Candidates seeking election Nov. 6 for one of two state offices took questions at an hour and 45-minute forum at the Ned Delamar Center at Pamlico Community College on Thursday.
Democrat Greg Muse of Craven County and Republican Norman Sanderson of Pamlico County squared off in their bid for the vacant three-county N.C. Senate District 2 seat, which includes Craven, Pamlico and Carteret counties.
Democrat Robert Cayton of Beaufort County and Republican Mike Speciale of Havelock presented their positions in the race for newly drawn N.C. House District 3, which includes parts of Craven County.
The forum included submitted questions by those attending, including why the candidates wanted to be elected, their position on ferry tolls set to begin in July 2013, whether they support the regional library system, what they will do to support senior citizens, and how they will use their position to fight on behalf of Cherry Point and the Fleet Readiness Center East repair facility.
All said they oppose ferry tolls, though Sanderson, who currently serves in the N.C. House, said he voted for the compromise state budget that included the tolls to keep the budget balanced without resulting in a general tax increase. He said the toll moratorium in place allows time to work out plans to eliminate them.
All said they support the regional library system and are already working and will continue to support Cherry Point and FRC East.
To avoid any notion that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them,” moderator Ben Casey asked a “yes” or “no” question to pin down state candidates’ stances on the issue of school vouchers.
Speciale and Sanderson, both Republicans, responded “yes,” and Cayton and Muse, both Democrats, answered “no.”
Another question let each candidate fill in the blanks in a query for one good point about their opponent, and then “but I can do a better job because … .”
Sanderson, who is completing his first term in the N.C. House, said that Muse is a small business man who knows a lot about that sector’s challenges but that his own experience in getting to know how the General Assembly operates and the relationships he’s made there, make him the best choice.
Muse said Sanderson “is a good man, a kind man,” but that his own motivation “to push and keep going” and the fact that “I won’t back away from a challenge” would make him a better state senator.
Speciale said, “My opponent is a liberal and I am a conservative” and that he would fight for the issues that are important to the district.
Cayton, a nine-term Beaufort County commissioner, baulked at the liberal label. He said his experience singles him out over Speciale as the best House pick. “I have a proven record of leadership” that voters can look at to see how he stands on a broad range of Eastern North Carolina issues, he said.
A Craven County forum with candidates is being held Tuesday at the BridgePointe Hotel in New Bern.
The event includes a meet-and-greet from 6 to 7 p.m., and the forum from 7 to 9 p.m. Those attending can stay and watch the televised presidential debate beginning at 9 p.m.