North Carolina's two main gubernatorial candidates clashed over energy policies and debates Friday, while casting themselves as champions of open government and enemies of the status quo.
Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Bev Perdue made their comments in separate appearances before editors and publishers of the N.C. Press Association.
McCrory took the occasion to unveil a new energy initiative that combines conservation, new oil drilling and a push for alternative fuels.
Part of his plan would extend land-use planning and some form of mass transit across the state, much as he has done as mayor of Charlotte. He also called for tax incentives for individuals and businesses to build energy efficient, or “green,” buildings.
But he repeated his support for offshore oil drilling, royalties from which he said would flow into North Carolina for coastal conservation programs.
“I've been told this will not create jobs,” he said. “You're wrong.”
In response to critics who say any benefits would be decades away, he said, “What are we waiting for?”
Perdue said drilling would never occur during her administration.
“On my watch, we'll never solve the gas problem by drilling off the coast of North Carolina,” she said. “That's politically popular. If you want somebody who looks at a poll and gets solutions, that's not me.”
McCrory also chided his opponent for not agreeing to more debates. He accepted an offer to debate before the state association of broadcasters Sunday, but the Perdue campaign did not.
“We can't have leadership in North Carolina that hides,” he said.
Asked later about his remarks, Perdue dismissed McCrory's charge and said she has already agreed to five debates.
While McCrory talked about ending what he called “the culture of arrogance” in state government, Perdue, the two-term lieutenant governor and longtime state lawmaker, offered herself as an agent of change.
One example: her plan to create an independent commission to weigh in on state budget policy.
“It will absolutely change the status quo in the General Assembly,” she said, adding later, “I've spent my whole life fighting the status quo. It hasn't come easily.”
Both candidates pledged government transparency.
“I have a record of being extremely open and transparent,” McCrory said.
Perdue promised that she would make North Carolina “known as the state with open, accessible government.”
However, McCrory suggested he would look for “middle ground” on some records requests. He cited one by Democrats for 12 years of city records covering his time as mayor, a request he called “ridiculous” and said would cost more than $100,000 in staff time to prepare.
One newspaper executive chided him.
“This is the wrong group to be talking about cutting down on public records requests,” said Tom Boney Jr., editor and publisher of the Alamance News.
Boney was arrested last year for refusing to leave a government meeting he maintained was wrongly closed.