FACT CHECK: Forest highlights differences with Cooper; Van Duyn aligns with incumbent governor

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Forest is highlighting some differences between himself and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

State Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, also refers to Cooper in her campaign ad for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor — but she is closely aligning herself with the incumbent governor who’s seeking re-election.

CBS 17 News took a closer look at some claims publicly made by both of them as part of our political pledge to test the factual accuracy of public communications offered by candidates, political action committees or partisan groups.

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THE CLAIM: The Forest ad posted on his campaign YouTube page with text superimposed on photos says Cooper’s “picks for Bladen’s board of elections refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance and threaten to arrest anyone who does.” It also claims that “his human relations appointee calls police ‘homegrown terrorists’” and that Cooper’s senior adviser “brags that he doesn’t stand for the flag or the military.” The ad then continues: “See a pattern?”

THE FACTS: Last month’s controversy in Bladen County came after Board of Elections members rejected a motion 3-2 along party lines to add the pledge to the agenda for each meeting. In response, several people in the audience stood for an impromptu recitation of the pledge. That prompted elections chair Louella Thompson to threaten to bring in law enforcement to prevent a repeat of what she termed a disruption to the meeting.

Cooper appointed Thompson to the board in April 2019. He said through a spokeswoman in the immediate aftermath of that controversy that he “doesn’t agree with the action taken and he thinks it’s a good practice to say it before a Board of Elections meeting.” Thompson backtracked later in the week amid the uproar, saying the pledge would indeed be added to future meetings.

Also, Charlotte City Council member LaWana Mayfield came under criticism last February for a 2018 tweet in which she said being black in a nation under President Donald Trump “has created homegrown terrorist (sic) wearing blue uniforms.”

Cooper canceled her appointment to the state Human Relations Commission. Republicans in the state Senate had requested that he rescind it. She later resigned from another commission.

And, senior adviser Ken Eudy did write a first-person column for EducationNC in September 2016 in which he said he stands for the National Anthem but remains seated when other fans rise to cheer men and women in the armed services.

The former Army National Guardsman explained his decision further in the piece, saying “I think it odd that, of all the categories of Americans that we honor, we honor warriors.” He added that he won’t stand until members of another profession — teachers — are similarly honored.

THE CLAIM: The narrator of Van Duyn’s ad posted to her social media accounts says the Buncombe County Democrat candidate “stood with Gov. Cooper to protect our schools from Republican cuts.”

THE FACTS: Education funding has been one of the key issues in the budget stalemate between the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Cooper, a Democrat.

That budget was supposed to be in place last July. One of the reasons for Cooper’s June veto was because it included an average 3.9 percent raise for teachers. Cooper wanted that raise to average 9.1 percent over two years.

Van Duyn supported Cooper’s veto, saying in June that the budget “also fails to adequately address the crumbling infrastructure needs of our public schools,” and also joined 20 other Senate Democrats last month in voting against the Republicans’ bill (SB 354) to override Cooper’s veto of the smaller teacher pay raise. Lawmakers have adjourned until April 28.

Among the education-related bills sponsored by Van Duyn during the 2019 session were ones that would provide tuition waivers to survivors of correctional officers killed in the line of duty, reinstate salary supplements for certain teachers with advanced degrees, appropriating money to eliminate waitlists for the state’s pre-kindergarten program and appropriating funds for full-time teacher assistants for every K-2 classroom and for one-third of third-grade classrooms.

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