October 29, 2010
Republican Hood Richardson aims
powerful Senate leader Marc Basnight
ago, Washington, N.C., Republican Hood Richardson wanted to go
head-to-head with incumbent state Sen. Marc Basnight at the ballot box.
Defeated in the primary, Richardson was deprived then of the chance to
unseat North Carolina’s most powerful politician. And realistically, at
the time, his odds of winning would have been slim to none.
But this election season, with the North Carolina Republican Party
laser-focused on flipping the Democratic-controlled Senate, the GOP
challenger in state Senate District 1 is in the game.
Although Richardson, owner of an engineering and surveying business,
said the party has not contributed to his campaign -- for which he
expects he will spend about $25,000 -- the state GOP has hammered
Basnight in numerous fliers, attacking his funding of Jennette’s Pier
in Nags Head and falsely connecting the project to teacher layoffs.
The mailings also accused the Manteo Democrat of benefiting from the
pier project because family-owned Basnight Construction, run by his
cousin, is one of the minor subcontractors,
“I think what bothers people about Jennette’s Pier is it brings people
by his restaurant,” Richardson, 70, said, referring to
Lone Cedar Café, located a short distance down the road. “Whether he
did anything or not, there’s an appearance of evil.”
In his response, sent earlier this month in a double-sided letter to
constituents, Basnight said that the pier -- the first of three the
North Carolina Aquariums plans to build on the coast -- had been
authorized in a unanimous vote by the General Assembly. The project
will create jobs, he said, and be an economic and educational asset to
Basnight, 63, said in an interview this week that seven Senate
seats are in play, but the “big, big, heavy fight” is over senate
Elected in 1984, Basnight has been voted Senate president pro tempore
by his peers every session since 1993 and is the longest-serving senate
leader in state history.
Compared with most other election years when he didn’t see the need to
campaign, Basnight has aggressively addressed his opposition this
season. According to a report this week to the state Board of
Elections, Basnight has about $249,000 remaining in his campaign kitty.
He began with about $717,000.
“The people behind these attacks do not want me leading the Senate --
they don’t want our area to have a voice,” the senator wrote in the
letter. “They want to move power from the coast to the
and, as these fliers have shown, are perfectly willing to lie to
achieve their goals.”
According to the nonprofit Civitas Institute’s Vote Tracker, state
Board of Election figures, as of Oct. 26, show Democrats are going to
polls in higher numbers than Republicans.
Basnight said he is “hopeful” that he will prevail at the polls, but he
acknowledged that this year’s political turmoil could still hurt him.
“If I’m not re-elected president of the Senate, I will not be very
effective,” he said. “That is something we all understand. And the East
would be affected.”
A widower with two grown daughters, Basnight is both beloved and
belittled for his effectiveness over the years in bringing the bacon
home to his district. Roads, bridges and state attractions have all
sprung to life or been improved under his watch. But he also has been a
strong advocate for the state university system, he said, fighting to
keep tuition costs affordable.
The district includes Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Hyde,
Pasquotank, Tyrrell and Washington counties.
With his speech slowed considerably from a motor neuron disease
diagnosed shortly after his wife Sandy’s death in 2007, Basnight said
he has been able to keep up with the demands of campaigning and running
the Senate, driving hundreds of miles around the state.
“I go everywhere,” the senator said.
He walks slower, and he can’t run anymore. He could live 15
years, he said, or he could live two more years.
“But that’s the same with any disease we don’t understand,” Basnight
said. “What I have does not affect my mind at all. I go about
To his opponent, Basnight “and his crowd” meddle too much, regulate
needlessly, tax too high, and lack a sound approach to creating jobs
and restoring the economy.
Times are tough, in Richardson’s view, and government needs to toughen
up and worry less about human bloat than bureaucratic bloat.
“We’re trying to cater to everybody’s needs -- all of a sudden obesity
is disease,” he said. “We need to do away with the underwater
Richardson, married with three grown children, said he’s not sure where
he would pare the state budget, but he said it clearly can be made more
“Medicaid patients can get penile transplants -- come on, give me a
break!” he said.
Serving his fourth term on the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners,
Richardson favors tax credits for small business. He also supports
deporting illegal immigrants, he said, to free up jobs for legal
“We need to get back to basic government,” he said, adding that there’s
too much entitlement. “The quality of life is important. And the
quality of life is not socialism.”
But Basnight said there’s a balancing act in meeting the needs of
citizens, as well as the state. For instance, he said, North
Carolina is the only state in the nation that does not require county
governments to maintain their streets. And the state’s universities and
colleges, he said, are some of the most affordable and high quality in
If power shifts to the Republicans, Basnight asked, will they
start charging citizens on a local level for those services?
believes, he said, that good-paying jobs and a healthy economy are
directly related to a good education.
“How do you get that education? You pay for it,” Basnight said. “You
pay for it with taxes. “