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McCrory, Cooper Clash On HB2 And Economy In Debate

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For an hour last night Republican Governor Pat McCrory and Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper attacked each other’s policies, priorities, and political records. The two men vying to be governor met for a debate just four weeks before Election Day. WFAE’s Tom Bullock joins Morning Edition host Marshall Terry now for a recap.

MT: It didn’t take long for the political barbs to fly.

TB: No, it did not. Both McCrory and Cooper began their opening statements by saying their thoughts and prayers are with those dealing with the flooding caused by Hurricane Mathew.   

But Roy Cooper also added this

COOPER: We need a "Good Jobs Governor," not a "House Bill 2 Governor." Good jobs and schools are my priority. And I’m going to work to make sure we spread the word across this country that North Carolina is open for business for everyone.

MT: Tom, not a huge surprise that HB2 made its way into last night’s debate.

TB: No. In fact, it was the subject of the first question asked by moderator Chuck Todd, host of Meet the Press.

TODD: As you know, since its passage, businesses have canceled plans to expand in the state. NBA, ACC, NCAA have all moved events from here. Duke Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has even called the law embarrassing. The majority of voters, even ones who support it, believe it’s hurt the state’s reputation. How do you fix the state's reputation without repealing the law?

TB: The answers and rebuttals to this question went on for more than 10 minutes, but here are the key points. McCrory walked an interesting line in his answers. He began by blaming others for HB2, and therefore the economic impact it’s had on the state.

MCCRORY: The thing that’s embarrassing is that a very liberal mayor of Charlotte, with very strong support from our very liberal attorney general started this whole bathroom mess. It’s one of the biggest fibs in our national press and frankly our state press in which they say the bathroom laws were made by Republicans. We had never brought this issue up.

TB: And yes, North Carolina Republicans have long said HB 2 was only in response to a Charlotte ordinance that expanded non-discrimination protections to LGBT people. But in HB2, Republican lawmakers did not just strike down the Charlotte ordinance, they also wrote LGBT people out of state non-discrimination protections. But McCrory didn’t just blame others, he seemed to proudly take ownership of HB2, regardless of the cost in this rebuttal.

MCCRORY: If we’re not going to have leaders stand up for the basic rights of privacy in our nation, in our state, in our city, ahead of money then we’re losing strong national leadership.

TB: Roy Cooper’s take on HB2 was markedly different.

COOPER: House Bill 2 has to be repealed. It writes discrimination into our law and it has been a disaster for our economy. PayPal, hundreds of jobs. Asheville, hundreds of jobs, the ACC, the NCAA. This legislation was passed in one day and signed in the middle of the night. And Governor McCrory continues to go across the state telling people that this is not hurting our economy and says that everything is going fine. Governor, what planet are you on?

TB: And Cooper hit on HB2 throughout the debate.

MT: But it wasn’t the only issue brought up. North Carolina’s economy was also discussed.

TB: That’s right. And here’s where party arguments on a national level flipped at the state level. With Democrat Cooper arguing the economy isn’t getting better and Republican McCrory arguing it’s better than it’s been in years. And both men argued they were looking after the middle class, specifically on taxes. Here’s what Cooper said.

COOPER: In 67 different ways Governor McCrory has raised taxes on middle income families. And, literally, we’re talking, literally, from birth to death.

TB: That’s in reference to the expanded sales taxes in North Carolina. Now, those taxes are on everyone, not just the middle class. But since it’s easier for wealthier people to absorb those taxes, it hits those lower on the income scale harder. McCrory countered with this.

MCCRORY: The income tax was high 7 percent, now we’ve reduced it to low 5 percent. The business and corporate tax was 6 percent, now it’s down to 3 percent and we’re recruiting businesses again.

TB: And those tax numbers are again correct. So on the economy, the argument here is a matter of perspective.

MT: Finally, Tom, both candidates were asked if they support their party’s presidential nominee.

TB: Normally, this is a question that doesn’t need to be asked. But this is the 2016 election. So, Roy Cooper was asked if he trusts Hillary Clinton.

COOPER: I think she is much more trustworthy than Donald Trump. And I believe that the secretary will help to keep our country more safe and more secure.

TB: Pat McCrory was asked if he thinks Donald Trump is a role model. And he answered yes, with a caveat

MCCRORY: I think what makes him a role model is where he does stand strong on certain issues that need to be said especially from outside Washington DC.

TB: ...on issues like allowing Syrian refugees to be settled in the United States. But Marshall, the caveat was that McCrory thinks both Trump and Clinton need to have their mouths washed out with soap.