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Differences Emerge Between Democrats Running For Governor

The race for governor took an unexpected turn at the beginning of this year. Everyone assumed Democratic Governor Bev Perdue would seek re-election. But she announced she had enough. That left the race wide-open for Democrats. And it left Republican Pat McCrory without a clear rival to campaign against. WFAE's Lisa Miller is in the studio with Morning Edition host Marshall Terry to talk about where things stand for the gubernatorial primaries. TERRY: So McCrory certainly has the name recognition on the Republican side, but he does have opponents in the primary. MILLER: Yes, McCrory has five Republican opponents. Most of them have never held a political office before. The two that have held positions, they held positions that aren't widely recognizable. There's Charles Moss. He was a soil and water district conservation member and Paul Wright is a former district and Superior Court judge. So McCrory certainly has an advantage over them. Of course, he was the Mayor of Charlotte for 14 years and he ran against Perdue last time around. TERRY: Now, the three main Democratic candidates are Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton, state representative Bill Faison, and former Congressman Bob Etheridge. Last week, they were busy with debates. MILLER: Yes, three of them in a row. Some differences emerged in those debates. Let's start with Etheridge. He's certainly focusing on education. Before his twelve year stint as a congressman, he served as the state's superintendent of public instruction. Like the others, he's been critical of deep cuts to education under the Republican-led legislature. At UNC TV's debate last week, he said an educated workforce lures businesses to the state. ETHERIDGE: You fund it in tough times, so when you start to come out of this recession good things happen. And we've historically done that in this state and that was a huge mistake this year in my opinion. MILLER: He wants to bring back 3-quarters of the one cent sales tax that expired last summer and use it for education. Now, that was a temporary tax approved a few years ago. Now, Dalton is on the same page. And Faison also supports a similar sales tax increase, but he wants it to go toward hiring teachers as well as other laid-off state workers. At that same debate, Faison accused Etheridge and Dalton of sounding more like they're running for state schools superintendent. FAISON: We need to get about the business of providing jobs for people in this state and then once we have the jobs we can then know what the additional education needs to look like to serve those jobs. These guys want to go have an education and then hope a job is going to show up. MILLER: Faison also supports creating incentives for small businesses to start hiring. TERRY: So what about Walter Dalton? What's he saying about the economy? MILLER: Well, as I mentioned before, he's on board with the 3-quarters cent sales tax to hire back teachers. And I should note, that's something Perdue pushed this year, but Republican state lawmakers would have none of it. So it would definitely be a challenge to get that back. Dalton says the state needs to work with businesses to figure out what skills they need and then focus on re-training laid-off workers. And at UNC TV's debate, he did put some of the blame for a bad economy on Etheridge. He called him out for his vote in 2003 in favor of a trade agreement with Chile and Singapore. DALTON: It sent our jobs oversees. It hurt our farmers. Our exports have gone down. We're still getting back to our knees because of that vote and we're struggling with this economy because of that. MILLER: Etheridge fired back and said Dalton has to check his factsthat the U.S. trade increased by $28 billion. Now, he did acknowledge that some jobs were lost because of it, but said it benefited the state overall. TERRY: Now, have there been any other big disagreements between them? MILLER: Not really. But fracking has come up quite a bit. That's a way to remove natural gas from rock by breaking it up with a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals. It's been very controversial in other states and that discussion is just now starting to take hold in North Carolina, although not as much in the Charlotte area. There have been problems with the process polluting water, among other things we don't need to get in now. But proponents say it brings jobs and it's a great source of energy. Faison says he's dead-set against it. And Dalton and Etheridge are cautious, but they say they want to continue to study it. Now, this is also interesting to note, Faison didn't declare his candidacy until Perdue said she wouldn't run. But late last year he pretty much looked like he was entering the race. He made a bunch of speeches around the state and even debated McCrory. Faison is quick to point that out. Of course, Dalton and Etheridge are quick to say they have the knowledge and experience to defeat McCrory. Just one other thing, there are three other candidates. There's Gardenia Henley, who was an inspector general auditor at the U.S. State Department, Gary Dunn of Matthews a father of six and UNC Charlotte student, and Bruce Blackmon, a 90-year old retired doctor. TERRY: Well, thanks for the update. MILLER: Thank you.