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The Daily Tar Heel

Education key issue in North Carolina governor's race


Walter Dalton, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has a history of supporting education funding and financial aid and said he would continue to do so.

As the N.C. gubernatorial candidates campaign across the state, education funding has emerged as one of the prominent issues of the race.

Republican Pat McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor who narrowly lost to current Gov. Bev Perdue in 2008, has focused his campaign on reforms to the state’s education system, including a merit-based pay system and a new type of diploma for high school students seeking to obtain a job or attend community college.

Democrat Walter Dalton, the former chairman of the N.C. Senate education committee and current lieutenant governor, has more experience in higher education policy.

He supports maintaining the current amount of need-based financial aid for college students, said Schorr Johnson, his campaign spokesman.

Dalton was one of the architects of the Higher Education Bond, passed by voter referendum in 2000, which provided funding for renovations in the Undergraduate Library, among other projects across the state, Johnson said.

Ricky Diaz, McCrory’s campaign spokesman, said McCrory would look to maximize the state’s financial investment in higher education and “look at where there could be savings as well.”

Although Dalton has more relevant education experience, Tom Carsey, a UNC political science professor, said McCrory entered the race with a strong advantage due to his distance from the state’s contentious legislative politics.

The latest poll by Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning polling firm based in Raleigh, found McCrory with a seven-point lead.

“Some of the difficulty between Gov. Perdue and Dalton and the Republican legislature is that the number of vetoes and veto overrides lowers the popularity of the people involved,” he said.

But Carsey also noted that Dalton is still relatively unknown compared to Perdue and less subject to set-in-stone political opinions.

Mitch Kokai, political analyst for the right-leaning John Locke Foundation, said education funding would likely remain the same under Dalton, while McCrory would be more likely to streamline higher education funding.

And Carsey said if McCrory wins, reforms are more likely to be implemented.

“If we also have a Republican governor, it would be less of an obstacle for leaders in the legislature to do whatever they want with education for the next couple of years,” he said.

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