Candidate Profile: Walter Dalton
Earlier this week we profiled two Democratic candidates for governor: former U.S. Congressman Bob Etheridge and State House Representative Bill Faison. Today, in the final installment of our series covering the main Democratic candidates, we'll hear from Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton. He's from the western town of Rutherfordton, where he was raised by his widowed mother.
Lieutenant Governor Dalton was just a boy when his father, who was a state senator, died of a heart attack. "He died when I was eight years old. And I learned about the strength of the community. I had a very loving and caring mother, who did a phenomenal job, but also had a community that rallied around me."
Dalton says members of his church and his dad's Rotary Club friends took him to ball games and on hunting and fishing expeditions. In high school, he immersed himself in sports. He was the quarterback of the football team and led them to a state championship.
Dalton studied business at UNC-Chapel Hill and then received a law degree. He married his high school sweetheart, and started a family. But the lieutenant governor says he didn't think about entering politics until one day he found a note addressed to his father.
"I found a letter that someone had written my dad, thanking him for the work he did in helping get a road paved, and I saw what public service can do to a community and to individuals' lives and the positive effect it can have. And you know that's what we should be about in life, is making life better for our fellow man."
Dalton was approached to run for public office a couple of times when his kids were young. But since he grew up mostly without a father, Dalton decided to hold off until they got older. It wasn't until 1996 that he decided to run for the state senate. He went on to win six times and chaired the budget and education committees. In 2008, Dalton won the race for lieutenant governor.
"I wanna move North Carolina forward. I truly love this state, I've given a lot of my life in public service, and that's why you engage in public service in my opinion to do something that will improve the plight of future generations and get us through the tough times."
Throughout his political career, Dalton has been a careful, conservative Democrat representing a conservative district. He supported a controversial effort by Duke Energy to expand a power plant in his home county. Back in 2005 he co-sponsored a referendum to ban gay marriage. But he's recently said he may have been wrong about the issue, and he now supports civil unions.
Dalton says if elected governor he'll work to improve job and educational opportunities for North Carolinians. "Obviously, create jobs now, create jobs for the future, make our schools better, align that with the job needs of the future, but I would love to see us reduce poverty and create discretionary income for everybody. That I think should be the end goal."
As lieutenant governor, Dalton has presided over many late nights in the state Senate this year, as Republicans passed many bills Governor Bev Perdue later vetoed. He says it's been a difficult year in the legislature, but he says if he becomes governor, he will be to find consensus between Senate and House leaders on what the state's biggest problems are.
"Now let's talk about the solutions to those problems. Cause we should be about the business of the people in working toward solutions that will work. So let's put ideology aside and see if we can work toward those solutions."
Dalton says his years in the legislature would make him a governor who could reach across the aisle to get laws passed that would be good for the state. He says a strong Democratic governor should be able to follow in the footsteps of Terry Sanford, who levied a tax to fund the community college system, or Luther Hodges, who helped create Research Triangle Park.
"I wanna see us continue to be a leader. I wanna see North Carolina be a state that people look to as one that is excelling in many different areas. And we have that potential." Dalton says since times are difficult economically, it's critical that both parties work together to make life better for everyone in the state.