A Recap Of The Final NC Gubernatorial Debate
Tuesday night three men took the stage for the final North Carolina gubernatorial debate of 2016. And while Libertarian candidate Lon Cecil remained rather calm, Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Roy Cooper got down right testy with each other. WFAE’s Tom Bullock joins Morning Edition host Marshall Terry with a recap and some fact checking.
MARSHALL TERRY: With eastern North Carolina still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, whether or not to rebuild in hard hit areas was a big part of last night’s debate.
TOM BULLOCK: Both Cooper and McCrory began by sparing over which one of them most supports a rainy day fund for things like natural disasters or economic downturns. But then the debate co-moderator David Crabtree of WRAL TV in Raleigh asked this question about the areas seeing the worst, repeated flooding, after hurricanes and other storms. Think highway 12 along the outer banks.
DAVID CRABTREE: We see destruction happening, we rebuild. Destruction, rebuilding. Should these areas be rebuilt again?
BULLOCK: Both Cooper and McCrory said that’s a tough conversation that has to be had. McCrory followed up with this.
PAT MCCRORY: The most tragic thing about these hurricanes is it hits the people who can least afford it. And that’s the part that just grabs my heart. We have to do everything we can to help those people who can least afford a hurricane and then make sure our plans are not putting those people in that position again.
BULLOCK: Roy Cooper took issue with that answer.
ROY COOPER: Governor McCrory talks about people who can least afford it in rural Eastern North Carolina. And here he is opposing Medicaid expansion that could help healthcare in Eastern North Carolina, that’s all 100 percent federal dollars that can make a difference in the rural economy.
BULLOCK: Now to be clear, Medicaid expansion is 100 percent federal dollars for a time, but then the state does have to pay 10 percent of those costs starting in 2020. And here’s how Lon Cecil, the Libertarian responded to should all areas be rebuilt.
LON CECIL: Some of them will be rebuilt but we need to learn from the lessons of Katrina. We’re not rebuilding in the lowest lands, we’re not rebuilding flat to the ground.
TERRY: There was another aspect to flooding that was brought up last night the flooding of coal ash ponds.
BULLOCK: Flood waters from Mathew did carry some coal ash into the Neuse River last week. So the candidates were asked if it was time to rethink North Carolina’s coal ash law that allows some unlined ponds to remain in place. Cooper answered this question first. And he used it to bring up the resignation earlier this year of North Carolina’s top epidemiologist. She quit over the quality of well water near coal ash ponds and did so by saying she “cannot work for a department and an administration that deliberately misleads the public.”
COOPER: One of the things that I’m going to do as governor is listen to the scientists who are providing the advice, unlike Governor McCrory. Governor McCrory’s scientists decided that well water that was by families was unsafe so they sent notices to those families that their water was unsafe. And Governor McCrory, for political reasons, or the fact he worked at Duke Energy, or for whatever reason, told them to change it. And they rescinded the order.
BULLOCK: McCrory responded by saying he resigned from Duke Energy in 2008. The year of his first run at the governor’s office. And he pointed out the company’s then CEO endorsed his opponent. Plus:
MCCRORY: Now Duke Energy gave a $10 million loan to the democratic national convention which they have yet to pay back. And he has received, during his time as Attorney General tens of thousands of dollars from Duke Energy and Progress Energy and during that time took no action.
BULLOCK: On coal ash regulation. McCrory basically painted Duke Energy as being in the pocket of Democrats. But in reality Duke’s political action committee has given 75 percent of it’s contributions to republicans, including tens of thousands of dollars to Pat McCrory.
TERRY: At one point last night, Pat McCrory said this:
MCCRORY: As attorney general right now, you should resign right now that is absolutely not true.
TERRY: Tom, what was that about?
BULLOCK: That, Marshall, has to do with another political contribution. Given to McCrory by Charlotte businessman Graeme Keith. Last year the News and Observer broke a story that Keith had given $12,000 to McCrory in 2008 and 2012 and “that he had made his contributions and it was time for him to get something in return." That something was a $3 million contract to do maintenance at North Carolina Prisons.
The newspaper said at the time the FBI was looking into the case. The FBI hasn’t said anything more about the investigation and Roy Cooper brought it up, so McCrory fired back.
After the debate in Raleigh, the Governor told some reporters the FBI has told him the case was closed. But we have yet to hear either way if that is indeed the case.
TERRY: Now Tom, we have yet to mention North Carolina’s most notorious law. Did it make an appearance in this debate?
BULLOCK: I don’t think you can have a debate in North Carolina this year without talking about HB 2. But this was the first debate to include the libertarian candidate so hear what Lon Cecil had to say.
CECIL: I think we need to have all people under the anti-discrimination laws. The HB2, as I talk with people around the state, they keep coming back to they don’t want boys in girls bathrooms. Other than that, repeal HB 2.
BULLOCK: As for Roy Cooper, he again called on the law to be repealed in full. But he also focused on another aspects of the law besides bathrooms.
COOPER: If a local Government wants to protect people from being fired because they’re gay, House Bill 2 says you can't do that. If a local government wants to raise its minimum wage, House Bill 2 says you can't do that. If a local government wants to provide discrimination protection for veterans, and a couple of the cities had those kinds of ordinances, that have been wiped away by House Bill 2.
And as for Pat McCrory, he said he’s game to amend the law, and that he’s been trying to change it for months. Those changes would be to areas that don’t have to do with bathrooms. And he added this:
MCCRORY: Do y’all even know what the penalty was in Charlotte for someone who did not accept gender identity as the new requirement on identifying whether you’re a boy or girl? Do you know what the Charlotte law says? A fine of $500 and or a 30 day jail sentence.
BULLOCK: Now, that not exactly correct. Yes the city could institute a fine, or in very extreme cases possibly jail time. But in reality these kinds of ordinances are enforced through mediation. And it would only be for businesses that repeatedly refuse to comply.