Forest, Coleman face off in Wilson debate

H.B. 2 and education highlight party differences

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor Linda Coleman

WILSON, N.C. — Vastly different viewpoints on North Carolina House Bill 2 came into the spotlight during a debate between the two candidates vying for lieutenant governor.Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and his Democratic challenger Linda Coleman faced off this week in their first debate. Sponsored by the NC Institute of Political Leadership and the Wilson Chamber of Commerce, the event was held on Barton College’s campus.Kelly McCullen, host of “Legislative Week in Review” and “North Carolina Now” on UNC-TV, served as the debate moderator while panelists Corey Friedman, editor of The Wilson Times, and Bobby Burns, editor of The Daily Reflector in Greenville, spawned a fast round of questions tied to H.B. 2 and the recent announcement of athletic tournaments withdrawing from having North Carolina as a host site.”How many jobs or how many basketball games are worth the protection of the life of a women or child in North Carolina being assaulted in the locker room?” said Forest. “Or a girl having to be exposed to a man in a locker room at a young age? What is the price tag we are going to put on that? An NBA game, a NCAA basketball game? I don’t put a price tag on my wife or on my daughter.”Charlotte passed an extraordinarily extreme bathroom ordinance that is against the law. It was unconstitutional and we had to fix it,” he added. “The hypocrisy of the NCAA or anybody else — PayPal — comes out and says they have to leave North Carolina. The law in North Carolina was the same as the law was prior to being passed — you have to have your signs on bathrooms, men use men’s rooms, girls use girls’ rooms.”While Forest focused on the efforts to protect women and children, Coleman viewed the bill has harmful to the state’s economy and discriminatory toward the transgender community.”H.B. 2 has cost the state of North Carolina millions of dollars and the City of Charlotte a quarter of a billion dollars,” said Coleman. “The NCAA will cost even more. We don’t know what the total cost of H.B. 2 will be for North Carolina in terms of revenue over the next several years. The cost is too tremendous for the state of North Carolina to bear.”This is a toothless law. It is a solution in search of a problem,” she added. “There is not one documented case where we have women in a bathroom where men came in to assault them. There are a lot of other issues that we need to consider when we think about protecting women. We have abusers and sexual predators out there who we need to look at and bring to justice instead of people who consider themselves transgender.”Aside from the spotlight on H.B. 2 that consumed much of North Carolina this week, candidates were strong in presenting their ideas on why voters should place them in office come November. When asked the top three items they plan to focus in office, education, jobs and healthcare made the list.”I will work to restore funding to public education, to ensure our environment is working the way it should and to place an emphasis on healthcare,” said Coleman. “We have to work every day on restoring Medicaid to North Carolina, because it is having a devastating impact on North Carolina and its people.”We absolutely need to change the leadership. The conversation in Raleigh is all wrong,” she added. “They disrespect teachers and have taken away so many things. They took away the Teaching Fellows program, the Teacher Academy and tenure. We need to respect that profession and bring teaching back because that will be the future of this state if we are going to have one. They have gutted public education in North Carolina.”While the views on education between Coleman and Forest are different, both feel voters need to look to education when making a trip to the polls.”Education is No. 1. That is where we spend the majority of our time,” said Forest. “We have spent more than we have ever spent in the history of North Carolina. We have given them the largest raises in the country three years in a row. We are not done. We continue to invest in education, whether it is textbooks, technology or infrastructure.”Elections are about choices,” continued Forest. “The previous administration cut teachers and teacher pay. We hired teachers and raised teacher pay. I hope people look at education, jobs and the economy.”