Three top Democratic candidates for governor were in Laurinburg over the weekend to participate in a forum and to take questions.
The forum, sponsored by black elected officials from Scotland, Hoke, Richmond and Robeson counties, featured an introductory segment from each candidate followed by a question-and-answer session.
The candidates found common ground in their attacks on the Republican-controlled legislature and GOP candidate for governor Pat McCrory.
During their introductory messages to the approximately 100 in attendance at the Highlands Saturday morning, each took swipes at Republicans.
“Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly are moving us backward,” said Lt. Governor Walter Dalton.
Gubernatorial candidate and former US Congressman Bob Etheridge continued the criticism of the legislature, commenting that “the dream that empowered a poor farm kid (like me) to go to college is under assault.”
Etheridge continued, saying that the way forward is not to make cuts from education, “layoff teachers or deny students money for college.”
“Unfortunately that’s exactly what the GOP and the General Assembly is all about.”
State Rep. Bill Faison, representing the 50th House District (Caswell and Orange counties) criticized McCrory for “lacking a jobs plan.”
“Let me tell you why I’m the one to beat Pat McCrory and the GOP – they don’t have a jobs plan.”
Faison also redirected his attack at his two primary candidates, saying that they, along with McCrory, support the controversial mining practice known as “fracking.”
“It is an assault on our wells,” said Faison.
Dalton, stating an opinion reflected by the other two candidates, chose to lay some of the blame for the troubled economy at the feet of former president George W. Bush.
“This crisis was not created by Democrats in North Carolina, but by eight years of George W. Bush.”
And while they were on the offensive against North Carolina Republicans, all three candidates touted their ability and willingness to work with the opposition, should they be elected.
The candidates also participated in a question-and-answer session, taking questions from those in attendance.
Among the topics covered was the shooting of black Florida teen Trayvon Martin by a community watchmen. Critics of the shooting claim that Martin’s shooting was unprovoked, and the result of racism by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman claims that Martin was acting suspiciously, and that he acted out of self-defense.
The three candidates took turns condemning the shooting, with Etheridge commenting that “this case needs to go to a grand jury and justice needs to be done.”
As former NC Superintendent of Public Instruction (1989-1996) Etheridge chose to focus on education when discussing the economy, saying that “recovery won’t be as fast as all of us will want, but the creation of jobs comes from the private sector — but we can create the environment, and that starts and ends with education.”
state Rep. Garland Pierce of Wagram, said that he was pleased with both the turnout and with quality of the discussion at the forum.
“This was a great opportunity for people to get out and meet the candidates for governor, and some very important issues were discussed.”