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McCrory, Perdue meet for 3rd debate

Mark Johnson and Ryan Teague Beckwith
McClatchy Newspapers

RALEIGH The Republican and Democratic candidates for governor traded sharp exchanges during a Tuesday night debate over school vouchers, oil drilling and attack ads.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, a Republican, met at WRAL-TV in the third of five debates. It was televised across the state just as many voters are beginning to focus on the campaign. The candidates were more aggressive than in any previous meeting and complained of being maligned in ads run by their opponent and independent groups.

Perdue said McCrory wants to drain public school funds to provide vouchers, money for every student to attend private schools. Poor families can't pay the difference between those stipends and private school tuition, she said.

“You find me a school where you can take a voucher and do it all,”

Perdue said.

McCrory said he supports vouchers for students in failing schools.

Those are no different from state tuition grants given to college students who attend private universities in the state, which Perdue supports, he said.

The two tangled again over oil drilling off North Carolina's coast, with McCrory questioning Perdue's shift from opposing drilling over the summer to now pledging to study it. “The technology hasn't changed in three weeks,” McCrory said.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beverly Perdue and Republican Pat McCrory sparred face-to-face for the third time in a televised debate on WRAL TV Tuesday night. Libertarian Mike Munger was not invited to participate.

WHERE THEY AGREE

Immigration Both want stronger enforcement of immigration laws to relieve the pressure on law enforcement, schools and hospitals.

Drinking age: Both said it should not be lowered to 18.

McCrory - “It would cause more highway accidents.”

Perdue - “I've been the mom of teenage sons, and I know what goes on.”

Ads by outside groups: Both said they don't like them. Neither promised to tell the groups to stop running them.

WHERE THEY DISAGREE

School vouchers

Perdue opposes vouchers, tax dollars to help students attend private schools. “The constitution of this state has one requirement for the governor” to provide free and public education, she said.

McCrory supports limited vouchers for families whose schools are failing their children. “(Perdue) would deny that person the choice” of a private school, he said.

Oil drilling off N.C. coast

Perdue: “Nobody has looked the North Carolina public in the eye and said all this talk of drill now doesn't mean gas prices will go down.”

McCrory: “We're hypocrites in North Carolina if we'll fill up our gas tank with gas from oil pumped off the coast” somewhere else but not from North Carolina, he said.

THE LAUGH LINE

Beverly Perdue scored one laugh line when talking about a recent ad by the Republican Governors Association attacking her. “The thing that bothers me about the ad is that the ... woman who is playing me has such a bad hairdo,” she said.

ON SHARING THE STAGE

Would the gubernatorial candidates campaign with their presidential nominees? During a lightning round at the debate, the two gave slightly different answers.

McCrory said no problem. “I'll be proud to be on the stage with John McCain and Sarah Palin,” he said. “I think it's a great ticket, and I look forward to campaigning with them.”

Perdue said almost the same thing. “I will be on the stage, too,” she said. “But my priority is running for governor of North Carolina.

Senator Obama has been in this state, and I've been busy...”

WHEN IS AN AD NEGATIVE?

McCrory took repeated exception to a recent ad by Perdue that called him “a real danger” to the middle class.

He pointed out that Perdue had promised in the final weeks of her Democratic primary race with state Treasurer Richard Moore that she would not run negative ads, but she was now running them in the general election.

Perdue responded by saying the ads were not negative, since they did not attack McCrory's character. “I think the ad is not a negative ad,” she said. “It's not about the mayor; it's about the mayor's policy.” Mark Johnson

and Ryan Teague Beckwith

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