Burr and Cooper and Moore, oh my!

by Jim Longworth

Barack Obama hasn’t even been sworn in, and already some folks in North Carolina are starting to talk about 2010, and the United States Senate race. Four years ago, GOP Congressman Richard Burr faced off against Erskine Bowles and both men emerged victorious… sort of. Bowles, a former Clintonista and loyal Democrat, lost to Burr but was then rewarded by Mike Easley with the presidency of the UNC system. Senator Burr won the election then rose to power as a cheerleader for the Bush administration. He was even mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2008. But popular as Burr has become, he can count his lucky stars that he didn’t have to defend his seat last fall. That’s because his hero, George Bush, made it almost impossible for anyone with an “R” beside their name to win at any level.

As it is, Burr has nearly two years for the anti-GOP sentiment to die down before he has to stand for re-election and, by then, perhaps a lot of voters will forgive and forget his blind loyalty to Bush and Cheney, both of whom should have been impeached. Burr voted with the Bush regime over 90 percent of the time, making him an accessory to their misdeeds, which include the murder of more than a half-million innocent Iraqi civilians and the senseless deaths of 3,000 American soldiers; illegal wiretapping; abuses at Gitmo; neglecting victims of Hurricane Katrina; rampant trade imbalances which led to millions of American jobs transferred to slave-wage laborers in third-world countries; and general mismanagement of our economy, which has led to a near Depression. But even if the passage of time should begin to heal the wounds of eight bad years, Burr is likely to face a legitimately strong Democratic challenger who will spend the better part of a year re-opening those wounds and reminding us of Burr’s role in inflicting them. Both Attorney General Roy Cooper and State Treasurer Richard Moore have been mentioned as likely contenders for Burr’s seat, and either one would be a formidable opponent for the GOP Senator. If and when Cooper and Moore battle each other in the Democratic primary, you can be sure they will bash Burr for having done Bush’s bidding. They will remind voters that Burr supported the invasion of Iraq, and refused to draw down troops even after we learned that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, or no connection with the terrorists who destroyed the Twin Towers. They will also remind us that Burr bought into Bush and Cheney’s approach to homeland security which included illegal wiretaps and monitoring US citizens without warrants. And they will probably dredge up Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the man who fired nine US Attorneys for political reasons and spearheaded the aforementioned invasions of privacy. When the Senate proffered a resolution to condemn the attorney general, Burr defended Gonzales instead of defending the rights of his constituents. Most recently, Burr blocked a Democratic campaign to put the tobacco industry under the watchful eye of the FDA. Moore and Cooper might choose to remind voters that nicotine is an addictive drug that should be monitored. But while Burr’s record may provide plenty of stones for Moore and Cooper to throw, the incumbent senator will have an easy time exposing the two Democrats’ glass houses as well. For example, Cooper’s strategy for fighting meth labs was to remove Sudafed from store shelves. The criminals operating meth labs are still in business, while the rest of us are treated like terrorists when we try to fight a cold. Cooper also came late to the Duke lacrosse debacle, waiting to act until the public was thoroughly outraged. And under Cooper’s watchful eye, our state crime lab was hamstrung by a backlog of cases. Then there’s State Treasurer Richard Moore. In his primary battle with Governor-elect Bev Perdue, Moore struck first with negative ads and dirty politics, including a smear campaign to discredit Perdue because her husband had once lied about her age. Later, Moore was the only gubernatorial candidate of either party who refused to appear on my “Triad Today” TV show. His mode of operation was to snipe at Perdue from a long distance, but avoid answering questions in non-controlled media environments. More recently, Moore presided over a budget shortfall that caused local school districts to return much needed funds to the state’s coffers. On the plus side for Moore, he asked the Secuties Exchange Commission to investigate ountrywide Financial in 2007, but by then balloon-payment loan scams had ballooned into a crisis. It is too early to predict which of the two Democrats will face Burr in 2010. Perhaps neither. Moore, at least, has had to run a tough campaign when he challenged Perdue, while Cooper played it safe last year. And there’s the other Democrat who may influence the outcome of our next Senate campaign. If Barack Obama posts a successful first 18 months in the Oval Office, then his 2008 juggernaut may keep rolling into 2010 and right over top of Richard Burr. On the other hand, if Obama fumbles or fails out of the gate, then the history of off-year elections going to the party out of power may repeat itself — in which case, Burr would be a shoo-in to retain his seat. Finally, there’s always the chance that a dark horse will appear late in the game to take on the ineffective two-party system. Maybe a TV host or newspaper columnist will run as an independent and challenge the mainstream candidates to think outside the box, and to put people over politics. But in the end, the only thing we know for sure is that in 23 months, we’ll go to the polls to vote. The players and the outcome are anybody’s guess. Until then, let’s all hope and pray that Republicans and Democrats will work together effectively and expeditiously to put our economy back on track, and to stop the outflow of jobs from America. Politics can wait for now.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).