News: CJ Exclusives

Barefoot and Berger Highlight Parties’ Struggle for Power

Four-term Democrat Berger has uphill battle in redrawn Senate District 18

Leaders in the North Carolina Republican Party are doing all they can to help Chad Barefoot get elected to the Senate District 18 seat as part of a larger effort to expand their new majority and advance their agenda.

First, they drew a district that, while still leaning Democratic, gives the Republican candidate a much better shot than in the past. Second, they’ve forwarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to Barefoot’s campaign.

Why the push? Barefoot is running in one of two of the most competitive races for state Senate, the other being between GOP Sen. Jim Davis and former Democratic Sen. John Snow in Senate District 50.

Barefoot won a three-way Republican primary this spring, defeating businessman Michael Shriver and first-term Rep. Glen Bradley, a Ron Paul supporter who was double-bunked with Rep. Jeff Collins and chose to seek a seat in the Senate. [See editor’s note at the end of this story.]

If Barefoot defeats incumbent Democrat Doug Berger, it will help the Republicans maintain and expand control of the Senate. They also want to take the executive branch to finish the work they started two years ago, following nearly a century of Democrat control.

That work includes cutting state spending, reducing the regulatory burden on business, removing the cap on charter schools, and protecting property owners from forced annexation. The party also began work on controversial social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

A policy analyst for, and some say protégé of, House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake, Barefoot’s positions on the issues are in close alignment with the Republican leadership. Barefoot takes credit for helping the party accomplish what it did over the past two years and says he’s prepared to keep the ball rolling.

Jobs and the economy

Barefoot’s agenda for creating jobs follows basic Republican principles: “reduce tax rates and provide a stable regulatory environment,” his website says. It also says he opposes “targeted tax incentives to pick corporate winners and losers.”

Barefoot did not return messages requesting an interview for this story. But in an April interview with Carolina Journal , Barefoot said he would like to see all tax rates reduced, especially the corporate income tax rate. He said taxes also needed to be more broad-based, meaning more people need to be paying them, rather than the bulk of the burden being shouldered by only a few.

Berger, a worker’s compensation attorney and four-term state senator, also did not return messages requesting an interview. But Berger’s website suggests that unlike Barefoot, he does believe in targeted incentives to certain types of companies — small and green ones.

The website says he voted to cut taxes for more than 275,000 small businesses, and to give them $2 million to help create jobs across the state and another $2 million to help bring small businesses back to “Main Street” downtown areas.

He also said he voted to fund a Green Business Fund to encourage the growth of environmentally friendly business and supported a $14 million program to support biotechnology research and help more than 500 companies.

Berger did note during a debate that he crossed party lines to support the Republicans’ regulatory reform bill, in an effort to promote job growth.

Education

The candidates both put education high on their priority lists, but have different thoughts about it.

Barefoot believes in school choice, meaning government should make it easier for parents to opt out of traditional public schools and into public charter schools, private schools or home schools. He also thinks teachers who provide the best results should be rewarded with higher compensation and that government should provide more support to vocational schools.

Berger, a former public school teacher, writes on his website that he wants to “protect all teachers,” that he voted for $13 million in dropout prevention grants, and for more funding for community colleges and universities.

Social issues

Barefoot calls himself 100 percent pro-life. Berger is pro-choice and is endorsed by Planned Parenthood. Barefoot’s in-laws were key players in North Carolina’s constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Berger has compared the gay-marriage ban to the Holocaust.

Gun rights twist

There is, however, one area in which the two candidates do not toe their respective party’s line: gun rights.

Berger, the Democrat, has received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association and four stars from Grassroots North Carolina, the highest ratings each organization gives. Meanwhile, Grassroots North Carolina warned against voting for Barefoot by linking him to Stam.

“Barefoot claims to be pro-gun, but has as his mentor House Majority Leader ‘Skip’ Stam, who has displayed consistent antipathy for gun rights by first trying to gut GRNC’s ‘Castle Doctrine’ bill and then helping defeat a measure which could have allowed employees to keep guns in locked vehicles at places of employment,” says the group’s voter’s guide.

Doug Berger, the group says, “has a 100-percent pro-gun voting record spanning 4 terms in the N.C. Senate and stood up to chamber leadership by offering a discharge petition to attempt to dislodge GRNC’s restaurant carry bill from committee.”

For his part, Barefoot’s website states: “The Second Amendment is not about hunting or shooting for sport. It is about the right of free people to keep and bear arms – a necessary characteristic of a free state. We need leadership in Raleigh that understands the liberal agenda to undo the Second Amendment by overregulating the hunting and firearm industry.”

Battle lines

Berger was drawn out of his current district and into the new District 18, which encompasses a good chunk of Wake County residents, whom he never has represented. His current district covers Franklin, Granville, Vance, and Warren counties. The new district includes much of Garner, where Barefoot’s family has lived for 50 years.

Registered voters in the new District 18 are 41 percent Democrat, 34 percent Republican, and 25 percent unaffiliated.

Barefoot is counting on the large number of independent voters and nearly a million dollars in campaign funds to swing the election to the right. Berger, who has raised roughly $260,000, is counting on his experience and record.

Sara Burrows is a contributor to Carolina Journal.

Editors’ note: This story was modified after initial publication to report that Barefoot had won the Republican nomination in a three-way primary.