North Carolina's lieutenant governor is a hybrid. The person in that office serves as the state's second-highest official, ready to succeed to the governorship if there is a vacancy. Nominally, the office is in the executive branch, but its main function much of the time is to preside over the 50-member state Senate and to cast votes in case of a tie. The lieutenant governor is also a member of the State Board of Education and the Board of Community Colleges.
The candidates are state Sen. Walter Dalton, a lawyer and Democrat from Rutherford County; former state Sen. Robert Pittenger, a businessman and Republican from Mecklenburg; and Phillip Rhodes, a Libertarian candidate from Chapel Hill. Rhodes has not been a major factor in this race. We recommend Walter Dalton.
Dalton and Pittenger represent distinctly different points of view and give voters significantly different choices. Pittenger is a conservative Republican who went to Raleigh to change the way the state does business. He concentrated on pinpointing government waste and sought to convince his Senate colleagues to significantly reduce spending, refocus resources, cut taxes and keep a sharper eye on financial matters. He fostered some support for performance auditing of parts of the budget, but he was not successful in bringing about wholesale change in the state Senate. He has not been a major player in Senate affairs and has often been his own worst enemy in generating support for his proposals.
Walter Dalton, by contrast, has been a key player in the Senate for years, serving as a co-chair of the powerful appropriations committee and the education committee, making significant contributions to the legislative product along the way.
He is a traditional North Carolina Democrat who has worked to improve schools, introduce new programs such as Learn and Earn high schools, broaden health care coverage for seniors and children and expand the state parks system.
Dalton's vision focuses on improving the state and providing services to a growing population. His approach is conciliatory and seems more attuned to pushing a progressive agenda in the Senate than his opponent.
While we have disagreed with Dalton over his bill to make it harder for local officials to control billboards, his even-handed approach, willingness to listen, experience and commitment to better schools and expanded opportunities for all citizens make him the compelling choice for this post.
We recommend Sen. Walter Dalton for lieutenant governor.