A North Carolina Attorney General forum held Friday featuring congressmen and candidates Dan Bishop, R-NC-08, and Jeff Jackson, D-NC-14, sounded more like an expected debate between the pair.

The hour-long forum, held at the Charlotte Convention Center, was hosted by the North Carolina Bar Association and moderated by Spectrum News 1’s Tim Boyum.

The race is being billed as one of the most-watched races in the country this November.

Throughout the forum, Jackson took shots at Bishop, pointing out that he voted against certifying the 2020 election, and called it “weird behavior” that Bishop feels his own election was rigged.

Bishop pointed out that Jackson voted against closing the border and voted against a slew of bills, including those that would help police. He said Jackson was soft on crime.

Bishop opened the forum by stating that his top priority if elected, would be to restore law and order in North Carolina. He asked those watching if they felt safer in their community over the last four years and if they believe our nation’s borders are secure.

He pointed to examples such as the two Chechen nationals that were involved in potentially suspicious surveillance activity of an Army Special Forces soldier’s property near Fort Liberty, formerly Fort Bragg, and the arrest of a Honduran, illegally in the country, for a murder committed in Mecklenburg County.

“If the answer is no, you’ve got to ask why that is, and the answer is Democrats just like Jeff Jackson,” he said. “Defunding police was the worst policy idea in the history of the United States, and Jeff marched with protesters chanting ‘defund the police.'”

Jackson recounted how he went from being a prosecutor in Gaston County, where he prosecuted sex offenses, domestic abuse, and homicide cases, before being selected in 2014 to replace State Sen. Dan Clodfelter, who was named the mayor of Charlotte.  He also mentioned that he was a major in the National Guard.

“I’m running for attorney general because being the attorney general is about standing up for people,” he said. “As a prosecutor, a soldier, and a legislator, that is who I am, and that is what I have done. I am the only person on this stage who has ever prosecuted a single case and the only person who has ever worked with law enforcement.”

When asked about the role of the attorney general, Bishop said it is to enforce the law, not just the laws that one likes, and disregard laws that one doesn’t like. He said that Jackson has vowed to oppose the legislature on policy issues with which he disagrees.

Jackson said the first thing he would do if elected is aggressively use an anti-money laundering law passed recently by the General Assembly to identify and break apart distribution cells in the state. He would also ask the GA for funds for a fentanyl control unit and cold case unit, things that current AG and Democratic governor candidate Josh Stein has asked for.

He also accused Bishop of being too partisan.

“Every day, hyper-partisan comments from him on Twitter, every single day,” Jackson said of Bishop. “He says a reckoning is coming for our gangster government. Folks, that’s not how you talk before you become attorney general. That’s how you talk before you storm the Capitol.”

Bishop countered by saying the only way to resolve the problem of fentanyl coming into the state is by closing the border. He then went into a litany of bills that Jackson had voted against, including the Secure the Border Act and the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act. During his time in the state legislature, he voted against the anti-rioting bill, the anti-criminal gang bill, the anti-graffiti vandalism bill, and the bill requiring sheriffs to cooperate with ICE.

“He has persistently maintained a soft-on-crime position in legislative vote after legislative vote after legislative vote, and he has been antagonistic and anti-police,” he said. “Our law enforcement system in North Carolina cannot survive that kind of policy.”

On the question of what role immigration should play on a state level, Bishop said he would support HB 10, Require Sheriffs to Cooperate with ICE, currently in the House, supporting law enforcement and took a few digs at Jackson who he said previously opposed the bill and has been in favor of sanctuary city policies.

“That’s a lot of law-and-order talk from someone who said, ‘We must smash the FBI into a million pieces,’ ” Jackson countered.

Jackson said he supported the Biden border deal bill that Bishop and other Republicans opposed. North Carolina’s Sens. Thom Tillis and Ted Budd also opposed the bill because it contained billions in foreign aid and offered expansive work visas for illegal immigrants. Jackson accused Bishop and others of wanting the border to be in chaos so they can use it for campaigning.  

On how they would handle cases that they personally or professionally disagree with, Jackson said that barring a clear violation of either the federal or state constitution, he would be duty-bound to represent the state even in matters in which he personally disagrees.

“That’s not what he’s told audiences all over North Carolina,” Bishop stated. “He’s told audiences that he disagrees with the General Assembly’s moderate 12-week ban on abortion, for example.”

Jackson replied, “I do.” Bishop went on to say that Jackson would fight it if he were elected, as well as voter ID.

“He says he’s going to continue to fight those things that are election of suppression, and as the attorney general of North Carolina, he’s setting himself up as a legislative policy opposition point to the legislature, and that is unworkable, and it is wrong,” Bishop said.

During a question on maintaining and attracting more people to law enforcement, he would also state that Jackson voted against every pay increase for the Highway Patrol, the SBI, the ALE, and corrections officers while he was a state senator. But the problem, Bishop said, goes beyond pay.  Police across the country need the support of both political parties.

Jackson defended his voted against law enforcement pay raises because they were in the annual state budget, which he believes underfunded public education.

Bishop would also take issue with Jackson’s record as prosecuting attorney, claiming that Jackson mainly dealt with traffic cases, misdemeanor pleas and a few felony cases.

“Spending three years taking pleas in criminal court does not make you a practicing lawyer in a way that you can handle the complex work of the attorney general’s office,” he said, comparing his 29 years as a litigator in North Carolina at all levels of the state and federal court system.

Jackson disputed that, saying he has prosecuted major sex offense cases, has had over a dozen jury trials, had several hundred bench trials, served in the military for 21 years, is currently a major in the Jag Corps, and has served in private practice for several years.

Questions on legalizing marijuana, how to handle the Surgeon General’s warning about social media for teens, a ban on Tik-Tok, and the bill recently vetoed by Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper about expanding the offenses for which 16- and 17-year-olds are tried as adults were also discussed.