Raleigh, N.C. — The major party candidates for North Carolina governor got a chance Tuesday to persuade small-business owners that they're best qualified to become the state's next chief executive.
Republican Pat McCrory and Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton spoke at a forum in downtown Raleigh hosted by the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. Small businesses account for 90 percent of jobs nationwide, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, making the group a powerful political ally.
"It's not going to be growing government that gets us out of this recession. It's going to be growing the private sector," McCrory said. "It's not new government programs that are going to get us out of this recession. It's asking you what you need."
Both candidates called for common sense business regulation in North Carolina, but Dalton accented the positive while McCrory painted a more grim picture of the state's economy.
"Forbes magazine has North Carolina as No. 1 in business regulation in the nation," Dalton said.
"Until we rebuild the private sector, our state's going to continue to have the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation, and that's totally unacceptable," McCrory said.
The former Charlotte mayor criticized the state's rising unemployment compensation debt and President Barack Obama's health care reform as major burdens for business.
Dalton pointed the finger of blame at the Republican-led legislature, saying they should have balanced spending cuts with a modest sales tax increase.
"They said they were going to cut fraud and waste. Instead, they cut education, economic development and health care. They cut too deeply," he said.
The 8,000-member NFIB is the state's largest small-business association, and both Dalton and McCrory have connections to the organization.
The federation endorsed McCrory for governor in 2008 when the former Charlotte mayor lost narrowly to Democrat Beverly Perdue. Dalton participated in many federation-sponsored small business round-table meetings early in his term as lieutenant governor.
"You are the backbone of North Carolina's economy. You always have been, even more so today," Dalton told the group.