LUMBERTON — With only a few days remaining before the May 8 primary, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Walter Dalton says recent polls show he is moving toward becoming the party’s nominee for the state’s top executive post.
The candidate was upbeat during a stop at The Robesonian on Wednesday, touting internal polls that in the past two weeks show him moving from 11 points behind former U.S Rep. Bob Etheridge to a single-point ahead. A poll just released by the Civitas Institute, according to a Dalton spokesman, show him leading Etheridge with 32 percent of the vote to 27.
“These polls show a trend that we are moving forward,” Dalton said. “The first polls showed just name recognition. But now, after televised debates and engagements with the public, people are starting to know what I’m all about.”
State Sen. Bill Faison, the third of the major contenders for the nomination, is trailing both Dalton and Etheridge in the polls.
Dalton, a Rutherfordton native, former state senator and the state’s lieutenant governor since 2009, has been recognized nationally for his efforts to improve education and economic development. He wrote the Innovative Education Act, which established the state’s early college system, and established the JOBS (Joining Our Businesses and Schools) Commission, which partners businesses and schools to retool education programs to better fit an evolving job market.
Dalton said Wednesday that as governor he would continue his efforts toward bettering the state’s educational system and creating jobs across the state.
“Economic development and education go hand and hand,” he said “We need to create jobs not just for now, but for the future.”
Dalton labeled recent budget cuts by the GOP-controlled General Assembly to education and other areas of state government as “dramatic.”
“These cuts are not just damaging us in the present, but in the future,” he said. “Folks have been put out of work, exasperating a bad economy.”
He also emphasized the importance of providing adequate funding to the state’s university and community college systems if the state is to move forward.
“We have the best university system in America,’” said Dalton, who had attended a fund-raiser in Pembroke before dropping by The Robesonian. “It should remain that way.”
Asked about the possibility of tolls on Interstate 95 to help fund more than $4 billion in new construction and improvements to the highway, Dalton said that other funding options should be examined.
“We need to look at all alternatives,” he said.
He added that if tolls were implemented, “there needs to be accommodations made, especially for those locally who use the road on a daily basis.”
Dalton said that he does not support the constitutional amendment appearing on the May 8 ballot that is aimed at defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. Although same-sex marriage is already barred by state law, if the amendment is approved, the definition would be added to the state constitution.
In addition to Etheridge and Faison, other Democrats competing against Dalton for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination are Gary Dunn of Matthews, Gardenia Henley of Winston-Salem, and Bruce Blackmon of Buies Creek. The winner of the primary will likely face Republican Pat McCrory in the General Election. McCrory is a former mayor of Charlotte and lost a close race to current Gov. Bev Perdue in 2008. Perdue is not seeking re-election.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.