What we learned - and what we didn’t - about McCready and Harris at debate

North Carolina’s 9th District Democratic and Republican Congressional candidates face off in their first debate

Mark Harris and Dan McCready debated on WBTV to have a seat in the 9th District which stretches from southeast Charlotte to Fayettevile.
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Mark Harris and Dan McCready debated on WBTV to have a seat in the 9th District which stretches from southeast Charlotte to Fayettevile.

If you missed Wednesday night’s debate between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Mark Harris, allow us to get you up to speed on what you would have learned about the candidates in the 9th Congressional District and what you wouldn’t have.

You would know McCready is a former Marine. You would know he started a solar energy business.

You would know Harris thinks he’s running against Nancy Pelosi. You would know he thinks McCready is lying about Harris’s stands on issues.

And that’s about it. You wouldn’t know how they would balance the budget, or what they would do about massive student loan debt. You wouldn’t have a clue what they think of teaching evolution in public schools or how to get out of Afghanistan. You wouldn’t know if McCready would support an effort to impeach Trump or if Harris disagrees on President Trump about anything.

OK, perhaps it’s not that unusual for politicians in a debate to offer platitudes rather than plans. But in one of the nation’s most competitive House races – one that could help decide which party controls Congress – voters deserve much more. That’s true for McCready, who has been criticized (including by us) for being evasive in taking stands, and for Harris, who shouldn’t cast stones if he’s not willing to take clear positions himself.

Time after time, the candidates talked around a question or ignored it altogether.

The night began with the candidates being asked if, to address the nation’s sky-high debt, they would support raising taxes or cutting spending, and if so where. Straightforward enough.

Harris went first. There “have to be some serious discussions” and “conversations have to be held.” “We’ve got to look at those areas and see where we’re going to be able to make the greatest adjustments.”

McCready said only that Trump’s tax cuts made the deficit worse (which, while true, does not begin to answer the question).

Asked what the federal government could do to address $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, McCready did not answer and talked about teacher pay, Republicans destroying public education and Harris wanting to abolish the Department of Education. Harris sort of answered, and weakly, saying students could go to community college to avoid racking up debt.

A voter asked them to talk about science education, including teaching about climate change and evolution. Neither candidate touched that one.

Do you see a way out of Afghanistan? Harris wants to hear from the generals and folks on the ground. “We need to understand the circumstance of what is happening,” he said. McCready did a little better, saying the U.S. should combine its military might with diplomacy to ensure that when we go to war we get in and get out quickly.

McCready was asked if he would work with other Democrats trying to impeach Trump. He said he doesn’t answer hypotheticals. Harris was asked if he disagreed with Trump on anything and he said he would have initially said tariffs, but that he had come around to see Trump’s perspective on their value.

Granted, most voters will just vote for the ‘D’ or the ‘R’ by their names. But others are trying to figure out which candidate is best. After Wednesday, their work is still cut out for them.