RALEIGH - The two leading N.C. gubernatorial candidates traded barbs Thursday night about campaign issues including education and political mudslinging.
Republican Richard Vinroot and Democrat Mike Easley debated for the second time in the House Chamber of the Old State Capitol, while about 20 Libertarians gathered outside to protest their candidate's exclusion from the debate.
The debate, which aired live on television stations statewide, was organized by WTVD Channel 11 in Durham and Your Voice, Your Vote, a statewide media coalition created to determine which issues are most important to voters. The event was styled like a town meeting, similar to the third presidential debate on Oct. 17. Questions from the audience of about 100 people ranged from education reforms to legalizing same-sex marriages - an issue both candidates opposed.
Vinroot compared his programs to those of Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, while equating Easley's with those of Democrat presidential candidate Al Gore. But Easley said his plans were his own - not Gore's.
It became evident during the debate that the two candidates felt strongly about their differences.