Local Politics

Candidates clash in first debate of U.S. Senate campaign

Incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole and state Sen. Kay Hagan, her Democratic challenger, took strong stands on each other's records in a forum sponsored by the North Carolina Bar Association.

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ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. — For the first time, the two candidates campaigning for one of North Carolina's U.S. Senate seats squared off in a forum that the state bar association sponsored on Saturday. After them, the two major parties’ candidates for governor took over the podiums.

At times, the verbal sparring got heated in the Senate match.

The forum open was very civil, with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, the Republican, promising, “I will run a positive campaign for re-election.”

State Sen. Kay Hagan, the Democratic candidate, never directly addressed how she would run her campaign, but she threw the first jab during her opening remarks.

“David Price has said that we need a workhorse, and not a show horse,” Hagan told the North Carolina Bar Association assembly.

Three moderators, including WRAL's Gerald Owens covered a variety of topics including health care, illegal immigration, the war in Iraq, education and prices at the gas pump.

“I think we ought to take about one-third that's in the strategic petroleum reserves and make it available,” Dole said of government-controlled oil supplies.

Hagan looked in a different direction, saying, “We need to be working on bio-fuels, solar, hydro.”

Hagan through a few more jabs when speaking about Dole's 40 years of experience in Washington.

“It's a way of doing business that puts special interests and their lobbyists before working families, a way of doing business that gives billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil companies while we pay $4 a gallon in gas,” the challenger said.

Dole took off the gloves and threw some punches herself during closing remarks.

“My opponent has a long history of increasing North Carolina taxes across the board. My opponent has voted to make it easier for illegal immigrants to get a North Carolina driver’s license. My opponent claims she has “an energy plan,” but the only octane is in the rhetoric,” Dole said.

After Hagan and Dole, the gubernatorial candidates – Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Bev Perdue – took center stage.

Both candidates were asked about their economic plan to bring more jobs to the state.

“As mayor of Charlotte,” McCrory said, “I have helped create more jobs than any other region – not just in North Carolina but throughout the Southeast.”

“I believe part of the education North Carolina consistently offered to employees who have been laid off is great job retraining,” Perdue, the lieutenant governor, said.

Addressing the state's rapid growth, McCrory says he would establish a 50-year plan. Perdue said she believes local towns and cities should have more options to generate additional revenues, as Charlotte did to establish a light-rail system.

"We have not been tough on crime in North Carolina because we're arresting the same people over and over and over again," McCrory said at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Bar Association, blaming current state government – of which Perdue is a part – for the problems. "We have got to end this cycle."

Perdue said the state could be doing a better job, pledged to keep a closer eye on sexual predators and backed passing racketeering laws to stop gang activity. She said she also embraces community prevention programs to keep the children of current prisoners from winding up there, too.



Bruce Mildwurf, Reporter
Greg Hutchinson, Photographer
Ron Gallagher, Web Editor

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