Will a candidate's position on the health care debate influence your vote in the May primary in North Carolina or the June primary in South Carolina?
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- President Barack Obama's plan to allow oil drilling off North Carolina's coast has no support among his party's chief candidates for U.S. Senate in the state.
Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis positioned himself in an interview with The Associated Press as the most forceful opponent of offshore drilling, saying he wasn't convinced that exploration would reduce gas prices and arguing that it would distract the country from focusing on low-carbon sources. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said she would support exploration to see how much oil would be available but worries about the environmental and economic threat of drilling.
"I am not very keen about that at all," she said.
Former state Sen. Cal Cunningham said he would currently vote against any drilling but might consider it as part of a broader energy plan.
"While I'm resistant to drilling off North Carolina's coast, I also recognize that we need a comprehensive national energy policy," Cunningham said. "If they find something that is a crucial part of a greater energy policy, let's discuss that."
Obama last week voiced support for lifting drilling bans off the southern Atlantic coastline, in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and in parts of Alaska, reversing two decades of policy. Each of the three leading candidates said in interviews with The AP that they'd prefer to focus on a broader party platform of investing in alternative energy sources.
The stance of North Carolina's Democrats may help them win the support of primary voters on the left who are concerned about the environment -- the same demographic angry with the Obama decision. Yet that view may not be popular with the average North Carolina adult.
An Elon University poll taken before the 2008 presidential election found that more than two-thirds of North Carolina adults supported drilling for oil off the state's coast.
A couple of the leading North Carolina candidates, who will face off in a primary next month, also were hesitant to back the Obama administration's plans to provide federal loan guarantees to build new nuclear reactors.
Marshall said she would "reluctantly" support more nuclear reactors until the country is in a better position on alternative energy. Lewis said he would oppose more nuclear reactors until the nation can figure out how to deal with the waste.
"If we're able to address the nuclear waste problem in a way that's satisfactory, I think that makes that a much more viable choice," he said.
Cunningham was more supportive of the idea, saying he believes the nation can figure out how to safely dispose of the waste. He supported a plan to put the waste at Nevada's Yucca mountain site.
"Nuclear has to be an important part of the future of our domestic energy supply," he said.
While six Democrats are competing in the primary, Cunningham, Marshall and Lewis each had at least $100,000 on hand for their campaigns at the beginning of the year. Two other candidates -- Susan Harris and Marcus Williams -- have not yet reported official fundraising numbers while Ann Worthy reported $214 on hand at the end of 2009.