Although most political analysts give Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory the upper hand in the N.C. governor race, the race for the state’s second-in-command is still up in the air.
According to a recent poll of more than 1,000 likely N.C. voters by left-leaning Public Policy Polling, McCrory is ahead of Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton by 10 percentage points.
But the candidates for lieutenant governor, Linda Coleman, a Democrat, and Dan Forest, a Republican, are neck-and-neck in the poll. Thirty-seven percent of voters surveyed said they would vote for Coleman, while 38 percent support Forest.
“We think it’s because people don’t really know who they are and are basing them on their party affiliation,” said Holly Holbrook, intern at Public Policy Polling.
President Barack Obama’s campaign efforts in the state and Forest’s conservative orthodoxy will give Coleman a slight edge, said Steven Greene, political science professor at N.C. State University.
“Forest really is a pretty far-right politician in a state much more inclined to elect someone closer to the center,” Greene said in an email.
On higher education issues, Forest and Coleman both agree that performance-based funding — tied to retention and graduation rates — would improve universities’ efficiency.
But the candidates differ on other platform points.
While Forest wants to reevaluate the current education system and appropriate funds accordingly, Coleman believes that funding education is key to the state’s economic success.
“We need to invest more in education,” she said. “It is education that attracts businesses to our state and creates jobs in the private sector.”
But Forest, who worked in the private sector, believes the way to bring jobs to North Carolina and fix the economy is to run the government like a business, he said.
“Our government is broke. They don’t call it that, but it’s broke,” he said.
The state’s budget could be managed more efficiently with people used to managing money, Forest said.
“The public sector spends money — somebody else’s rather than their own,” he said. “We need people with a business background to run the government.”
Only two lieutenant governors have come from the opposite party from the governor in the past 50 years — once in 1972, and again in 1984, said Ferrel Guillory, UNC-CH journalism professor.
“They didn’t get into fist fights. In some cases they work together, in other cases they didn’t,” he said. “There’s a certain amount of political rivalry.”
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