WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Deborah Ross is one of four candidates running in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat held by Richard Burr. Burr is running for a third term in the seat, but Ross and seven challengers want to stop that from happening.
Ross served in the General Assembly from 2003-2013, representing parts of Wake County (Districts 38 and 34), before leaving to take a position as General Counsel with GoTriangle, which provides transportation services to the public in Wake, Durham and Orange counties. Ross has had to expand her campaigning from a single district to 100 counties, but she is enjoying the challenge and the people she meets along the way.
Ross mentions the term "economic security" in talking with potential voters, both in-person and in the video she released launching her senate campaign. Ross uses it to reach out to people of all ages, bringing up the struggles she sees and what she thinks a Senator should do to help. "Since the 'great recession' in particular, every generation is feeling an economic pinch," Ross said. "They don't necessarily have the security, and the opportunities we need to grow as a state, and for our families to feel good."
"For young people, making sure they go to school ready to learn, so we have good Pre-K programs," Ross continued. "When they are in school, that they have the resources they need, especially our rural communities where they may not have the tax base for the good quality public education that we need to provide to all of our kids. Obviously higher education is getting more and more expensive, our students are having crushing student loan debt, so we need to make sure they can afford higher education and not graduate with such debt that they can't buy their own homes and start their own families and start businesses. For their parents, in particular their moms, moms need equal pay for equal work. We still have a problem with that in this country and in this state. We need to raise the minimum wage, which we haven't done in years. Obviously for our seniors, they need to be able to rely on Medicare and Social Security and those programs need to be solvent. Those issues affect almost every family in North Carolina, and they are my priorities.
Before beginning her time in the General Assembly, Ross served as state director for the American Civil Liberties Union, a point criticized during the campaign by two of Ross' fellow Democratic candidates and outside organizations like the National Republican Senatorial Committee. They point to her time spent as a lobbyist, particularly Ross lobbying against creating a Sex Offender Registry in North Carolina. Ross defends her work at the ACLU, and believes that experience is a positive rather than a detriment.
"I am absolutely for protecting our children," Ross says. "I want a Sex Offender Registry, and I want to have one that would stand the test of time in the courts. When you are a lawyer, you want to get things done in a way that protects the victim, and there was some question about that. But I voted dozens of times to make sure our kids are protected, and I was a leader on Domestic Violence reform."
Ross has won the backing of several groups, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Emily's List and the North Carolina Association of Educators.
Surveys by Public Policy Polling and High Point University show Ross leading the Democratic primary field. They also show a large number of voters are undecided (55 percent in PPP, 66 percent in HPU) in who they would vote for in the field. Ross says she has a network trying to sway those voters to her side. "I've been an attorney in this state for 25 years, so I've practiced in different areas of the state and I have people who are reaching out for me," she said. "I also have colleagues from the Legislature who know me. People from more than 90 counties in this state have contributed to our campaign. That means a lot because I have not personally asked them, but they want to be involved and they see the difference that I can make in the U.S. Senate."