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Dalton, McCrory Meet In First Gov's Debate

daltonfornc.com and patmccrory.com

The two leading candidates for North Carolina governor met in their first televised debate Wednesday night.  They touched on health care, education, energy and - of course - the need for more jobs.

"The first thing we need is change the culture of government and attitude to make sure our state government treats small businesses and all business as a customer - not an adversary," says Republican former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.

McCrory outlined his jobs plan for the state, which includes getting rid of regulations that hinder growth and reforming tax system.

Democratic Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton rattled off his own plan which includes investing in research and giving tax breaks to companies that hire people who've been out of work for a long time.

And then Dalton took aim at McCrory: "He has a tax benefit for people worth more than $5 million. He would have the biggest corporations paying no tax in North Carolina. He wants to reallocate that and shift it to the middle class, our working families, our senior citizens on fixed income and I don't think that's going to create any jobs, whatsoever."

McCrory came back: "Well to respond to the criticism - there's only one person up here that's proposed new taxes and that is the lieutenant governor along with Governor Perdue when just three, four months ago they were recommended a 15 percent sales tax increase during the toughest recession that most citizens have ever seen in North Carolina."

Dalton has since dropped his support for a temporary boost in the sales tax. Neither candidate would say exactly what income tax rate they would like in North Carolina.

And that's largely how the hour went - the candidates spent a lot of time twisting each others words and offered only occasional specifics of their own.

On the topic of funding for education, McCrory said he'll focus on getting better results out of our schools, rather than finding more money for them.

Dalton promised to restore state funding that was cut from education in recent years.

"I will not cut education - it has been cut too, too deeply," vowed Dalton.  "(McCrory) says it's not a matter of new money. You're not going to improve education by being near the bottom of the list on per-pupil spending for our students."

"Well first of all," replied McCrory. "During the first two years of the Perdue Dalton administration he supported cutting education - it was a major part of the budget. He also supported cutting education when he was budget chair in the senate - so the rhetoric does not match the real facts."

Again, we need to focus on results in education - not the budget, said McCrory.

At which point Dalton felt compelled to make a clarification.

"He talks about the 'Perdue-Dalton administration' - we are elected separately," said Dalton. "I have not had the steering wheel. But I will tell you when he talks about performance, for the last 10 years NC has improved its graduation rate. We're making progress. But those cuts did not help."

McCrory is working hard to tie Dalton to Governor Perdue who is so unpopular she decided not to run for reelection. Dalton paints McCrory as an advocate for big business - not the working class.

Both campaigns hoped their first debate wouldn't be overshadowed by the night's main event an hour later - the first Presidential debate of the season.