By CHRISTINA RITCHIE ROGERS
N.C. Senate hopefuls Jeff Tarte and John Aneralla had a chance to show voters where they differ on Thursday during a lunchtime forum at Cornelius Town Hall. About 50 people turned out for the event, which came in advance of a July 17 runoff election between the two Republicans.
BELOW: Couldn’t make the forum? Listen to an audio replay.
The new 41st District includes north Mecklenburg as well as Matthews and Mint Hill southeast of Charlotte.
Mr. Tarte, the mayor of Cornelius and a management consultant, told the crowd his experience in government makes him the stronger candidate for the position.
“We’re looking to serve in a governmental role, not purely a political one,” he said, adding that his experience as mayor will serve him well in Raleigh. He highlighted some of the accolades from his tenure in Cornelius, including the town’s shift from a AA to a AAA bond rating and nationally recognized police force.
But Mr. Aneralla, a Huntersville business owner and former chair of the Mecklenburg County Republican Party, countered the argument for experience, saying it is “experiences, not experience” that matters. People’s trust in politicians and government officials is waning, he said.
“I think people want non-elected officials to go to Raleigh,” he said – those who will make good decisions for citizens.
When asked how they would support small businesses and job creation, both candidates agreed that the tax burden on small business owners needs to be alleviated.
Mr. Aneralla said North Carolina needs to do a better job of marketing its strengths to businesses, and to stop offering so many incentives to business owners as a way to stay competitive. He suggested offering a consistent, lower tax rate to businesses and focusing on marketing.
Mayor Tarte said small business owners need the corporate income tax eliminated entirely and the health care system reformed.
“The best thing government can do for small businesses is get out of the way and let them do what they do best – innovate, create, and stimulate the economy,” he said.
Lowering taxes also would allow business owners to re-invest in employment and create jobs, Mayor Tarte said. But that investment is only worthwhile if we provide adequate training and education for potential employees, he said.
Mr. Aneralla agreed that education is key, and said he would like to see more public/private partnerships with local schools, where industry professionals can train students for the workforce. He added that there is a need to diversify the business base in District 41.
A question about the gas tax cap led to a lengthy debate on transportation and funding for roads. Mayor Tarte said he thinks the gas tax needs to be not just capped, but reduced, and said he is in favor of the proposed widening of I-77 north of Charlotte, including high-occupancy toll lanes. He sees the toll lanes as a good way to get the project done sooner, rather than waiting another 15 years for DOT to fund the project.
Mr. Aneralla disagreed, saying he is not in favor of toll roads. “We need to change the way we fund our roads,” he said, including restructuring the DOT.
Both candidates agreed there needs to be more transparency in the way road money is spent.
The two men also disagreed over the proposed Red Line Regional Rail Project north of Charlotte.
“The Red Line’s an absolutely good thing – in the right conditions,” Mayor Tarte said. But he called the current financing model “absolutely flawed,” in part because it puts to heavy a burden on business owners along the line.
Mr. Aneralla said opposes the Red Line, and said he has talked to state legislators who want to get out of the business of funding local transportation improvements. He said “we need to come up with a Plan B” that makes sure transportation money remains in the community.
In closing remarks, Mr. Aneralla said, “I think what people are really looking for is clarity.” He pointed to his consistency in position and message over the years. He said he’s someone who will go to Raleigh and come back the same person.
Mayor Tarte said he wants to stay grounded, and always remember the three R’s: relationships (with citizens, colleagues, friends and family), respect (you must respect others in order to be respected), and results (like a business, government should be evaluated on its results).
The debate lasted about an hour, and raised $250 for the Veterans Memorial Monument at Rotary Plaza. It was moderated by Mike Guerity of GmG Communications and presented by Cornelius Today.
Listen to an audio replay of the forum with N.C. District 41 Senate candidates John Aneralla and Jeff Tarte. Click the play button to start. Can’t see the player or hear the audio? CLICK HERE>
AS YOU’RE LISTENING: The forum is introduced by moderator Mike Guerity of GmG Communications. John Aneralla gives the first opening statement, followed by Jeff Tarte. The discussion wraps up with comments about the Red Line and closing statements. (MP3, 50 mins.)
RUNOFF IS JULY 17
The runoff between the two men for the 41st district Republican nomination is July 17, with voting between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Early voting begins next week at the Hal Marshall Center in Charlotte, at 618 N. College St. Here’s a list of early voting times.
- June 28 and June 29 8:00AM – 5:00PM
- July 2 and July 3 8:00AM – 5:00PM
- Closed July 4
- July 5 and July 6 8:00AM – 5:00PM
- July 9 – July 13 8:00AM – 7:00PM
- July 14 (Saturday) 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Early voting also will be available next month at regional libraries, including North County Regional Library, 16500 Holly Crest Ln., Huntersville at these hours: July 9 – July 13 (Weekdays) 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; July 14 (Saturday) 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. (Final Day).
Other regional voting sites are: Independence Regional Library 6000 Conference Dr., Charlotte; South County Regional Library 5801 Rea Rd., Charlotte; and West Boulevard Library 2157 West Blvd., Charlotte.
More information is available at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Elections website, meckboe.org.
Jan. 19, 2012, “Tarte, Aneralla now both in race for new senate seat.” – with background on the two candidates.