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The Daily Tar Heel

Democratic senate candidates discuss platforms, motivation

Burr’s tenure in the state Senate has lasted 12 years, but he is likely to be challenged by democratic frontrunner Deborah Ross, a former state representative. Kevin Griffin, president and CEO of a staffing organization in Durham; Ernest Reeves, a retired Army captain; and Chris Rey, mayor of Spring Lake, join Ross in the primaries.

Griffin said he decided to run to share his business perspective.

“That’s a great impact on a personal level, but I want to take that to a broader market,” he said.

Never having worked in politics, Griffin said he is not jaded and can focus on new ideas rather than defending a political record.

His campaign highly values transparency, and he said most situations in life come down to what information is accessible to the populace and what tools they can use to achieve their goals.

Ross said she has worked on public projects, intermodal transportation in the Triangle and renewable energy statewide. Economic security is particularly important because not all citizens have recovered from the recession, she said. She said she would also prioritize education.

“College should be affordable and accessible, and student loans can’t put college students in so much debt that they can’t get on with their lives when they graduate,” she said. “And Richard Burr has a horrible record on student loan issues.”

The remaining candidates could not be reached for comment.

Steven Greene, a political science professor at N.C. State University, said Ross is a strong favorite because others lack name recognition.

“She’s got the best name among Democrats, and she’s got support and endorsements from groups in the Democratic Party that matter,” he said.

Greene said given Ross’ current edge and the lack of historical precedent in favor of underdogs, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the other candidates could overtake her.

“It’s hard to catch up in a sense to overtake somebody who’s in the lead and has experience with fundraising and seems to be connected with the right people,” he said.

But ultimately, it’s hard to know what to expect, said Matt Hughes, a candidate for Orange County Commissioner who was previously chairperson of the Orange County Democratic Party. It depends on what kind of campaign the candidates run, he said.

“With the primary being moved from May to March, that doesn’t give the candidates a lot of time to run a race,” he said.

Hughes said he thinks students who would be voting in Orange County will have an impact on the primary.

It will fall to candidates to engage students so they will cast their votes early, he said.

“The charge to each of the people is take the time to know what you’re voting for,” Griffin said.

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