CHARLOTTE -- The candidates vying for the 9th congressional seat squared off this afternoon in their first debate. Republican Robert Pittenger and Democrat Jennifer Roberts are vying for the seat, which Sue Myrick has held since 1995 but is open because she decided not to run again.
While things stayed civil in the debate, the 9th District candidates also outlined stark differences on several local and national issues as each hopes to represent the region in Washington.
Wednesday's debate at the Charlotte Chamber was the first time Pittenger, a former state senator, and Roberts, a Mecklenburg County commissioner, debated face to face. The 9th District covers portions of Mecklenburg, Union and Iredell counties and has far more registered Republicans.
Roberts and Pittenger differed on many issues including the Simpson Bowles debt reduction proposal and the health care law. Pittenger called it un-American while Roberts said she supports it partially. But arguably the biggest sticking point was the 9th District's candidates commitment to transit.
Pittenger focused on improving roadways.
“It's a matter of priorities. We need to widen, we need to address our roads, where the
greater lion share are commuting,” he said.
Roberts, however, stressed the importance of expanding the light rail.
“We need to expand that rail. We have thousands of jobs on the line," she said. "I look forward to continue to work on that. As the chair of the Transit Commission for three years, I know the benefits.”
the two candidates are scheduled to just one more forum before Election Day at next month's League of Women Voters debate.
A Democrat has not held the 9th District seat since 1963.