As a U.S. senator, Bowles would draw upon his past experience in Washington, D.C. He was instrumental in bringing about a balanced budget in 1997 as then-President Clinton's chief of staff.
This meant that he had to reach across the boundary separating the two major political parties. He helped to bring both Democrats and Republicans on board and to work out compromises. During the course of his professional and political careers, Bowles has picked up vital skills having to do with negotiating and making deals.
These talents will aid him in getting things done in Washington, D.C., and in improving the lives of North Carolinians.
His opponent, U.S. Rep. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem, is decidedly more one-sided. Although his congressional district has found him to be the most appropriate choice of representative for a decade, he wouldn't be the best fit for the entire state.
The ties that bind
There are actually a number of similarities between the two candidates. Both have claimed to be strong on defense: They have expressed their support for aggressive action in Iraq and both have championed a powerful military. Additionally, each candidate has cited a need to increase protection of the nation's borders.
Bowles and Burr both have outlined detailed plans to bring jobs into the state and to assist N.C. workers and companies.
Both Senate hopefuls can take a large amount of credit for the recent passage of tobacco quota buyout legislation. Burr sat on the conference committee that hashed out a bill on which the House and Senate could agree before Congress went into recess.
Meanwhile, Bowles proved to be a valuable friend to tobacco growers and farmers with his Senate lobbying efforts. He emphasized the importance of a buyout to senators, many of whom went on to vote in favor of the legislation.
Although the inclusion of U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco - which Burr opposed and Bowles supported - might have ended up crippling the buyout legislation, it is still unfortunate that U.S. legislators didn't pass a provision that would have struck a blow in favor of public health.
The candidates are also alike in that they supported international trade policies in the past that have turned out to be harmful to many of North Carolina's workers. Bowles as head of the Small Business Administration and Burr supported the North American Free Trade Agreement. In the White House, Bowles pushed for giving most favored nation status to China, while Burr, as a representative, supported trade agreements with Vietnam and other countries.
But Bowles has especially good ideas for repairing some of the damage incurred by jobs moving overseas from North Carolina and the rest of the United States.
He would vote against future trade agreements until existing ones with China and other nations are properly enforced. He also would support tax policies that favor businesses that create and keep jobs in this country.
Bowles has realized the trade-related mistakes that were made during the 1990s - and in the Senate, he would work hard to correct these errors.
The lines that divide
Voters can distinguish between the two candidates when it comes to issues like education, the environment, health care and fiscal policy.
Burr has voiced his firm support of No Child Left Behind. Bowles states in his platform that he believes in "setting high standards and holding educators accountable," but he also goes much further than Burr, maintaining that the federal program needs a lot more funding.
Without the necessary amount of money, the program can't possibly go far enough to ensure that students are taught the skills they need to succeed, that teachers are qualified and that schools are meeting the government's standards. If No Child Left Behind is to continue, U.S. lawmakers must give it the full support it requires - and Bowles has pledged to do so.
Additionally, he opposes the Bush administration's Clear Skies Initiative, which allows for more harmful chemicals to enter the air supply. As senator, he would look out for the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. He has linked a healthy environment to a strong tourism industry for North Carolina.
Bowles undoubtedly would work to protect the air that North Carolinians breathe, the water they drink and the state's natural beauties.
His health care plan to expand options for women, children, seniors, people living in rural areas and low-income adults is feasible. He would pay for it in part through savings from the reimportation of drugs from Canada and other countries. With careful oversight, such a venture doesn't have to be nearly as risky as some politicians - including Burr - have made it sound.
When it comes to fiscal policy, Bowles is in the right again: He favors the pay-as-you-go rule. Beltway legislators must ensure that the money is there when they spend, and they shouldn't create a massive debt burden for future generations.
Why not Richard Burr?
Burr has spent 10 years representing North Carolina's 5th District in the U.S. House - he arrived in Washington, D.C., as Republican members of Congress were setting about fulfilling their "Contract With America." He's a relatively young and energetic politician, and he has represented his constituency well in the nation's capital.
But it's obvious that Burr would be less of his own man - and legislator, for that matter - than Bowles. Burr said he is proud to have voted along the same lines as President Bush 96 percent of the time in 2003.
That's somewhat alarming - not because Burr's record is so closely tied to that of Bush, but because it is so closely tied to any other politician's.
North Carolina deserves a senator who won't let outside forces mold his voting record and will not look to conform to the line of his party or the president.
Burr's statement of pride suggests that he might vote at least occasionally for what would be politically safe and not necessarily for what would be best for North Carolinians.
Bowles ran a strong Senate campaign in 2002 against Elizabeth Dole. He lost that contest to a worthy foe who has proven to be a strong voice for the state - but North Carolinians still came to know a man who knows how to get things done in the business and political arenas and who has shown a strong capacity to stick to his guns.
It's clear that this state and the Beltway political scene alike would benefit from the service of Erskine Bowles. He would make for an exemplary U.S. senator, and he would be the best representative for North Carolina. Voters should do themselves a big favor by putting him in office.