For U.S. Senate: Burr, Cunningham
This year’s battle for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr takes on an importance beyond the borders of North Carolina.
Given the bruising battle over President Obama’s health-care reform bill (now law) and other spirited legislative struggles that lie ahead, the Republican Party would love to re-elect Burr and add enough other GOP members to take control of the Senate. The Democrats harbor dreams of building on their existing majority and securing a filibuster-proof 60 seats.
It may be that neither aspiration is likely to achieve fulfillment. But the outcome of next fall’s North Carolina Senate election will depend heavily on the choices the two parties make in the looming May 4 primaries. For whatever reasons, the seat being contested has a history of extreme instability. It has changed hands every six years since 1968, being held by seven different individuals in seven terms.
Burr: Clearly Strongest GOP Choice
In next week’s primary, Republican voters would be well advised to abandon that turnover tradition and keep Burr on the ticket. He wants a second term, and he is patently more qualified than any of his three GOP opponents.
Burr, 54, a former U.S. representative, usually marches in quiet lockstep with the conservative wing of his party and has seldom set himself off from the crowd or distinguished himself in terms of legislation seen through to fruition. The Pilot has found reason in the past to take editorial issue with him — most recently when he went into a pout after passage of the health-care legislation and brought an Armed Services Committee hearing to a halt, idling top generals and admirals who had flown from all over the world to testify.
Still, North Carolina Republicans would clearly be making a mistake to sacrifice the experience Burr has achieved after six years and substitute any of the others on the GOP ballot: Asheboro City Councilman Eddie Burks, Hendersonville businessman Brad Jones or former state Rep. Larry Linney, of Charlotte, who is now appealing an embezzlement conviction.
Cunningham: Articulate and Impressive
On the Democratic side, the three frontrunners are more evenly matched. But The Pilot strongly recommends Cal Cunningham, of Lexington, a former state senator and Iraq War veteran, over either Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis or Elaine Marshall, North Carolina’s secretary of state.
The three Democratic leaders see eye-to-eye on most issues. Lewis would be North Carolina’s first black U.S. senator. But that alone is hardly reason enough to elect him, and his public-service resume is thin. Marshall has stronger name recognition, but she did poorly in an earlier U.S. Senate run, coming in third in the 2002 Democratic primary. Running far behind are three lesser candidates: Marcus W. Williams, of Lumberton, Ann Worthy, of Gaston County, and Susan Harris, of Old Fort.
In a recent visit to The Pilot, Cunningham, 36, came across as a solid, well-informed candidate. He has a law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and studied at the London School of Economics. He is intelligent, articulate and serious-minded.
As a state senator, Cunningham worked successfully on reducing class sizes in public schools and preserving farmland. He holds the Bronze Star for his Army work as a prosecutor in Iraq, making it hard for anyone to outflank him on military issues.
In the fall, a Cunningham-Burr face-off should produce an energetic, heavily issue-based contest.
More like this story