Local Politics

Leading N.C. Democrats Meet in Governor's Debate

Posted April 22, 2008 8:59 p.m. EDT
Updated April 23, 2008 5:43 a.m. EDT

— The two leading Democratic candidates for governor questioned each other's record in office during a debate Tuesday night in which Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue found herself somewhat handcuffed by her promise to run a positive campaign against State Treasurer Richard Moore.

Perdue chided Moore for his critique of budget votes Perdue made to raise tuition at University of North Carolina schools during the 1990s.

"This is just one more example of the politics of yesteryear," Perdue said, mentioning that Moore also voted for a similar increase during his one term in the Legislature. "You can nitpick one or two votes or 10 or 15 votes ... I really do hope that we can focus on the issues and not this kind of rhetoric like the stuff that he's talking about here."

Moore responded: "You can say that that's yesteryear, but this is a long job interview that we're on. And just like any job interview, if you want to be the governor of this state, you're going to have to be prepared to have your record looked into."

Moore and Perdue agreed on several issues in their much-anticipated hourlong debate, which aired in Raleigh-Durham, Wilmington and Charlotte television markets two weeks before the May 6 primary. But they each tried to find openings upon which to lay out differences.

Perdue later said the state treasurer shouldn't be the sole fiduciary of the roughly $78 billion in public employee pension funds. But she was quick to mention she wasn't suggesting that Moore had done anything questionable, even though her campaign has made an issue about the pension's investment performance for months.

"I don't believe one person should have the power to be in charge of all that money," Perdue said. Moore defended his agency's pension investments and said he had given a state employees' group all the information it requested even though it had sued over a public records request.

"I don't sit in my office and throw darts at a dart board," Moore said. "There is real transparency in the job as state treasurer."

Moore took more opportunities to point out his differences with Perdue, saying her plan to reduce wasteful spending in state government passes the buck to an outside panel, rather than having the state's chief executive do the job.

"I thought that's why we gave the governor the veto," Moore said. "It's the governor's job to say, 'I'm not signing that bill until we have those savings done.'"

Perdue said the panel would make savings proposals that the Legislature would have to vote up or down on without amendments in a method similar to the one Congress uses to vote on base closing recommendations. Perdue has made her successful lobbying effort to protect North Carolina bases from the base closing commission one of the pillars of her campaign.

While Moore mentioned his leadership skills while running state government as proof he can get things done, Perdue touched on themes of poverty and the recent rise in housing foreclosures to show she would work for everyday families if elected.

"What they want is a leader who will actually shake up the status quo," Perdue said. "I fundamentally believe that you've got to stand up and fight so every child has a chance to be somebody."

They each said the federal government needs to solve the illegal immigration problem and said they wanted to create a comprehensive state e-mail storage policy. Media outlets have accused Gov. Mike Easley's administration in a lawsuit of systematically destroying messages.

The two candidates had been on the same stage for television on four previous occasions, with another forum scheduled Thursday night. But Moore said the formats were too strict and he dared Perdue to meet for a more informal event.

Perdue agreed three weeks ago to take Moore up on the offer so she could respond to what she called his negative ads. But a week later announced she would only run a positive campaign the rest of the way. The two sides didn't agree on a venue - the WRAL studios in Raleigh - until Monday.

"Bev, it's great to be here with you," Moore said at the debate's start.

Perdue added: "I'm not here to call anybody out or tear anybody down."

But the discord from a primary battle that essentially began back in 2005 surfaced near the close when moderator David Crabtree asked each of them if the losing candidate May 6 would agree to help the other get elected in the general election. Each candidate gave similar answers.

"I'm looking forward to making sure one of us is the next governor," Perdue said.