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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

UNCP hosts governor candidates in forum

“This is your opportunity to learn about the candidates for governor of North Carolina and your opportunity to ask them questions,” said Dr. Kevin Freeman, political science professor and moderator of “A Political Night Out” at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

CANDIDATES – From right: Robert Orr, Michael Munger, Patrick Lawson (for Bill Graham) and Dennis Nielson.

CANDIDATES – From right: Robert Orr, Michael Munger, Patrick Lawson (for Bill Graham) and Dennis Nielson.

Black Line

The event, sponsored by the Student Government Association, attracted four candidates: Republican Robert Orr, Libertarian Michael Munger, Republican Bill Graham (represented by Patrick Lawson) and Democrat Dennis Nielson.

Scheduled for 90 minutes, the 50 students in attendance got more than two hours of answers to wide-ranging issues from the price of gasoline to underage drinking. Before taking questions, the candidates introduced themselves.

“I’m the conservative democratic candidate,” said Nielson, who said he is a member of the National Rifle Association.

“I’m the conservative candidate,” said Lawson (for Graham), who promised to have an open door to the people.”

Star-Neesha Blackmon, student

Star-Neesha Blackmon, student

Black Line

“The pay-to-play mentality that infects Raleigh must change,” said Orr, who also promised reform in health care, education and industry recruitment.

“Government does not have to be disliked,” said Michael Munger, who promised not to make the same worn out political promises.

On the economy, there was consensus that prices and state taxes on gasoline are too high. The candidates had ideas on providing help to economically distressed regions like Southeastern North Carolina.

“I would increase entrepreneurship programs; most new jobs are created by small business,” Munger said. “I would increase faculty and instructor salaries at universities and community colleges.”

“Leadership is the real issue in this state,” Nielson said. “I, alone, cannot solve all our problems; we have to work together as a state to solve our problems.”

“In Southeastern North Carolina, we have a dropout problem,” Orr said. He said he would invest in health care, education equity and entrepreneurship.

“We need to address the gap in North Carolina; create a culture of positive change and attack the dropout rate,” Lawson said. “Bill Graham would raise the dropout age to 18.”

Candy Pambu, student

Candy Pambu, student

Black Line

The candidates favored federal recognition of the Lumbee Tribe, which is headquartered in Pembroke.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Munger said.

“I would support it,” Orr said. “I’m from the western part of the state, and I’ve seen some of the benefits that federal recognition has delivered.”

On lowering the drinking age to 18, Munger said he favored a lower alcohol content beer for 18-year olds.

“It would reduce binge drinking,” Munger said.

“I would do nothing to encourage drinking,” Nielson said.

“As a judge almost all the violent crime cases I presided over involved substance abuse of some type,” said Orr, who is a former N.C. Appeals and Supreme Court judge.

Orr summed up and thanked the Student Government Association for staging the forum.

“This was the most substantive debate that has taken place in the election cycle so far,” he said.

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