Local Politics

Three vie for chance to unseat Burr in Senate

Posted February 15, 2010 4:01 p.m. EST
Updated February 15, 2010 7:14 p.m. EST

— The May 4 Democratic primary is less than 90 days away, and the discourse between the three U.S. Senate candidates remains low-key.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Durham attorney Ken Lewis and former state senator Cal Cunningham are seeking the Democratic nomination to unseat Republican Sen. Richard Burr in November.

Burr also faces a primary contest against Eddie Burks of Asheboro. Libertarian candidate Michael Beitler of Oak Ridge also will be on the fall ballot.

All three Democrats agree that job creation is the top priority for the winner.

"The No. 1 issue facing the country and North Carolinians is jobs," Lewis said.

"There are a whole series of important policy things to lay a foundation in the short term to get jobs growing but also make our country a stronger place for the long term," Cunningham said.

Each of the three also supports President Barack Obama's major initiatives, including the push for national health care reform.

"This is our last best chance. The way costs have gone up in the past few years, we are bankrupting America if we don't do health care right now because we are bankrupting families," Marshall said.

Having served two tours of duty in Iraq as a captain in the Army Reserves, Cunningham said he understands the latest troop surge in Afghanistan.

"The only thing I like less than having to send 30,000 additional troops, many of whom are from North Carolina, to Afghanistan is the thought of my 6-year-old son, in 12 years, going to boot camp to deal with a problem we could solve today," he said.

Despite their similar positions, each of the three is trying to stand out from the others in the eyes of voters.

"I'm not a career politician. I've spent my career making a difference," Lewis said. "My broad experience as a business lawyer and a community development lawyer and someone who's worked in the community to create jobs prepares me to lead in this moment."

"I feel this is my time," Marshall said. "The fact (is that) I've been a problem-solver and worked with some very diverse groups (and) my record of transparency is clear. That's what we need in Washington."

"Public service is noble, and it's necessary to move our country forward," Cunningham said.