Governor Pat McCrory and challenger Attorney General Roy Cooper clashed on House Bill 2, education and the economy during their first debate in their quest to win the governorship. The debate was held in Charlotte and was sponsored by the N.C. Bar Association.
McCrory, a Republican, touted his leadership for improving the state’s dismal unemployment rate and raising teacher pay. He has cited an economy that added more than 275,000 private sector and an administration that cut taxes and paid off a $2.5 billion unemployment insurance debt to the federal government, years ahead of schedule.
McCroy cited the state's increase in construction activity saying “the cranes are back” (in the Charlotte skyline) and jobs are returning to small towns.
But Cooper, his Democratic challenger, said McCrory hasn’t done enough for the middle class and teachers. Cooper has accused McCrory of giving “tax giveaways to the large corporations at the expense of public education and the middle class.”
Cooper is trying to become the first candidate to unseat an incumbent North Carolina governor since the state first allowed governors to run for more than one term nearly four decades ago.
The debate comes three months after the passage of House Bill 2, the controversial legislation that requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth certificate in government buildings. The legislation blocked Charlotte’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance, which would have protected LGBT residents and would have allowed transgender residents to use the bathroom of their gender identity.
McCrory signed HB2, while Cooper opposed it.
“I believe the private sector should not be told by the mayor or City of Charlotte....what their bathroom/shower policy should be,” McCrory said.
Cooper responded: “He wants this campaign to be about where people go to the bathroom.”
Besides Friday’s debate, the campaigns said they’ll participate in a debate sponsored by the N.C. Association of Broadcasters on an undetermined date.
Recent polls show a tight race. A Public Policy Polling survey last month found McCrory and Cooper tied at 41 percent.
McCrory touted a new scoring system for transportation projects that was enacted during his term. He said before the Strategic Transportation Investments system was put into place, roads were built “were politicians lived” and said Cooper was part of that system as a legislator.
He also defended the Interstate 77 toll lane project. He said he gave local transportation leaders “a second chance” on whether they wanted the project earlier this year.
Cooper criticized the toll lane project and said it isn’t a good deal for residents.