McCrory, Cooper debate the issues under national spotlight

Both candidates seek to clarify their records in an appeal to voters

Gerry Broome—AP
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Roy Cooper

DURHAM — Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and challenger Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) engaged in their second debate of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race Tuesday. Conservative commentators applauded a strong performance by McCrory as he launched what many consider to be his strongest defense of his record to date, while Democrats praised Cooper for questioning the Governor’s record on issues such as teacher pay and House Bill 2.H.B. 2 lead off the dialogue with both candidates making clear where they stand on the issue.”Let’s first state the facts,” implored McCrory. “The thing that is embarrassing is that a very liberal mayor of Charlotte, with very strong support from our very liberal attorney general, started this whole bathroom mess.”McCrory stated this was never a Republican issue in the first place.”Let’s get out of bathroom politics and start creating jobs in NC as we’ve done for the last three years,” said McCrory.Attorney General Cooper said a full repeal is the only answer.”House Bill 2 has to be repealed,” stated Cooper. “It writes discrimination into our law and it has been a disaster for our economy.””The governor wants to be a Carolina comeback governor,” said Cooper. “I want to be a comeback to Carolina governor. We need PayPal to come back, we need to jobs to come back, we need the NCAA to come back.”On the economy, the two candidates debated whether the state deserves recent top business rankings, or if the rising tide had failed to lift all boats.”The governor promised people a tax cut,” said Cooper. “He came through for the corporations and for those at the top, but everyday working people got tax increases.”McCrory took pride in the state’s recent economic performance and major tax reforms, asking Cooper if he would raise taxes if elected.”When I came to office we lowered our income tax; we lowered our corporate and business tax; we got rid of a $2.6 billion debt that we owed to the federal government,” iterated McCrory. “Mr. Cooper, if you become governor, are you going to raise the income tax again; are you going to raise the corporate tax again? Answer that question – are you going to raise those taxes again because you were against our tax reform? Yes or no?”The issue of teacher pay was raised as Cooper said McCrory was misrepresenting his record on the issue of teacher pay raises.”Just like his record, time and time again, the governor is not being honest about these figures,” said Cooper. “The fact is we are 41st in teacher pay, and 44th in per pupil expenditure.””Governor, you need to be straight with people about public education. You need to get your facts straight and to represent your record correctly.”McCrory fired back with his own numbers. “You’re about as straight as another trial lawyer who became a politician in NC and that’s John Edwards, because you’re fooling the jury right now,” chided McCrory. “And the facts, not rhetoric, say that this is the governor that did help the teachers and there is still a lot more to do.””When I came into office teacher pay was 48th, we reduced it to 41.”The issue of delays at the state crime lab was also raised, with Cooper responding that he has made progress in eliminating a years old backlog.”When I became attorney general, there were over 5,000 DNA rape kits sitting on local law enforcement shelves,” said Cooper. “I ordered an independent investigation and made sure that we got rid of that back log and worked to make sure all of our scientists were certified in the lab and it is is providing good service across the state.”McCrory contested the assertion that backlogs had been eliminated.”He says he’s doing his job, but if he’s doing such a good job why is Iredell county thinking about getting its own crime lab? Because they’re tired of waiting on you,” McCrory charged. “If you can’t handle the crime lab after 14 or 16 years, how are you going to handle all of state government? It’s been a disaster.”The candidates will have one more televised debate before election day.