CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – Three Republican candidates debated key topics in North Carolina’s gubernatorial primary race in Wake County on Tuesday.

Former U.S. Representative Mark Walker, current State Treasurer Dale Folwell and retired health plan CEO Jesse Thomas attended the debate.

Key topics in the debate included public education, economic growth, criminal justice reform, COVID-19 and voting integrity.

Walker spoke about his goals to grow North Carolina’s economy and reform public education “from the bottom to the top.”

Folwell focused on his tenure as state treasurer, promising voters that he would be the “the best governor that money can’t buy.”

Thomas said his vision for the state includes a “zero percent income tax.”

Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson and former state Senator Andy Wells declined to show up.

While candidates seldom mentioned Robinson, Walker hinted at Robinson’s absence saying “not everybody’s here tonight,” and Thomas repeatedly mentioned the lieutenant governor in terms of post-primary popularity.

“A vote for Mark Robinson might feel good because you think he might win the primary, but his outrageous and bigoted statements will make him a loser and unelectable in the general,” Thomas said.

CBS 17 News reached out to Robinson’s campaign after the debate Tuesday night for comment. N.C. Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton released the following statement ahead of the debates: 

“This week’s debates are another opportunity for North Carolinians to see just how wrong every single one of these candidates are for our state. Rather than sharing their vision for North Carolina, the crowded GOP field will take potshots at each other and give voters a glimpse into the chaos and dysfunction that is sure to dominate the Republican primary in the coming months.”