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Hagan, Dalton begin last night of DNC in NC

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A bevy of North Carolina elected officials kicked off Thursday's final night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, highlighting the state's history and urging voters to help President Barack Obama carry the battleground state again.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan gave the first address late in the afternoon at the Time Warner Cable Arena, where Obama's scheduled acceptance speech was moved after the threat of storms prompted convention officials to abandon plans to have it at Bank of America Stadium.

She was followed by Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, the party's nominee for governor, and three U.S. House candidates considered heavy favorites to return to Congress next January — G.K. Butterfield, David Price and Mel Watt.

The other four North Carolina Democrats received only one or two minutes to speak to the convention crowd.

The length may have been a disappointment to Dalton, who is trailing in polls and in fundraising to Republican nominee Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor.

Dalton would have benefited from a longer speech later in the evening at the football stadium, but he tried to maximize his brief appearance by mentioning his website. Dalton also said that his late father, a former state senator like Dalton, "taught me that the right policies can lift lives."

He "believed, as I believe, that we must fight for the middle class," Dalton said. "That education creates opportunity. Those are my values. And I know they're the values of President Obama, too."

Dalton campaign spokesman Schorr Johnson said the times of the speeches weren't finalized until earlier Thursday.

The lieutenant governor "was honored to have this opportunity," Johnson said. "He got his message across and his support for the president. He's nothing but thrilled."

North Carolina Republican Party spokesman Rob Lockwood poked fun at Dalton's short speech, telling reporters in a statement: "We were going to provide you a quote about Dalton's history of increasing taxes by billions of dollars, but we fear that our quote would be longer than Dalton's speech."

Still, Dalton was able to draw attention to his campaign nationally and to convention-goers who may want make a donation or work for his election, Wake Forest University political science professor John Dinan said.

"He got his website out, and that was probably the most important thing," Dinan said.

McCrory didn't attend the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla., and has been campaigning in western North Carolina.

Hagan — who was elected in 2008, the same year that Obama carried the state — got the longest time of the five to speak. Hagan said North Carolina has become successful because leaders and activists made difficult but transforming decisions — opening the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to students in 1795, creating Research Triangle Park in the 1950s and fighting racial injustice when North Carolina A&T university students held sit-ins at a Greensboro lunch counter in 1960.

"Our country needs that same forward-looking leadership now more than ever," she said, adding that "we can't get there by slashing education or cutting back on research and development."

"That's what the other side wants to do."

The last night also had more of a North Carolina feel compared to the previous two convention nights. Singer James Taylor performed his 1970 hit "Carolina in My Mind" during his three-song set. Taylor grew up in Chapel Hill and has held concerts to raise money for Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt spoke briefly later Thursday, introducing a video to highlight prominent Democrats who have died during the past four years. He highlighted the 2010 death of former city council member Susan Burgess, a Democratic National Committee member who lobbied to bring the convention to the city.

Jim Rogers, chief executive of Charlotte-based Duke Energy Corp. and co-chairman of the convention's host committee, also spoke briefly early on Thursday's schedule. Former U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham and state Rep. Grier Martin later stood on the stage with a group of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

Other North Carolina convention speakers this week have included Gov. Beverly Perdue, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and former four-term Gov. Jim Hunt.