SCOTT MOONEYHAM: Dalton, Pittenger Seek Lt. Governor's Post
The lieutenant governor's job in North Carolina is filled with contradictions.
A lot of voters care about who fills the post because of the obvious: In the event of a governor's death or removal from office, the lieutenant governor assumes the top job in state government.
Beyond that important job duty -- governor-in-waiting -- the lieutenant governor doesn't have a lot of specified job duties. Legislative Democrats saw to that in 1988, when Republican Jim Gardner was elected. They stripped the post of important duties.
The lieutenant governor does preside over Senate floor sessions and breaks tie votes. That second task has fallen to Beverly Perdue once in eight years -- on the vote to create a state lottery.
Another problem with a political job without a lot of defined duties is that it isn't very easy to collect the kind of campaign contributions needed to mount a statewide media campaign. As a consequence, candidates have a tough time getting on the airwaves to distinguish themselves from their opponents.
It's no different this year.
Two men largely unknown outside their own legislative districts are seeking the post.
Democrat Walter Dalton is a six-term state senator from Rutherford County. A lawyer, he's been a co-chair of the Senate's powerful appropriations committee for the last six years.
Republican Robert Pittenger served in the Senate with Dalton for five years before giving up his seat to concentrate on the lieutenant governor's race. Pittenger is a Charlotte real estate investor and businessman.
Dalton enjoys the lone advantage, his connections to the state's Democratic Party establishment that has helped him gain endorsements from state employee and teacher groups.
So what's an opponent to do with limited funds in a state that typically votes Democratic on down-ballot races? Try to push those hot buttons, of course.
Pittenger has been talking up illegal immigration, blaming Democrats including Dalton for failing to be tougher, earlier on restrictions designed to prevent illegal immigrants from getting North Carolina driver's licenses.
Dalton, not surprisingly, is trying to paint himself as the candidate of progress, focused on the future, concerned about the schools and health care, knowledgeable about state finance.
Truth be told, neither man has been a significant legislative powerbroker or star.
Dalton was one of three appropriations co-chairs, but none wielded substantial power. He's affable but generally not a forceful personality.
As a member of the minority party, Pittenger had little clout. Colleagues on both sides of the aisle say that he can be a bit obnoxious sometimes.
No doubt, both men see the lieutenant governor's post as a jumping off point to the state's top job. Given the duties of the job they seek, the winner should have plenty of time to daydream about it.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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