Local Politics

Four N.C. GOP Candidates Debate on TV

Posted April 15, 2008

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— Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory took the bulk of criticism at a televised debate Tuesday night between him and three other Republican gubernatorial candidates who questioned his fiscal and immigration record while leading North Carolina's largest city.

"Mayor, you've got a pretty big target on your back these days," moderator David Crabtree said near the close of the hourlong debate at the WRAL-TV studios in Raleigh.

The focus on McCrory's mayoral history, particularly by Sen. Fred Smith of Clayton and former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, reflects both the perception that he is a leading candidate three weeks before the May 6 primary and that his past could turn into a weakness among likely conservative voters.

"There's no question that I am the true conservative in this race," Smith said.

The fourth candidate – Salisbury attorney Bill Graham – said he supports a temporary moratorium on the state's gasoline tax because prices have reached record highs and that it can be done without slowing down road construction.

"We have to realign our priorities," said Graham, who led a self-financed push to reduce the state's gasoline tax in 2006. "The state has got to tighten its belt."

Smith went after McCrory early in the debate, accusing him of increasing government spending in Charlotte at a rate of 10 percent a year.

"It's amazing to hear Pat talk about (how) he wants to cut government when he's the big mayor of the biggest city in North Carolina and has the highest tax burden," Smith argued.

McCrory retorted that he hasn't supported a property tax increase since becoming mayor in 1995 and pointed out that the combined city-county tax rate in Smith's hometown is higher than in Charlotte.

"This is what happens with state government," McCrory said. "They actually don't know what's happening out in county and city government throughout North Carolina."

Orr jumped in, arguing that Charlotte kept property rates lower because the city involuntarily annexes sections of Mecklenburg County every few years, taking in revenues from new residents and borrowing more money.

On illegal immigration, Orr repeated allegations he made last week that McCrory is taking undue credit for getting the Mecklenburg County sheriff to enter a training program to enforce federal immigration law.

"Pat's been talking tough in his campaign ads about immigration, but I don't think his record in Charlotte supports that," Orr said.

After attempting to rebut the charges, McCrory said he learned to take criticism while mayor and previously as a basketball referee.

"It is a little disconcerting that someone is more interested in attacking my record rather than stating their own. And that's the kind of politics we don't need," he said.

The GOP candidates have met at least 10 times to discuss issues. Several forums aired during live TV broadcasts, while others were recorded and shown later.

The two leading Democratic candidates, State Treasurer Richard Moore and Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, have clashed over the number of debates and forums to hold before the election. So far, they've met on TV four times.


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  • ezLikeSundayMorning Apr 16, 2008

    I would rather cut income tax, property tax, or sales tax. Gas taxes are one of the best taxes we have because it relates so well to use of what its paying for and it is more efficient than toll roads.

    If what shootermcgavin says is accurate, and that is my recollection, toll roads will effectively be paying for random spending from years ago.

    My problem with cutting the gas tax is that if that saves us .30 a gallon, demand will increase somewhat and the price could bounce .10. Then gov't will raise taxes somewhere else or in later years and we will pay the money anyway, plus give the gas companies more money.

  • shootermcgavin Apr 16, 2008

    Directly from a story on WRAL. "Joines suggested ending annual transfers of hundreds of millions of dollars from the state's Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund. The 2007-2008 budget transferred $172 million." This has happened every year since 1989. We need to stop it now! This money was intended to build loops. Your I-540 will be a toll road because the money set aside to build it is being used to balance the budget.

  • TheAdmiral Apr 16, 2008

    "Another point. Building roads simply becomes more expensive over time (in real dollars...not just inflation), since the raw materials used to create those roads become more expensive. So even if you have an increase in tax revenue from an increased population, you STILL need to increase the gas tax rates to overcome the increased costs of building and maintaining roads."

    So, what you are saying is that by more people paying taxes is not enough - you have to raise taxes on top of the increased revenue to make everything equal out.

    That goes against every aspect of economics and the socialist agenda. The agenda states that if more people are putting money into the cause, then the burden becomes less for everyone.

    Freakonomics say if you increase the amount coming in as well as the regular amount that is being paid, then it is revenue neutral.

    Survey Says: "XXX"

  • TheAdmiral Apr 16, 2008

    "Since 2001, NO gas tax money has been taken out of transportation. Instead, gas tax money meant to be spent on new highways has instead been diverted to fixing existing roads (which is also funded entirely by gas taxes, but the costs of fixing roads has outstripped the funding received by that portion of the gas tax)."

    Someone in the forum has a bad case of road tar poisoning from smoking the weeds along that 1.8 mile stretch.

    The DOT funds and the trust funds have been reported to be sucked into the general fund on several occasions. Look into the archives on this site and find them. Last year, a big stink was made because of it - however, I understand a liberals need to avoid facts because that is not how they "FEEL"

  • RUSH_2112 Apr 16, 2008

    The fact of the matter is, any of the candidates from last night's debate will be better for NC than Perdue or Moore. Sure, Fred may have come across as a little abrasive at times, but he clearly wants the job more than the others. This is after all, a job interview. I will vote for Fred but I predict McCory will win for this reason--he is running ads on TV. Fred's 100-county BBQ simply will not get his message out to enough voters. You must run TV ads. I have not seen a Fred ad in maybe 2 weeks. I was impressed with Orr. But the one who runs the most ads gets the most votes.

    But in the end, a Democrat will be the next governor. Perdue and Moore are well-known and have deep pockets.

  • whatelseisnew Apr 16, 2008

    Ah the gas tax - 48.6 cents per gallon for gas. 54.6 cents per gallon for diesel. By all means I think we should triple these amounts.

  • shootermcgavin Apr 16, 2008

    The gas tax and the highway trust fund are two separate things. The highway trust fund was money set aside to fund the construction of the seven loops around the major NC cities. Funds from the trust have been used every year to balance the budget. The reason for the "raid" is explained as a need to cover expenses incurred for management and implementation of the program.

  • ifcdirector Apr 16, 2008

    I am not voting for anyone who does not have a plan for making the laws here tough enough that illegal aliens will self-deport themselves someplace else.

  • doodad Apr 16, 2008

    Leonardo, you're right. I talked with a friend who works for the DOT and he said the same thing regarding material costs and inflation.

  • Leonardo Apr 16, 2008


    Another point. Building roads simply becomes more expensive over time (in real dollars...not just inflation), since the raw materials used to create those roads become more expensive. So even if you have an increase in tax revenue from an increased population, you STILL need to increase the gas tax rates to overcome the increased costs of building and maintaining roads.

    If the cost of building roads were constant over time, then yes, the increased tax revenue from an increase population would be sufficient to construct new roads to handle the increased population and to pay for maintenance of existing roads. But unfortunately, this isn't the case.