Compared to the recent presidential debates the North Carolina gubernatorial debate held Tuesday, Oct. 11 was a fairly civil affair. Neither Republican Gov. Pat McCrory or his opponent, Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, called the other a devil or said that they should be in jail.
The debate was moderated by Chuck Todd of NBC News, and he mostly stayed out of the way, again unlike presidential debates where the moderators seem to think it is their job to argue with Donald Trump.
Todd did do something that seemed odd, he called McCrory, Mr. McCrory instead of Gov. McCrory. McCrory is the governor of the state and would normally be addressed by his title. By comparison, the moderators in presidential debates refer to Hillary Clinton as Secretary Clinton, even though she hasn’t been secretary of state for four years.
One thing was abundantly clear from the debate, and that is that Cooper thinks that House Bill 2 is his ticket to the governor’s mansion. HB2 established the privacy of men’s and women’s bathrooms and shower facilities in public buildings making it illegal for a biological male to go into a women’s facility or a biological female to go into a men’s facility.
McCrory accused Cooper of being involved in having Charlotte pass the ordinance that made bathrooms and shower facilities both public and private in Charlotte and for companies that did business with Charlotte gender neutral. Cooper did not deny his involvement, even when McCrory challenged him to deny that he was involved in getting the whole mess started.
McCrory did a good job of explaining the situation and HB2, which, unlike the Charlotte law, doesn’t affect private businesses. He also said that he didn’t believe that North Carolinians were ready to accept an entirely new definition of gender. He said that he thought men and women deserved their privacy.
Cooper talked about how bad HB2 had been for the economy of the state, with companies not locating here and the NCAA and the ACC pulling championships out of the state. He also said that all over the country people were talking about HB2, and not in a kind way.
McCrory answered the HB2 question that Cooper refused to answer. Todd asked them both if Caitlyn Jenner came to North Carolina, which bathroom she should use. McCrory said in a private business she could use whatever facilities they directed her to use, but if she was using a locker room at a state university she would have to use the men’s locker room. For those who don’t keep up with such things, above the waist Jenner is a woman but below the waist she is all man.
It would be really interesting to know which bathroom Cooper thinks Jenner should use, but he didn’t choose to enlighten the voters on that issue.
McCrory also went after Cooper for not defending HB2 in court, since that is his job as attorney general. Cooper agreed that it was his job to defend the state in court but offered no legal reasoning on why he believed, in this case, he didn’t have to do his job. He did say the law was discriminatory but he didn’t say it was unconstitutional.
Cooper said that HB2 had to be repealed because it had been a disaster for the economy. He said to McCrory, “Governor, what planet are you on.”
McCrory said that Charlotte shouldn’t create a mandate for the state and the constitutionality of the law would be decided by the US Supreme Court, as it should.
On another topic Cooper said that they had had problems in the state crime lab but they had been solved. He said, “It is providing good services across the state.”
McCrory said that the reason cities were building their own crime labs is because they were tired of waiting months or years for the results from the North Carolina crime lab. McCrory noted that he had the support of law enforcement associations across the state and one reason was that they were tired of waiting so long for the state crime lab to process evidence and they blamed Cooper.
When asked about the economy and what McCrory has been touting as the Carolina Comeback, Cooper said the state needed to get PayPal back, which cancelled its plans to expand into Charlotte after HB2 and that people were working longer and harder for less money than before the recession.
McCrory noted that unemployment had been cut in half and that lower income tax and lower corporate income tax had brought new industry and jobs into the state. He said that Cooper had spoken out against the tax reductions and asked if Cooper wanted to raise taxes.
Cooper said, “We don’t have to raise taxes to fix what is wrong with the economy.”
Cooper said that McCrory had not invested in education.
McCrory said that after five to seven years with no pay increase, the state had raised salaries for first-year teachers from $30,000 to $35,000, and that was progress.
Cooper said that North Carolina ranked 41st in the nation in teacher pay, which sounds pretty bad.
But McCrory countered that when he took office after the Democrats had been in power, the state was ranked 48th in teacher pay and it had moved up to 41st and was continuing to move up.
McCrory also said that Cooper made him think of another lawyer turned politician in North Carolina who had problems telling the truth, and that was John Edwards.
McCrory accused Cooper of lying several times.
Cooper said that the average teacher salary was not $50,000, but didn’t offer any facts to back it up except to say, “Try to find a teacher whose making $50,000.”
State budget projections are that the average teacher salary in the state will be over $50,000 this year.
Cooper accused McCrory of using $500,000 from the rainy day fund or state surplus to pay for the litigation on HB2. It appeared he was trying to bring up HB2 every time he could.
McCrory said that not one penny of the rainy day fund was spent defending HB2. He said the legislature gave him the authority to spend it, but he had not, and the facts back up McCrory’s statement.
There was one accusation McCrory made which is unbelievable, but not refuted. He said that Cooper had only sent 14 emails in his 16 years in office. In today’s world that seems like it would be impossible, to run a statewide office and not send emails.
Cooper seems to think that the race is going to come down to HB2, but if he is responsible for convincing Charlotte to pass the ordinance that got all this started then Cooper is actually the one responsible for all the mess that followed. He may get tarred with his own brush.