Local Politics

Senate veterans compete for state's No. 2 job

Posted October 31, 2008 1:35 p.m. EDT
Updated October 31, 2008 6:44 p.m. EDT

— The race for North Carolina lieutenant governor pits two veteran state senators against each other, one from Charlotte and the other from just west of the Queen City.

Charlotte Republican Robert Pittenger has served in the Senate for six years, while Rutherfordton Democrat Walter Dalton has been there for 12 years.

Many say the job of lieutenant governor is mostly ceremonial – someone to preside over the Senate to break any tie votes. Pittenger carries a gavel around to prove the opposite point.

"If I'm holding this gavel as president of the Senate, it's a constitutional power – can't be taken away – then those members are going to be able to be recognized," he said. "Not just one side of the aisle will be recognized or favored. It will be an open and fair debate."

Both candidates agree the job has the ability to both inspire and squelch debate.

"As lieutenant governor, your voice is amplified. You sit on various boards that can unify a lot of issues," Dalton said.

Pittenger said he wants to rein in what he calls Democrats' "unprecedented" state spending and lower the tax burden on businesses and individuals.

"(Taxes are) so high that Gov. Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina, commented recently that the most attractive tool they have for marketing new business and industry to come to South Carolina are North Carolina's tax rates," he said. "What an indictment."

As chairman of the Senate Budget Committee for the past five years, Dalton said, investments in education and jobs have helped put North Carolina on more stable ground during the tough economic times the nation now faces.

"I'm proud of the fact that we were able to get Merck and Dell and Goodyear and others throughout the state into our state and to create jobs within the state," he said. "Those incentives were for existing businesses in North Carolina to grow businesses also. (Pittenger) opposed those."

The winner of the race with replace Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, who is running for governor.