"This is what the people have been telling me," said Republican Pat McCrory, now in his 12th year as mayor of Charlotte. "First, the current culture of state government is inaccessible," with a "small power elite that seems to run the state while at times ignoring parts of the state."
Second, North Carolina's high-school dropout rate hovers around 30 percent, while "manufacturers cannot find qualified labor" and "gangs have been infiltrating schools and neighborhoods." The criminal-justice system has failed to deal with the problem, he added. "We should have been working on [this] for a long time."
Gas prices and utility bills are causing a "tremendous strain" on family budgets, and North Carolina "must take a leadership role" regarding energy policy, said the candidate. He promised an energy initiative that would include planning for conservation, land-use policy, conversion to alternative energy, requirements for higher-efficiency buildings, and tax incentives for energy-saving homeowners and businesses. McCrory, who worked for Duke Power for some 28 years, cited the coal-fired Cliffside power plant now under development near Charlotte and the state's historic use of nuclear power as steps toward energy self-sufficiency, as well as potential wind and offshore-oil resources.
Asked about allowing expanded gaming by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, McCrory replied: "I don't have an answer for you. I look forward to talking with the tribe [and] finding out more about the issue."
Concerning the state's rural/urban divide, he said, "I'm hearing the same concerns [in both]. That's why you need a governor who goes out and finds solutions for each area."
Questioned about access to the personnel records of people charged with or convicted of crimes such as embezzlement or child molestation, McCrory said, "I personally believe that if a state employee breaks the law, they lose the right of privacy in personnel records."
And though he said he believes in "transparent and open government," he said he would search for middle ground to avoid costly "give-me-everything" requests.
McCrory also outlined an expansive vision for transportation planning, vowing to "take the politics out of transportation. We should be appointing the DOT board based on their expertise."
Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat and former state House and Senate member, said her primary goal as governor would be to make North Carolina the "best-educated, healthiest state in the nation." Starting with good preschools, she said, the state should provide a "pathway to college for every child in North Carolina." She added, "I won't end this [public-service] work until every child in North Carolina has health care."
As for the media, "The biggest role ... is to hold government accountable," she said. "We're going to be known [for] open government."
Among Perdue's initial goals are creating an endowment fund for gubernatorial campaigns. And calling herself the "Technology Queen," she said she would institute "Google accountability" -- making every state contract worth more than $10,000 available to the public on the Web for bidding and contract accountability. Third, Perdue wants to change the way the General Assembly does business by guaranteeing a yes or no vote on legislation. Currently, she said, "There's no hammer."
Economically, Perdue wants to focus on the state's "bedrock industries" -- textiles and agriculture -- to become the "agro-bio-techno center of the world."
Asked about the current administration's policy of individual discretion regarding deletion of e-mails, Perdue replied: "There has to be some way that we keep those records through some kind of sophisticated archive system. I'm pretty fundamental about that. I really do believe that government belongs to the people -- I'm a steward."
Although she hasn't decided her position on expanded gaming in Cherokee, Perdue said, "I've been a real supporter of the first casino."
Regarding access to personnel records, she stated, "I don't want to get into the position of having a personnel record open to the minutia ... but I think I have a right to know if someone's been an elder abuser."
Citing former Gov. Jim Hunt as a mentor and role model, Perdue said, "I believe like he does -- the people of North Carolina want a governor who's out there. We're all in this together."