McCrory and Cooper square off in NC gubernatorial debate

Cooper (left) and McCrory during Tuesday's debate.
Cooper (left) and McCrory during Tuesday's debate.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (WNCN) — Less than a month away from the election, Governor Pat McCrory and his Democratic challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper, faced each other for a debate on Tuesday night.

The statewide televised event which took place in RTP was the first time the two candidates debated since June.

The gubernatorial candidates started with an issue where you won’t hear disagreement.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the flooding tonight,” Cooper said.

“Our hearts and prayers are with those families,” McCrory also said in opening statements.

After opening statements, comments turned to politics and the issues that divide the candidates.

Both are on opposite sides of House Bill 2 with the governor saying it protects women and children and the attorney general saying it’s discriminatory and should be repealed.

“He attacks businesses that are opposed to it and says that everything is going fine.  Governor, what planet are you on?” Cooper said.

But McCrory says liberal politicians like Charlotte’s mayor and Cooper forced the hands of Republican lawmakers to pass the law. The legislation came a month after Charlotte leaders approved an ordinance expanding anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people

“The very liberal mayor of Charlotte, with very strong support from our very liberal attorney general, started this whole bathroom mess.  It’s one of the biggest fibs in our national press and, frankly our state press,” McCrory said.

They debated several other topics including tax reform, the state crime lab and their impressions of both presidential candidates.

On teacher pay raises, the candidates didn’t mince words.

”Try to find a teacher making $50,000 a year.  Governor, you need to be straight with people about public education.  You need to get your facts straight and to represent your record correctly,” Cooper said.

“You’re about as straight as another trial lawyer who became a politician in North Carolina and that’s John Edwards, because you’re fooling the jury right now,” McCrory responded.

The debates aren’t finished. In just another week, the candidates for governor will square off yet again.

After the debate ended, both candidates were asked about the decision to hold the debate on Tuesday given the flooding situation many parts of the state are facing.

“Democracy can’t stop.  And second, I thought it would be a good opportunity for myself and Roy and others to express our condolences and our hope for a quick recovery for North Carolina because a lot of North Carolina has no idea how bad it is,” McCrory said.

“We’re all working hard to help the victims of the flood,” Cooper said. “So our office has been out working to fight against scams and I did some tours yesterday.  I think we’re so close to this election that the people deserve to hear from the candidates and have this debate.”

The debate was moderated by Chuck Todd of NBC News.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

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