RALEIGH — Much of Democratic state Senate District 9 candidate Deborah Butler’s campaign against freshman Republican Sen. Thom Goolsby has focused on a piece of anti-abortion legislation he supported, even though both candidates say their primary goal is job creation.
Like the parties they belong to, the candidates claim to have very different strategies for achieving that goal.
Butler, a Wilmington bankruptcy lawyer, thrust herself into an international spotlight with a television ad that featured her wielding a transvaginal ultrasound wand. In the commercial, she criticizes Goolsby for voting for a law that requires doctors to show women wishing to get abortions ultrasound images of their babies at least 24 hours before the procedure. The commercial was featured in stories on websites across the state, and picked up by Huffington Post, the U.K. newspaper Daily Mail, and elsewhere.
The law is being challenged in court.
“He wouldn’t dare show you this, but this is Thom Goolsby’s contribution to women’s health,” Butler said in the TV spot, wand in hand. “A medically unnecessary, invasive procedure that is now required by state law.”
“He promised us his first priority would be jobs,” she continued. “But instead he’s following you into the doctor’s office.”
Goolsby has aired his own ad questioning whether Butler is too risky to serve the district, characterizing her as a fan of higher taxes and hitting her for supporting Occupy Wall Street.
Neither candidate responded to repeated requests for interviews for this story.
In a recent televised debate, Butler said of the 41 bills Goolsby sponsored during his last term, “not one of them came up with any job-creating ideas.”
Goolsby disputed her claim, saying that he worked with the Republican Party to balance a $3 billion budget deficit the 2011 General Assembly inherited from Democrats, who were controlled the legislature for most of the past 140 years prior to the GOP’s 2010 victory.
He said he also helped the party pass regulatory reform, medical malpractice and tort reform, and cut sales taxes and gas taxes, all of which he said encourage job creation.
Goolsby took personal responsibility for two other “job creating” accomplishments as well — tax credits for small businesses and the film industry.
“The small business credit he just referred to extends to millionaires as well, and that is a tragedy,” Butler said.
The $3,500 tax credit is on the first $50,000 of a business owner’s income, no matter how much income that person makes. Goolsby noted that the nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division of the General Assembly estimated that millionaires make up only about 2 percent of those eligible for the credit.
“The vast majority of credits will go to small business owners making less than $100,000,” Goolsby said.
“I don’t care if it’s 2 percent millionaires, I don’t care if it’s one millionaire,” Butler responded. “If it’s $3 that went in your pocket or another lobbyist’s pocket instead of the pockets of the children of this state, it’s wrong and it should not have happened.”
“You had an opportunity to cap it and limit it to just small businesses — firemen, teachers, police officers — but no, you had to extend it to lobbyists, to yourself presumably, and to other people making extraordinarily high incomes,” she said. “It’s unconscionable.”
“She thinks somehow that’s robbery,” Goolsby said at another candidate forum. “Well, Ms. Butler, I’ll have you know I earned that money. I didn’t take it in any kind of government Obama stimulus money for a radio program. I actually earned it and I will take my tax credit.”
Goolsby’s jab about stimulus money used for a radio program was in reference to the “Retrofit Radio Show” hosted by Butler in her capacity as a former trustee for the Cape Fear Green Building Alliance, according to the Wilmington Star-News.
The 13-part radio series about home energy efficiency was funded by a grant awarded to the alliance from the N.C. Green Business Fund and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Butler said she volunteered to host the show and was not paid.
Rather than tax reduction and easing regulatory burdens, Butler’s ideas for creating jobs center on microlending and luring biotech firms with targeted incentives.
“This is an emergency,” Butler said. “We’ve got to use every tool in the toolbox to create jobs in New Hanover County. Among the things I would like to see done … for example, this is just something I found at Starbucks. It’s a flier about creating microlending institutions, community-based lending organizations. Starbucks did more than Thom Goolsby did in the General Assembly.”
“My opponent seems to think you can take money from productive people and then just resource it out,” Goolsby said. “We’ve seen that in the past. It does not work. The way you create jobs is you give job creators the ability to create those jobs.”
One industry Goolsby thinks deserves government support is the film industry. He does not support direct subsidies to the movie companies, but thinks they deserve tax credits. While Butler disagrees with the small business tax credit, she agrees with Goolsby on the film credit, saying it’s created $300 million in revenue and created 15,000 jobs.
Another issue the candidates disagree on is regulation. Goolsby co-sponsored the Regulatory Reform Act, which requires regulations to undergo a cost-benefit analysis and makes it easier for aggrieved individuals to challenge the regulations in the judicial system. Butler doesn’t think regulations were a problem when it came job growth.
“I hear a lot of this Tea Party mantra that says if we just cut the corporate tax rate and remove regulations [jobs will follow],” Butler said.
“Let’s not forget what deregulation of the financial industry did to us in the first place,” Butler said. “It caused a near virtual depression in this country.
“We know if we leave corporate giants to their own devices, they don’t always do the right thing,” Butler said. “There’s a mechanism for removing onerous regulations that don’t work – the courts.”
The N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation notes that Senate District 9 has been a traditional swing district, and that did not change with redistricting. The district now comprises all of New Hanover County except a slice of downtown Wilmington.
While there are slightly more registered Democrats than Republicans in the district – 34.6 percent to 34.3 percent – 30.7 percent of voters are registered unaffiliated, making the outcome of this race anyone’s guess.
Demographics of the district show 83.7 percent white voters, 11.9 percent black voters, and 4.4 percent “other.”
Sara Burrows is a contributor to Carolina Journal.