Are the Gubernatorial Candidates Legitimately Taking Credit?
What exactly does a lieutenant governor do? "They basically hang around in case the governor dies or becomes incapacitated," answers Rob Christensen. Christensen is the long-time capitol reporter the Raleigh News and Observer. Lieutenant governors can also break a tie, should the senate come to a stalemate. Christensen says, "It happened for Bev Perdue. It happened on a very high profile issue, the state lottery. It was a dead even tie and Bev Perdue used her authority as lieutenant governor to break that tie and that's one of the reasons we have a state lottery." The bill to bring a lottery to North Carolina was very controversial. The lottery's primary purpose is to supplement school funding by hundreds of millions of dollars. But revenues from the two and a half year old program have been a little slow in reaching projected amounts. Christensen says Perdue developed a reputation as an advocate for higher teacher salaries and spending in public schools as a state senator. There, she was chairwoman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. During a campaign speech in uptown Charlotte, Perdue says, "I'm going to fight for schools that work, technology, for community colleges and the university." Perdue also has firsthand experience in education. She's a former school teacher, and has a doctorate in education administration. In 2005, Governor Mike Easley gave Perdue an opportunity to expand her political resume. At the time, there was a chance the federal government would close some military bases in North Carolina. Easley made Perdue the state's designee in fighting to keep the bases. Christensen says, "It's a matter of getting communities behind the effort, organizing communities to talk, to lobby Washington and talk with the base commissions. Really it's a lobbying kind of a job. And you never know exactly how successful a person is. Obviously no bases were closed, so it was successful." Then again, Christensen says, North Carolina's bases weren't in the most danger of closing. Perdue has said she has the capacity to lead North Carolina in meeting the needs of "the 21st century." Christensen says, "Not to be too cynical but the lieutenant governor uses a lot of buzz words and a lot of them are like 'bringing things to the 21st century' and you're not quite sure what it means. Of course she's not the only politician using buzz words, they all are." Extolling the benefits of a "green economy" is another popular mantra of the Perdue campaign. "Certainly she's been advocating for a green economy in NC as every politician is in this election cycle, saying we need to be more environmentally conscious," Christensen says. Perdue's opponent Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory is definitely pushing the alternative energy thing sort of. Stump in Lenoir, McCrory said, "I'm a firm believer in nuclear power, in clean coal, which my opponent wanted to reject a permit down in Shelby NC. 13:21 I'm firm believer in conservation, wind and solar, and drilling offshore for oil and natural gas." Bill McCoy is professor emeritus of political science at UNC-Charlotte. "It's difficult for him to be the kind of leader one might expect because of his former employer, Duke Energy. And the fact that any time he would say anything about the environment people say is that him speaking or is that Duke Energy?" he says. McCoy also headed the university's Urban Institute and has sat on various planning commissions in Charlotte. One of those was a transportation commission back in the 1990's, when the idea of mass transit was in its infancy. McCoy says, "I was involved and everyone was involved in transportation planning and it was talk. Because if you don't have money what are you gonna do?... so once the half cent sales tax was dedicated to rapid transit, then that changed dramatically. And we see what the result of that has been." McCrory went against the grain of the GOP when he pushed for a half cent sales tax 10 years ago. The money would pay for the expansion of the bus system and the creation of commuter and light rail. So far this year, the transit system has seen all-time record ridership. The numbers are also getting a boost from the nearly one-year old light rail line. On his website, McCrory calls himself a leader in public safety. McCoy says the problem is, Raleigh hasn't acted on McCrory's request for support for local law enforcement and the justice system. "Pat McCrory's been butting his head against a brick wall just about, trying to get that to happen," says McCoy. On the campaign trail, McCrory pushes his credentials as mayor. He says, "I'm more into trying to solve the problems and doing the basic work of mayor from filling pot holes and making sure garbage is collected, to developing new policies and strategies." But McCoy explains that being mayor of Charlotte is more like being a ribbon-cutter and tie-breaker than head of city government. It's a weak-mayor form of government in which a city manager runs the day-to-day operations. So while the mayor can take credit for being a leader on transportation and the crime issue, McCoy says it was done from a bully pulpit that the office provides.