. One, this state has been in democrat super majority for over 100 years. That means the condition of our schools is due to not planning on their part. So is mental health. So are the roads. Lack of long term sustainable growth plans have put this state into a hole. This problem did not "just happen", it has been creeping up for years. Now if you want to say this is all a recent problem then you are the one that is just a flat out partisan hack or plain ole mo ron. Any questions?

  • Damien Thorne Oct 25, 2012

    "They failed to invest in mental health, and efforts to continue the state's successful efforts to curb teen smoking"----oldaltar

    Yes, in the land of the free let us tax and regulate the stuff we do not like out of business. Personally I am going for alcohol next, then kool aid.

    Mental health has been a hot issue for many years and yet the dumbocrats have done nothing but talk about it. A changing of the guard will handle it.

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