October 27, 2010

Bob Steinburg challenges incumbent Tim Spear for
District 2 seat in state House of Representatives


Bob Steinburg didn’t think it was right that a candidate for state office should go unchallenged in November’s election.

Before he knew it, the Edenton Republican had filed to face off against incumbent Democrat Tim Spear for the District 2 seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives.

Active for years in local, state and national party politics, Steinburg, 62, has never held elected office. But he said he’s got the “discipline, want-to, and know-how” to help bring fiscal restraint and responsible spending to state government.

Steinburg, born and raised in Oswego, N.Y., lived in Virginia for 28 years before moving in 2005 to Chowan County.  He is married with two grown sons.

“This state is at the point of going belly-up,” he said, adding that Spear reflects Raleigh’s unwillingness to “make the hard decisions” required for economic recovery and job stimulation.

“That’s why,” Steinburg said, “we are facing this inconceivable and incomprehensible set of circumstances.”

Spear, 58, who has represented the district -- Chowan, Dare Hyde and Washington counties -- since 2006, said his lifelong residency in the district and experience in the state House makes him more qualified and effective in addressing the economic stresses.

“North Carolina is certainly not alone,” he said. “It’s a national problem that has worked its way down to the states.”

His job, Spear said, has been to help the state and his district get through the economic crisis without destroying the underpinnings needed to recover: educational and training resources that foster employment opportunities.

Quality-of-life factors, such as access to health care, recreational facilities and a clean environment, as well as tax incentives, contribute to the state’s reputation as business-friendly and a desirable place to live, he said.

“That shows that the decisions we’ve made, that these policies are working,” Spear said.

But Steinburg, retired from a sales and marketing business, contends that Spear, employed as a law enforcement officer prior to serving for 24 years as Washington County Clerk of Superior Court, lacks the business acumen needed to right the state’s fiscal boat.

“He’s been on the government teat his entire life,” he said of his opponent.

Steinburg, whose campaign has raised about $35,000 from individuals, said he favors elimination of corporate taxes -- “the states surrounding us are killing us,” he said -- but does not support huge tax incentives to attract businesses.

Spear said his opponent has unfairly painted him as recklessly voting to approve tax increases last year.  The reality is, he said, that with the help of federal stimulus funds, $2 billion was cut from the budget. And this year, he said, the General Assembly passed a balanced budget, did not raise taxes, and used fewer state tax dollars than in the previous spending plan.

Whatever steps the state takes to deal with budget shortfalls, Spear said, its fiscal health depends on maintaining a “friendly business climate.”

“Companies don’t just look at one issue,” he said. “They look at the total package.”

 Spear , a father of two grown sons who lives in Creswell with his wife, said he is proud of what he has accomplished during his tenure in the House.

In addition to helping military service members keep their homes and find the help they need back home, he said, he helped pass legislation that provided an exemption for farm tractors traveling on roads during harvest season. And he makes no apologies for working out a state/private partnership that kept Dom Tar Paper Co. operating in Plymouth, saving 500 jobs.

Spear said that the effort, which involved $9 million in tax credits over five years in exchange for the company investing $65 million to retrofit the plant and agreeing to wage and employee minimums, had nothing to do with his son being employed there for the past three years, despite what Steinburg charges.

“So we’re willing to let 500 jobs go just because my son works there?” retorted Spear.

With a campaign slogan of “Enough is Enough,” Steinburg said he sees Spear as part of the good ol’ boy way of politics that North Carolina has to move beyond.

“I don’t believe we’re getting the leadership or representation we deserve,” he said.

But Spear, who can’t help noticing the anti-incumbent sentiment that has swept the nation, has conducted a spirited campaign. Although he said he’s not sure what he has spent, he said his campaign has about $25,000 on hand.

“I’m certainly not taking anything for granted,” he said. “I have worked hard to reach out to voters in my district.

“This seat belongs to the people of this district. It doesn’t belong to me.”

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