The Democrat emphasized his record during his remarks to the Council of Independent Business Owners at Magnolias Raw Bar & Grill, noting that he served 12 years in the state Senate, where he served as the chair of the Education Committee and helped establish the early college system. He also mentioned his Western North Carolina roots, noting that he grew up in Rutherfordton. That "could make a huge difference" in how much attention and resources the region gets if he wins, said David Gantt, chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, in his introductory remarks.
"The whole time I've been in public service, I've been fighting to make North Carolina a great state," Dalton declared. "And I think we are. We've had a lot of tough times we're still not out of, but we are still a great place to do business."
As governor, he would make investing in schools — especially early colleges and community colleges — a top priority, he said.
"We're going to produce those engineers, those people that have those skills, the people that are going to help your business," Dalton said. Having more skilled workers will help business stay here or move to the state when they expand, he added. North Carolina has the third most community colleges in the country behind California and Texas. That's a fact "we should be proud of," he said.
Dalton said his experience dealing with education, health and human-service issues was the biggest difference between him and McCrory, who previously served as the mayor of Charlotte.
He also charged that taxes in Charlotte were the highest in the state and that unemployment tripled under McCrory's leadership. Alluding to GOP leadership in the General Assembly, Dalton also charged that during the last couple of years we've seen "an extreme approach" and "politics at its worst."
In contrast, he declared: "My pledge for North Carolina is to move us forward."
McCory has been leading the race in recent polls. He addressed the CIBO group at a similar luncheon in June.
"I know this is a tough race," Dalton said. "But we're going to surprise people."
Watch Dalton discusses his plans to streamline government and improve the climate for small businesses: