Law professor to challenge Berger for state senate seat
A popular Elon Law professor who lives in Greensboro plans to pursue and independent campaign to challenge state Sen. Phil Berger in District 26.Eric Fink teaches labor and employment law and consumer protection law at Elon School of Law in Downtown Greensboro. Fink, a resident of Latham Park, said he decided to campaign as an independent after no Democratic challengers emerged to take on the Republican majority leader in the state senate. Berger, in his role as President Pro-Tempore of the senate, is the state’s most powerful legislator and architect of the conservative takeover of state government and policy since the Tea Party wave of 2010.”The fact that Phil Berger is running unopposed, the more I thought about it and talked it over with friends, it struck me as something that was not good,” Fink said during a phone interview from his home on Wednesday morning. “Given my views, the fact is that he’s been a leader for things that have happened in Raleigh that I think are going in a bad direction.”Fink said he expected a Democratic challenger to take on Berger and was surprised when the primaries came in March and no one had stepped up. With the swift passage of House Bill 2 at the end of March, Fink said things became more urgent.”That’s just such a strong new example of the kind of measures they have been adopting that I think are just not good,” Fink said. “My goal is to challenge the direction that the Republicans have been moving in and also to put forward an alternative, in broad ideas and concrete real ideas for restoring public schools and making sure everyone in the state is treated with full and equal respect.”As an independent candidate, Fink will have to secure slightly more than 5,000 signatures from registered voters in the 26th North Carolina senate district by the first week in June. The district includes all of Rockingham County and approximately half of northwest Guilford County. The district dips into Greensboro between US 220/Battleground and Church Street down to Fink’s Latham Park neighborhood.Fink said the ballot access petition is “the number one challenge right now.””I want to make sure we meet the requirements, but I want to do more than that,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of leg work and we’ll have to be getting out all over the district.”Fink intends to utilize a grassroots strategy of having supporters reach out into their immediate neighborhood and connections in order to build support.”I think that is a way to achieve this number of signatures and to also get people talking about why I am doing this campaign and get the support building,” Fink said.Fink listed three leading policy concerns that his campaign will address.Ensuring civil rights and guaranteeing that everybody in North Carolina is treated as a full and equal member of the state took the top spot.”It’s more than just repealing HB 2, which has to be done,” Fink said. “What we actually need is to adopt strong protections for people against all kinds of discrimination in employment and housing and government services.”Restoring cuts to education and returning the state’s public schools and colleges to respectability are also core elements of his campaign. Fink has one child finishing elementary school and ready to move on to Aycock Middle.”I see it in my son’s school. I see teachers leaving, rapid turnover in principals, the list of materials that schools need parents to supply, it gets longer and longer because the schools have less money for basic things,” Fink said. “It’s absolutely essential. My first call is to restore what’s been cut.”Fink considers the state’s historical commitment to education as a major part of its reputation, citing people and corporations who often move here because of North Carolina’s solid public education system. Cuts to the system jeopardize that reputation and corporations will stop investing here if cuts to education continue, he said.Fink said he would also “urge a serious plan” to look at ways to make higher education more affordable and move toward a goal of free tuition.”It’s not something we can do tomorrow, but I do believe it is achievable,” he said.Focusing on the state’s economy is a third core element of his campaign. Fink said that the Greensboro and Rockingham County communities have unacceptable levels of poverty, with Greensboro being tops in the nation for hunger. Fink worked with the Renaissance Community Co-Op group and sees it as a model for other areas. The Renaissance Community Co-op is a community-owned grocery store that is currently planned for a redeveloped shopping center on Phillips Avenue in Greensboro.”Looking forward, I think what the city did to support RCC was an incredibly forward looking position for the city to take. I would love to see an agency at the state level that can help raise start-up capital and technical support to help create community-owned businesses that are essential to community needs,” Finks said.More formal announcements and campaign events are being planned. Fink has established a website at www.fink2016.org and a Facebook page at facebook.com/Fink2016NC.