Reflecting the tensions that marked North Carolina’s legislative session, seven Mecklenburg lawmakers sparred with each other and their audience Wednesday night over the new voting law, education spending and Charlotte’s airport. In a lively exchange at the forum sponsored by the Observer and PNC Bank, lawmakers answered questions about what guest host Mike Collins called a “tumultuous” session. The panel’s four Republicans often found themselves on the defensive before a sometimes raucous audience at Central Piedmont Community College.
The tone was set early when Collins, host of “Charlotte Talks” on WFAE, asked the legislators whether they thought what they did was in the best interest of everybody in Mecklenburg County.
“While some of us may disagree … we did what we thought was in the best interests of Mecklenburg County and the state of North Carolina,” said Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican and a GOP leader.
“In my opinion, we as a state went 20 years backward,” responded Sen. Malcolm Graham, a Charlotte Democrat. “Our national brand as a state has been tarnished.”
His comment drew loud applause.