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Winston-Salem Journal - Perdue Criticized for Absence

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Winston-Salem Journal - Perdue Criticized for Absence

Candidates for governor find more to disagree about in second two-man debate

Two candidates for governor disagreed on more issues in their second statewide televised debate last night but were still unified in chastising Democrat Beverly Perdue for declining again to participate.

"This was her one chance to show up and talk to the people of North Carolina," Pat McCrory, the mayor of Charlotte and the GOP nominee, said during the hourlong debate at the UNC Television studios. "Now is the time that we need to have a leader who shows up."

McCrory and Mike Munger, the Libertarian Party nominee, met two weeks ago at UNC-TV for a similar debate -- in which they agreed on several issues -- that Perdue also didn't attend. She has said she already agreed to five debates and has participated in four. But the UNC debates were the only ones guaranteed to be seen by a statewide audience.

Munger and McCrory gave contrasting views on how the state should respond to illegal immigrants and to the prolonged drought. Questions on same-sex marriage and economic development also revealed some differences.

Munger, a political-science professor at Duke University and a former Reagan administration official, poked verbally at McCrory for his efforts at using public tax dollars and incentives to get built "bright shiny objects" such as an NBA arena, NASCAR Hall of Fame and light-rail system.

Academic studies show such projects don't provide the return to justify public spending, according to Munger.

"I wonder if he doesn't have an ‘edifice' complex because it seems to me that the next thing you might see is a great pyramid of Dilworth," Munger said, referring to a tony community near downtown Charlotte. "I want to try to build up small business without this focus on an ‘edifice' complex."

McCrory said he had spent his own career attracting small business -- both as mayor and an economic-development consultant at Duke Energy -- and defended his efforts to retain NASCAR's pre-eminence in Charlotte.

"The best way to recruit and retain business is to lower our income tax and our corporate tax," he said.

The mayor defended a tough policy on illegal immigrants after Munger said that any resident of North Carolina who pays taxes should get the benefits of living in the state.

"They're not residents of this state if they are here illegally," said McCrory, adding that these immigrants are placing a large burden on the schools and other government services.

Munger responded that the current response to illegal immigrant is inhumane.

"We're creating an illiterate population, a work force that has no chance of working effectively and who are a very fertile harvesting ground for gangs and drugs," he said.

Munger said that the law should be changed so that property owners can trade water-access rights with others downstream. McCrory said that wasn't necessary and promoted cooperation between cities and counties.

On same-sex marriage, Munger said he has no problem with same-sex couples entering a marriage contract as long as government doesn't force a religion to recognize one.

McCrory said that couples should be granted some rights for hospital visitation and for protecting their shared assets but said that marriage should be between only one man and one woman. He didn't see a need at this time to reinforce the current law prohibiting gay marriage with an amendment to the state constitution.

All three general-election candidates are scheduled to meet on the same stage in Charlotte on Oct. 15. Munger needs at least 2 percent of the vote on Election Day for the Libertarians to avoid a costly petition process to stay on the ballot.

Perdue tried to grab some of the spotlight earlier yesterday, signing an eight-point "First Day of Change" that attempts to wrest back from McCrory the mantle of the campaign's reform candidate.

Perdue said she would order N.C. Board of Transportation members to not vote on most individual projects if she's elected as a way to reduce their political influence.

Perdue, the lieutenant governor, has taken heat after two board members who raised money for her campaign resigned this year under ethical questions.

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