Republican Edwin Peacock lashed out at mayoral opponent Scott Stone Wednesday night, accusing him of “dirty politics” by attempting to “double down” on misrepresenting Peacock’s record on the streetcar.
The candidates also discussed new voting laws, police oversight and the proposed anti-discrimination ordinance in a wide-ranging GOP debate sponsored by the Observer and WBTV.
But, as it has before, the streetcar was the spark that provoked the most heated exchange.
Stone, a businessman who ran for mayor in 2011, has accused Peacock of supporting the controversial project by voting for budgets that helped fund it while he was a City Council member from 2007-2011. Stone raised the issue in an earlier debate and more recently in a campaign mailer.
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“My opponent is willing to double-down on misrepresentation,” Peacock said. “This candidate is trying to misrepresent my record but more importantly demonstrating what he doesn’t know about the budget.”
Peacock twice voted against streetcar funding but later voted for the entire budget, which included the streetcar funding.
Stone said he would veto a budget that had streetcar funding, and argued that Peacock also should have opposed it. Stone called the streetcar “basically a 19th-century technology without the horse.”
“Absolutely it’s the wrong direction,” he said. “I would do anything I could to stop it.”
Peacock, who appeared primed to go on the offensive, said that like then-Mayor Pat McCrory, a Republican, he supported the overall budget because of other city services and spending included in it.
“He’s willing to sabotage the whole process,” Peacock said. “Why didn’t then-Mayor McCrory veto it?”
An Observer poll last week found Peacock had the support of 44 percent of likely Republican primary voters while Stone had 26 percent. Three out of 10 voters were undecided.
On other issues:
Stone said he would veto an anti-discrimination ordinance that allows transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice.
Peacock said he wants to be welcoming to all Charlotteans, including LGBT residents. But he would not have supported the proposed ordinance.
Both candidates opposed giving subpoena power to the Citizens Review Board, which investigates complaints of police misconduct.
Asked whether former Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick, who is suspended without pay, should be reinstated following his mistrial in the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell, Peacock said he should be allowed back on the force if he wants. Stone said it would be hard for Kerrick, who is suspended without pay, to come back.
Stone, an engineer, said, “I’m an example of what an entrepreneur can do in Charlotte.” He said that the permitting process was too onerous and that he would work to change it.
Peacock said the city should “build an entrepreneurial ecosystem second to none.” He touted the city’s “innovation corridor” and what he called its “culture of success.”
The candidates differed slightly on the sweeping voting law passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. Among other things, it will require a picture ID next year and already has shortened the period for early voting.
Stone said he supported the changes. “We’re not out of the mainstream with the rest of the country,” he said.
Peacock said that although he supports the photo ID, lawmakers “just went too far” in other areas.
“Gosh, we had 82 percent of Charlotte voters who didn’t vote in the last election,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to get people to participate.”