UNC journalism Professor Ferrel Guillory, who is an expert in Southern politics, said a major discrepancy between the candidates is that Perdue advocates a more powerful government while Cochrane supports privatization.
He said the race was closely following issues debated in the gubernatorial race, particularly K-12 and higher education.
Both candidates say they support the $3.1 billion higher education bond referendum, which will fund capital construction at the state's universities and community colleges. The lieutenant governor heads the Board of Community Colleges and sits on the State Board of Education.
Cochrane said new science labs and renovation of older buildings - which the bond would fund - are important.
But she wants to hold UNC-system leaders accountable for their expenditures. "I want to see to it that the trustees and Board of Governors do a good job setting spending priorities," she said, emulating the stance of Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Vinroot.
Cochrane said she wants to make technological advancements at the community colleges by starting new degree programs specific to area job needs.
Cochrane also said she plans to enact tougher competency standards in grades K-12. "I will work to make a diploma mean 12 years of competency so we have a smart finish for schools," she said.
Cochrane said she supports removing the state's cap on charter schools and advocates a trial of private school vouchers for students in failing schools.
But Purdue said she opposes tuition vouchers and would examine future charter school expansion.
"We need to make sure that all our kids can have a top-notch education, not ripping millions of dollars out of our public school system," she said, echoing the campaign rhetoric of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Easley.
Purdue said technological advances paid for by the bond are integral to the future of higher education in the state.
According to her Web site, Carter advocates changing K-12 education by making learning techniques more hands-on and tailored to the individual student.
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Next to education, the state's economy is receiving the most attention. The next lieutenant governor will head the state's Economic Development Board.
Purdue said she would maintain the state's reputation as a good place to do business in, while expanding business to rural areas, increasing average wages.
Cochrane said she plans to maintain low tax rates, while strengthening transportation and water infrastructure.
Carter's Web site said she supports environmentally friendly businesses.
The lieutenant governor candidates have backed initiatives for the aging like prescription drug programs.
Cochrane said she supports using partnerships between businesses, communities and families to help focus on in-home care for the elderly, while Purdue focuses on patient protection and affordability of prescription drugs. Carter's Web site said she is primarily concerned with preventative medicine.
With Election Day two weeks away, Guillory said the race is too close to call.
But he said the presidential election will bring more people than usual to the polls, dividing the vote along party lines.
"Once you get below the office of governor, it's very hard for candidates to break into public consciousness," Guillory said. "The lieutenant governor's role is much more a role of influence and persuasion than a position of direct power."
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