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Anti-Toll Business Group Backs Cooper Over McCrory

I-77 toll lane construction near Exit 23 in Huntersville.
David Boraks
I-77 toll lane construction near Exit 23 in Huntersville.

An anti-toll business group in the Lake Norman area is trying to keep the issue of toll lanes on I-77 alive in the November election by backing candidates who oppose the DOT project. It's a bipartisan list, and it doesn't include Governor Pat McCrory.

The I-77 Business Plan has lobbied Governor McCrory and other state officials to cancel NCDOT's contract for toll lanes on 26-miles of I-77 from Charlotte to Mooresville.

The group’s endorsements cross party lines, even though Republicans dominate voter rolls in north Mecklenburg and south Iredell counties.

In the governor's race, the group endorsed Democrat Roy Cooper over incumbent Pat McCrory.

“Most people I talk to, if they're Republican, they would love to have this contract gone, and a Republican governor,” said John Hettwer, a leader of I-77 Business Plan. “But if they don't have that option, they would much rather have this contract gone, and a Democrat governor.”

Cooper has called on the governor to cancel the contract and says it's a bad deal. But he’s stopped short of saying he’ll cancel it if elected. That's OK with Hettwer.

“Have we gotten a solid commitment that he's going to end it? No. But the committee feels that he will do a thorough investigation and act accordingly,” he said.

In its endorsement announcement, the I-77 Business Plan included a statement from Cooper spokesperson Jamal Little: “If elected governor, Attorney General Cooper is committed to investigating the details of this project to determine the true cost of cancellation. From the beginning, too many details involving this contract and its negotiation have been shrouded in secrecy—and that lack of transparency is troubling. It's clear that the McCrory Administration waited until construction began to publicly estimate an $800 million penalty when the governor could have canceled the contract at any point beforehand.​

“The I‐77 tolling plan is not just a bad deal for the state, but a burden on the families who use I‐77.  As governor, Attorney General Cooper is firmly committed to partnering with families, local leaders and organizations like yours when making decisions that affect hard working North Carolinians.”

The anti-toll group is backing Republicans for lieutenant governor, treasurer and attorney general. It's opposing the re-election of Republican state representative Bill Brawley of Matthews.  

And in the race for the vacant 92nd District House seat, formerly held by Charles Jeter of Huntersville, it supports both Democrat Chaz Beasley and Republican Danae Caulfield.

Here’s the full list of endorsements from the group:

Statewide Races

Governor:  Roy Cooper (D)

Lt. Governor:  Dan Forest (R)

Attorney General:  Buck Newton (R)

Treasurer:  Dale Folwell (R)

State House

District 92:  Chaz Beasley (D) and Danae Caulfield (R)

District 98:  John Bradford (R)

District 103:  Rochelle Rivas (D)

District 105:  Constance Green-Johnson (D)

State Senate

District 41:  Jeff Tarte (R)

District 44:  David Curtis (R)

Mecklenburg County Commission

District 1:  Jim Puckett (R)

At Large:  Pat Cotham (D) and Ella Scarborough (D)

Copyright 2016 WFAE

David Boraks is a WFAE weekend host and a producer for "Charlotte Talks." He's a veteran Charlotte-area journalist who has worked part-time at WFAE since 2007 and for other outlets including DavidsonNews.net and The Charlotte Observer.
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