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Gubernatorial candidates pick on GOP more than each other

Posted April 16, 2012
Updated April 17, 2012

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— Three Democratic gubernatorial candidates did little to differentiate themselves from one another Monday night in a debate televised statewide by WRAL-TV.

Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, former Congressman Bob Etheridge and Orange County Rep. Bill Faison spent more time in the hour-long debate bashing the Republican-led General Assembly for its budget priorities than each candidate did telling voters why he is the best person to carry the Democratic banner in the November election.

All three men said job creation should be the top priority for the next governor, given that North Carolina's unemployment rate continues to hover around 10 percent. Yet, they said, the legislature lost sight of that last year, and cuts made to balance the state budget put North Carolina at a disadvantage in trying to attract jobs. dems debate NC Governor Debate at WRAL

"The key is to fund education," said Etheridge, a former state schools superintendent. "You cannot lay off teachers, increase class size, cap our universities and do away with the future of this state if you want to have jobs. You just can't get there."

Dalton said a "mean-spiritedness" in the General Assembly turned public school teachers into targets to attack rather than hard-working professionals to support.

"The most offensive thing about this legislature was they said they were coming to Raleigh to create jobs, and instead, they worked on divisive social issues," he said.

Faison said that his three-part jobs plan calls for a 0.75-cent increase to the state sales tax rate to rehire teachers and teaching assistants who were laid off because of budget cuts.

"Our teachers are phenomenal people, and absolutely, they need to be treated as professionals," he said.

Democratic debate Full video: NC Democratic gubernatorial debate

The only time when the three candidates really showed any difference of opinion was when specifically asked why they were the best candidate to face presumptive Republican nominee Pat McCrory.

Etheridge touted his lengthy political experience in both Raleigh and Washington, D.C., and said he has the courage to tackle tough issues, noting he voted with President Obama on the controversial economy recovery and health care overhaul bills.

Dalton said he has worked as lieutenant governor on updating the state's school system and logistics network. He also said he has won tough elections several times before and could take on McCrory.

Faison noted he is the only candidate with a job-creation plan and said he already has gone toe-to-toe with McCrory in a debate.

"I don't know where these guys were until there was a filing to be done," he said.

Faison, who is running a distant third to Etheridge and Dalton in most polls, took the most aggressive position of the debate when he argued that Dalton was wrongly claiming responsibility for education improvements.

"He takes credit for so many programs he had nothing to do with," Faison said. "They're not ideas of his campaign; they're things he latches on to."

Dalton responded by noting that he devised a bipartisan coalition a decade ago to advance science and technology education. He also criticized Faison's jobs plan, saying it counts on savings that he hasn't identified.

All three candidates came out against the proposed constitutional amendment on the primary ballot. The proposal would define marriage in North Carolina as being between one man and one woman and wouldn't recognize any other domestic arrangements.

"Rather than working on divisive wedge issues, we ought to be providing educational opportunities for our children," Etheridge said.

Similarly, all three expressed support for raising the state sales tax for education and capping the state gas tax.

While Dalton and Etheridge said they would like more study on the issue of natural gas drilling in North Carolina, Faison said he was completely opposed to the idea because of environmental concerns.

"It's just an absolutely bad idea," he said. "It puts at risk people's drinking water."

Dalton was the only one of the three who would consider turning Interstate 95 into a toll road, although he said it would be a last resort. Faison was the only one who called for taxing and regulating Internet sweepstakes businesses, which the state has been trying to eliminate for the past few years.

Harnett County physician Dr. Bruce Blackmon, Matthews college student Gary Dunn and retired federal government auditor Gardenia Henley also are running for the Democratic nomination in the May 8 primary but didn't participate in the debate.


The candidates debate again Tuesday on WUNC-TV and Wednesday on WNCN-TV. WRAL.com will carry both of those debates live.

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  • nowon_yuno Apr 18, 2012

    "I bested you with my response, because what you said was just plain wrong. Just suck it up bro, you lost this one."

    You are either joking or delusional. You didn't even come close to besting me.

    Also, y'all might as well stop complaing about me. I'm not going anywhere.
    LikeABadPenny

    Im sorry I can hear you over the sound of me besting you.

  • LikeABadPenny Apr 18, 2012

    "I understand you are calling the rights of homosexuals a social issue. Yet somewhere their rights did get into the legal court system as a social issue on discriminating did it not? Did SCOTUS ever try this issue or was it passed back to states again?"

    Homosexuals are guarenteed "equal rights adn protection" under teh law...just like every other American citizen. Three really shouldn't be aneeed for a ruling excpet for a small group of extremely narrow minded bigots.

    "IS there a compromise to this mess so they can get to some REAL SERIOUS ISSUES for ALL americans?"

    Yes. Make it legal and get over it already.

    "Maybe they could call the old marriage customs as married and legally call the cross marriages as married"

    What are you going to do when some churches start doing "cross marraiges" for homosexuals like they are already doing?

  • LikeABadPenny Apr 18, 2012

    "I bested you with my response, because what you said was just plain wrong. Just suck it up bro, you lost this one."

    You are either joking or delusional. You didn't even come close to besting me.

    Also, y'all might as well stop complaing about me. I'm not going anywhere.

  • ladyblue Apr 17, 2012

    Instead, they have worked to increase government's role in our lives and dredged up the same old divisive social issues.

    In fact, at least one of these social issues, using government to restrict the personal lives of gays, will surely reduce the number of companies who come to NC to start businesses.
    hereandnow99

    I understand you are calling the rights of homosexuals a social issue. Yet somewhere their rights did get into the legal court system as a social issue on discriminating did it not? Did SCOTUS ever try this issue or was it passed back to states again? Personally I don't think it's anyone's business to judge a person's sexual preference. IS there a compromise to this mess so they can get to some REAL SERIOUS ISSUES for ALL americans? Maybe they could call the old marriage customs as married and legally call the cross marriages as married 2..LOL little humor here on just what folks think allowing this can hurt and I have been called a right ringer on here. LOL

  • nowon_yuno Apr 17, 2012

    I got a job under the "new regime" and the company has hired 50 people since I started and is expanding our facility."

    At least you are begining to admit that things are getting better under P. Obama, Crumps. It's a start.
    Ezekiel c23 v19to20

    I expected for you to try and have it both ways on my post. I bested you with my response, because what you said was just plain wrong. Just suck it up bro, you lost this one.

  • bombayrunner Apr 17, 2012

    gosh ... with the ghosts in each other's closets, what are they waiting for?

  • Ezekiel c23 v19to20 Apr 17, 2012

    "I got a job under the "new regime" and the company has hired 50 people since I started and is expanding our facility."

    At least you are begining to admit that things are getting better under P. Obama, Crumps. It's a start.

  • 20K Apr 17, 2012

    It comes as no surprise that the first thing these three democrats propose is a tax increase! We the people of NC are taxed too much now! The government must learn to live within their means! Thats what we the people are having to do in this economy. I refuse to vote for any of these three!

  • Titus Pullo Apr 17, 2012

    Watching this so-called debate was a total waste of time. Same old promises. Same tired old solutions. Nothing new here.

  • Ezekiel c23 v19to20 Apr 17, 2012

    "You could say the same for Obama on a national level."

    Considering tha nationally we are seeing impovement, yes you could say that...if you wanted to be dead wrong.

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