UPDATED: North Carolina’s vote on constitutional gay marriage ban is putting candidates – particularly Democrats – in the hot seat this election season.
Earlier this year, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton retreated from his previous support for a constitutional referendum. The gubernatorial candidate sponsored a similar referendum as a former state senator, but now says “perhaps” he was wrong.
His opponent, former Congressman Bob Etheridge, declined to take a position at first. He later said he opposed gay marriage but did not support the effort to put a gay marriage ban in the state constitution.
Linda Coleman, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, stumbled down a similar path this week. She said she opposed the amendment, but struggled to explain her position on the current law. Coleman said she supports civil unions but not gay marriage. She thinks the current law banning gay marriage and civil unions needs to be changed, though she initially said she supported the law.
The nuances of her position came to light in a conference call with reporters Monday.
Coleman started by vociferously denouncing “forces of prejudice” and calling the marriage amendment a distraction. But she also said she supported the current state law outlawing gay marriage.
Gay rights advocates – and many Democrats that she needs to court in her primary race – suggest the current law represents discrimination. Pressed to explain her apparent contradictory stance, Coleman said she supports civil unions.
Questioned further, she said she opposes the current law, even though she said otherwise earlier in the call. “We need to change the law to allow people to live together,” she said.
Her primary opponent, Democratic state Sen. Eric Mansfield, opposes the amendment, his campaign said. But Mansfield has not yet explained his position.
On other issues, Coleman, the state’s personnel director, said Republicans – particularly legislative leaders – are pushing a “winner take all attitude” and “damaging partisanship. She billed herself as a consensus builder who can work with Republicans. She said she is working with Republican lawmakers to pass a bill allowing state employees to work 32 hours a week at a reduced wage but receive full health benefits.
Coleman said she endorses Gov. Bev Perdue’s efforts to find more slots for children to attend state pre-K programs, particularly low income populations. To pay for it, she supports Perdue’s proposal to raise sales taxes, calling education an investment.
As for the economy, Coleman criticized the state’s “company-by-company” economic development approach and current incentives policies, echoing recent remarks by Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory. She also said North Carolina officials have been “less successful” at getting companies to stay – but she couldn’t cite any examples.
Coleman also said she opposes cash incentives for companies, agreeing with many legislative Republicans. Perdue wanted to offer Continental Tire about $45 million in cash upfront to lure a plant with about 1,300 jobs to the state. Republican lawmakers opposed the deal, and the company went to South Carolina.
As for her support from the State Employees Association of North Carolina – a group that suggested it could spend more than $1 million under the Citizens United decision to oppose Mansfield – Coleman said she is “real concerned” about the role of the money in politics. But she said she welcomes the group’s support and declined to criticize SEANC’s independent campaign, which is already running advertising.