Republican Pat McCrory deflected jabs from Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton in Charlotte Tuesday, calling the attacks “desperation” moves from a gubernatorial candidate trailing in the polls.
Dalton criticized McCrory over taxes, energy and what he called the former Charlotte mayor’s ties to special interests.
The exchange came during separate appearances before hundreds of municipal officials at the Charlotte Convention Center. Both candidates also visited early voting sites and McCrory spoke to the Charlotte Rotary.
The two spoke back-to-back at a forum of the League of Municipalities. Dalton outlined his jobs plan and touted his record on education. He attacked his opponent over taxes, oil drilling and what he called McCrory’s support for special interests.
Dalton suggested that tax reform proposed by McCrory would hurt the middle class by expanding the tax base. McCrory denied that.
He said later that he would push for tax reform that would cut rates while remaining “revenue neutral.” Asked how he would do that, he said he would be “looking at all options.” He declined to say whether that might include broadening the tax base as some have proposed.
Dalton also criticized McCrory’s jobs plan, which he described as “all about fracking and offshore oil.” McCrory has said more aggressive energy exploration would create North Carolina jobs.
And Dalton accused the former Charlotte mayor of being beholden to special interests.
“He has protected special interests in the past. The Supreme Court says so,” Dalton said.
He was referring to a 1998 decision by the state Supreme Court involving a Charlotte City Council vote that indirectly affected Duke Power Co., McCrory’s then-employer. A dissenting opinion took McCrory, then a council member, to task for not recusing himself on the vote.
“Mr. Dalton is just showing desperation in the final week because his message is not connecting,” McCrory said.
Speaking to the Rotary, McCrory refrained from attacks. Instead of a standard stump speech, he addressed a hometown crowd with recollections of his time as mayor and advice from his father and other mentors. At times he sounded almost philosophical.
For example, he recalled attending last week’s memorial for former UNC System President Bill Friday, known for his public TV show of biographical conversations.
“Instead of debating each other, why don’t we learn to have conversations?” McCrory said. “Isn’t it time we all try to encourage conversation with each other?”
He talked about accomplishments over two decades in Charlotte as a city council member and mayor.
“Things that happened in the last 20 years in Charlotte happened because it was a team effort,” he said. “Teamwork is what we need now in North Carolina.”
There was an exception to the teamwork model, he said half-jokingly.
“The only exception I can think of is Jerry Orr over at the airport,” he said of Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s aviation director. “I just stayed the hell away.”