The Republican and Democratic candidates for governor didn't even make it halfway through their first televised debate Tuesday before they verbally dueled over who wants to drill for oil off North Carolina's coast.
“It'll create jobs. In the long term it'll lower the price of gas and natural gas,” said Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the Republican nominee and an unabashed proponent of building oil platforms off the N.C. coast.
Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, the Democratic nominee, said she supports drilling off the coast – of other states, where oil companies already have drilling rights. Perdue said she wouldn't make a decision about drilling in North Carolina's ocean waters until hearing from a team of scientists and engineers.
“I want to be responsible and know for sure that if we drill off the coast of North Carolina we can do it safely,” Perdue said.
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The issue has been banging around the governor's race because Perdue shifted positions last week.
In June, Perdue said she was “100 percent opposed” to drilling off North Carolina's coast. Last week, she pledged to consult experts. Perdue disclosed her new position on the day McCrory aired an ad criticizing her opposition to drilling.
The commercial, though, didn't specify drilling in North Carolina's ocean waters, and Perdue's campaign leapt on the omission, emphasizing that she doesn't oppose offshore drilling elsewhere.
The candidates sparred over health care, with McCrory criticizing health insurance mandates as discouraging young people from buying policies.
Perdue said customers who buy policies ought to get coverage for a broad range of procedures.
On rebuilding the economy, McCrory emphasized putting more focus on vocational training, saying that even in a slumping economy, companies need workers trained in mechanical and health care trades.
Perdue said that, in addition to “world class” public schools, the state must build or expand economic sectors such as aeronautics and defense industries.