Incumbent House Dems battle in Granville

Veteran House Democrat Jim Crawford has launched his first TV ad in 20 years. It's a sign of what's likely to be a tough battle against fellow Dem incumbent Winkie Wilkins.

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Crawford ad screengrab
Laura Leslie

The only Democratic double-incumbent primary in the North Carolina legislature is heating up. 

Rep. Jim Crawford (D-Granville) was drawn into the same district with fellow incumbent Winkie Wilkins (D-Person) in the GOP's new voting maps.

Crawford hasn't run a TV ad since his unsuccessful bid for Lieutenant Governor in 1992. But he's up on the air this week on Time-Warner Cable in Person and Granville counties. 

The ad, titled "Stand," appears to be a response to critics of his support for key GOP bills last session. He was one of the five Democrats who helped Republicans override Governor Bev Perdue's veto of the Republican budget.   

"He's been standing up for us for thirty years," says the announcer. "A leader for Granville and Person Counties, Jim Crawford fights for what's right, even when it means standing alone."

"Jim Crawford has always been a man of reason when there wasn't much in Raleigh, and he's always had the courage to stand up and fight for what was right for us," the ad continues. "Isn't it time we stood up for Jim Crawford? It's the right thing to do."  

Crawford denied that the ad buy, which he called "just a small one," was prompted by polling. "I like to use my money to change the polls, not for the poll," he said.

So why pay for airtime?  "Well, I got a tough race," he explained. 

While he called Wilkins "a great guy and a good friend," Crawford said his fellow incumbent bears the blame for the primary. "I don’t like to have to run against Winkie. He had a Senate district he could have run in, but he decided to run against me. So we’ll race.”  

Crawford said the ad is "not necessarily" about defending his budget override vote, which angered many liberal Democrats in his district and statewide.

"I negotiated the deals whereby we put $300 million back into education, $100 million back into the universities, $60 million back into mental health, and $50 million back into Golden Leaf," he said. "For North Carolina, that was a good deal."

After that vote, Crawford was named a House Appropriations chair - the only Democrat to wield that power under GOP Speaker Thom Tillis. 

Wilkins responds

Crawford's primary opponent Winkie Wilkins said he hadn't seen the ad, since Time Warner doesn't reach much of Person County, where Wilkins lives. 

"I'm sorry that Jim Crawford and I wound up in a primary together, but that's the way it is," he said. "I faced a difficult decision. I made the one that I thought was right for my constituents and for me."

Wilkins, in his eighth year in the House, was on the Redistricting committee, but said he had no power to sway the maps. "I had no input. You know no Democrat had any input," he said. "I didn't deal the hand - I was dealt the hand."  

Wilkins said Crawford, too, had the option to run for a seat in the Senate.  

"My history is the House, my heart is in the House," Wilkins said. "I know I'm an underdog, but that's okay. I can deal with that. I run on my record, and I think it's a pretty doggone good one."

Wilkins isn't sure he'll go up on TV anytime soon, if at all. "I don't think that this is a campaign that  the airwaves will decide," he said. "I have been greatly encouraged about the reception that I have received in Granville County."

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