RALEIGH, N.C. — Ten years ago, Republican Richard Burr traded a career in sales for the job of U.S. representative. Now, he wants to be the next senator of North Carolina.
"I think this is the No. 1 or No. 2 seat in the country. Certainly, the national media has focused on North Carolina and the outcome of this race," Burr said.
The Winston-Salem Congressman is a strong supporter of Bush administration policies.
"I don't apologize for being with the president 96 percent of the time. I think he's right that much," Burr said.
Health care and jobs are said to be the two biggest issues in the race. Burr supports free trade on a case-by-case basis.
"I was very supportive of NAFTA, supportive of free trade," Burr said. "NAFTA, as I've said, has been a net loss for North Carolina. It was a net gain for the United States, so overall, I think it was a good policy."
"Developing countries without an economy only have two sources of revenue: illegal drugs and terrorism, so it's very much in our best interest to make sure that we're able to have a relationship with a developing country," he said.
Burr wants more patient control using medical savings accounts and medical liability reform.
"I believe that this election cycle will decide whether patients are going to stay in control of their health care or whether the federal government is going to take over the delivery system," he said.
Reform in the tobacco industry is also a high-profile element in the race. Burr said the election cycle helped with the timing of that $10 billion deal.
The Republican Party dumped $3 million into an ad campaign for Burr. One ad sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee has offended Latino groups. Burr said he hasn't seen the ad, but he said ads from independent groups need to be eliminated.
A few months ago, Burr was 10 points behind Bowles in a WRAL poll. Now, a recent WRAL poll shows them virtually even.
WRAL will profile Democratic candidate Erskine Bowles Tuesday. There is a Libertarian candidate in the race. Tom Bailey, who is from Greensboro, is a Vietnam War veteran.