Four Democrats vying for US Senate nomination square off

Posted February 25, 2016

The four Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate didn't differentiate themselves much Thursday night in their only debate before the March 15 primary but did get after Republican Sen. Richard Burr.

WRAL News anchor David Crabtree questioned Deborah Ross, Kevin Griffin, Ernest Reeves and Chris Rey on issues from immigration and the economy to health care reform and keeping guns away from the mentally ill. All four gave similar responses, saying the Affordable Care Act needs to tweaked but not thrown out, people in the U.S. illegally should be allowed to stay under certain conditions and more resources are needed to help people with mental illness.

They did separate somewhat when asked what policy they would back to help the U.S. economy. Rey and Reeves pushed for raising the minimum wage. Ross called for expanding infrastructure programs, while Griffin said programs are needed to help veterans transition into the civilian workforce.

The most fireworks came during a question about what the Democratic challengers thought of Burr's record during his 12 years in the Senate.

"He's signed on to a number of things that have been popular bipartisan bills, but he has failed to take the lead on anything," said Griffin, a Durham businessman.

Reeves, a retired military officer from Greenville, called Burr "a rubber stamp" for the Republican majority in the Senate, saying that, if elected, he would put the interests of North Carolina residents before those of the Democratic Party.

"Mr. Burr is bad for America, he's bad for North Carolina, he's bad for minorities," Reeves said.

Rey, the mayor of Spring Lake, criticized Burr's vote for sequestration, which he said hurt nearby Fort Bragg, and voters on some veteran-related legislation.

"Even though there are records of him helping veterans, there is an even longer record of him doing things to hurt veterans," Rey said.

Ross, a former state lawmaker from Raleigh, called Burr's cost-related opposition to bills that would have provided veterans with job and education assistance "just plain wrong."

Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said the debate demonstrated why none of the four Democrats would make a good successor to Burr.

"You would think candidates hoping to replace Sen. Burr, Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, would demonstrate more collective knowledge in foreign affairs, but sadly they did not demonstrate the knowledge needed to defeat ISIS and international terrorism," Woodhouse said in a statement. "Further, their willingness to turn to government to create jobs instead of the private sector should concern taxpayers and job creators."

There was a brief skirmish between Griffin and Ross at the close of the half-hour debate when Griffin noted unanswered comments on Ross' Facebook page demonstrate that she's not "working with the people."

"You have to be there. You have to be available," he said. "That's the difference in my approach."

Ross responded by noting she has campaigned across the state and has spoken with thousands of people in person and on the phone.

"They're excited about this campaign," she said.


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  • James Daniels Mar 1, 2016
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    A couple of things I read in both of your comments follow the anti-government rhetoric of the GOP and the tea party. Yet, my private pension invested in the stock market has not yet recovered after GW Bush twiddled his thumbs as the market crashed because speculation in the stock market and housing market were allowed by non-existent oversight by the SEC and other governmental entities. I also agree that more effective incentives will encourage people to go to work. We haven't ended the war on terror or the war on drugs spending more than 22 trillion over the years. Never mind that no one knows what Mr. White means by 36% of us are Americans. The real number is much lower. Just add the total population of Native Americans and the survivors of persons living in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, etc. who were Mexicans until the Mexican American War. The rest of us are immigrants. Social Security would have plenty of money if Congress had never "borrowed" from the Trust.

  • Fanny Chmelar Feb 26, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    "War on poverty": you can build a lake. You can fill it with water. You can lead them to it, then they'll ask, "but where's my cup!"

    If people who found their own success in life had parents who handed them everything, they probably wouldn't have found their own success. People in poverty need help getting out of it, not staying in it, and I don't hesitate to help those who are willing.

    I know people who were on assistance while they were getting better education and plotting a course forward in life - kudos to them for using the system that we built for them. I also know people who sit on their rears collecting what they can and scraping by - seems to be just fine for them. I won't say what needs to be said to them...

  • Brandon White Feb 26, 2016
    user avatar

    How uninspiring:( They seem worn out responses. Pro-tip #1, government is not the answer. if it were: Social Security accounts for each individual would be over a million, and we would not have any hungry people after spending 22 trillion on the "war on poverty." To sit here in 2016 and still offer to the people government based solutions, is an insult to the 36% who are Americans.