State News

N.C. Officials Encourage Obama to Participate in Debate

Posted April 15, 2008 6:22 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2008 1:03 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina's governor and two legislative leaders have written letters to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, encouraging him to debate Hillary Rodham Clinton later this month in North Carolina.

Gov. Mike Easley said in a letter dated Tuesday that Obama's participation in an April 27 debate will tell voters in North Carolina that their vote will count and their voice is being heard.

"Your commitment to participate in this event will give North Carolinians their best opportunity to hear you and Sen. Hillary Clinton discuss important issues, from education, our economy and our nation's role in the world, that face our nation today," Easley wrote.

Easley is a Democratic superdelegate who has not committed to either candidate.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight and House Speaker Joe Hackney said a debate would show North Carolina residents that their votes matter.

"Your participation underscores your message of change and hope, in which people who have been previously disenfranchised from the political process can now come to the table and break bread," Basnight and Hackney wrote.

Obama previously proposed to debate before the Pennsylvania primary April 22. But the North Carolina Democratic Party scheduled a 90-minute debate for April 27 in Raleigh, and Clinton has accepted that date. The debate would be the first moderated by CBS News anchor Katie Couric.

“Senator Obama has debated Senator Clinton more than 20 times already and is looking forward to debating her again (Wednesday) night," Obama spokesman Dan Leistikow said in a statement. "Our campaign also agreed to a date for a North Carolina debate, while Senator Clinton agreed to a different date. We’re still determining whether the new date will work for our schedule. In the meantime, however, Senator Obama is looking forward to speaking with North Carolina voters and answering their questions when he returns to the state on Thursday."

North Carolina's primary will divide 115 delegates among the candidates.