Local News

Sen. Dole Talks About First Seven Months Serving N.C.

Posted August 8, 2003 1:38 a.m. EDT

— Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C. paid a visit to North Carolina State University's College of Textiles Thursday to discuss the challenges facing the state's textile industry.

The senator's visit comes one week after textile giant Pillowtex shut down in Kannapolis. The job losses hit close to home for Dole, who grew up in nearby Salisbury.

WRAL's Gerald Owens sat down with the first-year senator to talk about Pillowtex and her first seven months in office.

One of Dole's main missions in the Senate is to correct the trade imbalance with China. She said that is partly to blame for Pillowtex and other textile failures across North Carolina.

The state's first female U.S. senator said her seven months in office have been a learning process, but she is having the time of her life.

Dole's career has been a series of firsts, but her first term in the United States Senate may be her biggest challenge so far.

"It's a different sort of thing, because I've been in the executive part of the government in the past, as secretary of transportation or labor. Or even in the private sector of public service with the Red Cross," she said.

Dole said her priority in Washington is North Carolina. Whether it is visiting laid-off Pillowtex workers or drafting legislation to bail out tobacco farmers, her agenda says North Carolina.

What it does not show are numbers. So far, Dole's name is on fewer pieces of legislation than all freshmen senators sworn in last January and half the number Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C. put up in his first 7 months in office.

Dole said that is not a reflection of her effectiveness. "I'd say we've been active," she said. "I feel very proud of what we've done, and obviously, you want to do it in a very thoughtful way. When you submit a piece of legislation, you want to do it right."

Dole has certainly done something right. In a January Gallup poll, she ranked No. 5 on a list of most admired Americans.

"When people put their trust in you, whether it's from the standpoint of an appointed position or whether it's running for office, you have a pretty high standard to uphold," she said.

Much of the political attention in North Carolina these days is going to John Edwards' presidential campaign and his non-decision about his Senate seat.

Can you run for president and serve the state at the same time?

"Well, I'm going to have to let [Edwards] answer as to how he plans his schedule, and so on. But, I'd just say that when my husband was running for president, he left the Senate," Dole said.

How is work affecting her marriage to former Sen. Bob Dole? She said even with her busy schedule, the couple always makes time for each other.