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Governor hopefuls say they're healthy

The three candidates for N.C. governor all say they are physically fit for the office.

Republican Pat McCrory, Libertarian Mike Munger and Democrat Bev Perdue are in excellent health and have only minor medical concerns, their campaigns said in response to a request for such information from The Charlotte Observer and The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

Of the three, only Munger agreed to provide information in response to a request for the candidates' tax returns. He paid his federal income taxes in full and gave about 2 percent of his income to charity in 2006, according to his return.

The newspapers requested health and financial records – none of which must be revealed under state law – to give more information to voters, to clear up any questions about the candidates' backgrounds and to measure their level of transparency.

It is common for presidential candidates to provide such information but not for statewide candidates to do so.

“Increasingly, it's something that the public has an expectation of wanting to know for certain offices. I would say the governor's office falls into that,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, a Raleigh group that advocates government transparency.

“Yet,” Phillips added, “it's a balancing act, too, with privacy concerns.”

John Thompson, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education in Raleigh, said candidates should not have to disclose medical information because their health can change at any time. But tax returns, he said, make a candidate “more three-dimensional.”

“I just would want to make sure that they paid their taxes, just like I have to,” Thompson said.

John Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, said having to disclose financial records could deter some qualified candidates. The public has a more compelling case to see health information, he said.

“The candidate is seeking an office with a fixed term,” Hood said, “and it is reasonable for the voters to know if there are any health reasons that might necessitate a governor leaving before the end of a term.”

McCrory's campaign initially declined to provide any health or tax records. “It's personal, not public information, and we are fully complying with all disclosure requirements,” spokeswoman Amy Auth said. McCrory later provided a short doctor's letter.

Perdue's campaign said the state's ethics form is sufficient to describe her financial situation. She provided a one-page doctor's letter about her health.

Last month, in separate speeches to the N.C. Press Association, McCrory and Perdue described themselves as champions of open government.

“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.”

The two newspapers have also requested health and financial records from the candidates for U.S. Senate.