2016 Voter's Guide: The field running against Sen. Richard Burr

2016 Voter's Guide: The field running against Sen. Richard Burr

RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - North Carolina's 2016 primary elections will happen much earlier than usual. Lawmakers moved the elections to March 15, hoping to capitalize on a presidential election to drive a high voter turnout. Instead of having until May to learn about the candidates, voters will have about two months and two weeks in the new calendar year to become knowledgeable about where the candidates stand on the major issues.

One of the high-profile races on the ballot will be for Richard Burr's Senate seat. Burr is seeking his third six-year term, after serving ten years in the House representing the Fifth Congressional District. Burr ran in 2004 to replace Senator John Edwards, defeating Erskine Bowles by a 51-47 percent margin. Burr won re-election in 2010 by beating challenger Elaine Marshall by a 54-43 percent count.

Burr touts his experience in Washington and leadership positions (Chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) in the fight against terrorism. He also cites his sponsorship of an Obamacare alternative (Patient CARE Act) to improve healthcare coverage for Americans. According to OpenCongress, Burr has voted with his party 93 percent of the time.

Roll Call lists Burr as #7 in its "Top Most Vulnerable Senators" up for re-election in 2016, citing his 29 percent approval rating and 40 percent disapproval rating in a September 2015 survey by Public Policy Polling. That same poll showed Burr with double-digit leads over two potential Democratic opponents. Burr had a 45-34 head-to-head advantage over Deborah Ross, and 46-34 over Chris Rey.

There is one unquestionable advantage Burr enjoys over all of the candidates in the race, a massive war chest.  His campaign's latest FEC filing showed more than $4.7 million cash-on-hand as of September 30.

Cary physician Greg Brannon entered the 2016 GOP primary field on the last day of the filing period. Brannon made a name for himself in the 2014 Republican Senatorial campaign as a staunch front-runner for the Tea Party. Brannon's conservative, constitutional philosophy endeared him to anti-establishment voters. He won 27 percent of the primary vote, nearly forcing the eventual nominee Thom Tillis into a runoff.  During that 2014 campaign, Brannon told supporters that when he faced any questions on the federal government's role in the lives of citizens, he answered through the prism of two documents:  The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

"The Declaration of Independence is the philosophy that our government is based upon," Brannon said in a 2014 "A Closer Look" interview in the WECT studios. "There are two questions answered in the second paragraph that are crucial: who is sovereign and what is the legitimate role of a government? Our creator made us in his image, we have certain unalienable rights, life from the moment of conception to natural passing, liberty with freedom and responsibilities, and the pursuit of your dreams, your happiness. The next sentence says 'That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted amongst Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.  We are giving our consent to have these trustees of that contract."
Click here to see more about candidate Greg Brannon: http://gregbrannon.nationbuilder.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrGregBrannon

Larry Holmquist of Greensboro has gone from campaign manager to candidate. On his website, Holmquist says he managed a congressional candidate's campaign in 2014, before deciding in 2015 to challenge the incumbent Burr. A retired businessman who calls himself "a lifelong conservative", Holmquist posts criticism of President Barack Obama for "damage being done to America", and he also blames leading Republicans, including Burr, for enabling the damage.

"Mr. Burr, and many of his GOP cohorts in the Senate, are not only killing the Republican Party--they are doing serious, long-lasting damage to our nation," Holmquist says on his website. "They must be replaced--quickly--with Senators who have the courage to make tough decisions, who aren't there to please the "mainstream media", and who truly have the best interests of the country as their top priority."

Click here to see more about candidate Larry Holmquist: http://www.holmquist4senate.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Larry.holmquist.1?fref=ts

Paul Wright is running in a third straight campaign cycle. The retired Superior Court Judge from Mount Olive entered the 2012 Republican Gubernatorial Primary race, where he won five percent of the vote in an election won easily by Pat McCrory. In 2014, Wright entered the Fourth Congressional District race against incumbent David Price, and was defeated by a 75-25 percent margin.

On his website, Wright explains his stance on several issues, including defunding "Obamacare", reversing the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage and ending "the illegal spying on American citizens without Constitutional search warrants".

Click here to see more about candidate Paul Wright: http://wrightforussenate.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paulwrightforsenate/

According to reports, state Democratic party leaders approached several potential candidates to run against Burr in 2016, including former Senator Kay Hagan and U.S. Transportation Secretary (and former Charlotte Mayor) Anthony Foxx. Former state House member Deborah Ross emerged in October as a candidate, and many consider her the favorite to win the Democratic nomination.

Ross represented District 38 for ten years, before leaving in 2013 to serve as General Counsel for GoTriangle, a transportation authority group. Ross held several leadership positions in the House, including Chair for the House Ethics and Judiciary I committees. She also worked as Director of the American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina.

In the previously mentioned Public Policy Polling survey done in early December, Ross led the field of three possible Democratic candidates. She received 41 percent support, to 15 percent for Kevin Griffin and five percent for Chris Rey. More than one out of every three responders (39 percent) said "not sure", signaling the candidates have to become better-known to the voters.

In a video posted on her website, Ross says the reason she is running for the Senate seat is "we all want a government that puts people first".

Click here to see more about candidate Deborah Ross: http://www.deborahross.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RossForNorthCarolina

Retired U.S. Army Captain Ernest Reeves ran in the 2014 Democratic Senate primary, and received nearly 9 percent of the vote in a race won easily by then-incumbent Kay Hagan. Reeves ran for Mayor of Greenville in 2015, finishing third in the race won handily by the incumbent.

Along with his status as a retired military communications officer, Reeves lists himself as a businessman and entrepreneur on his website. Reeves says he is a "strong supporter of minimum wage increase, extended unemployment benefits and expansion of Medicaid". 

Click here to see more about candidate Ernest Reeves: http://www.ernestreeves.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ernest.reeves

Chris Rey is currently serving his third term as Mayor of Spring Lake. He served eight years in the U.S. Army, including deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Rey earned the Bronze Star during his service, and serves now as a Major in the Army National Guard. He earned a law degree after leaving the Army, currently works for a non-profit organization that assists the uninsured population of Cumberland County.

"I'm asking you to believe," Rey said in a news release when announcing his intention to run in the Democratic race for the Senate seat in September 2015. "To believe that all things are possible in America and in North Carolina. To believe that health care for all can be a reality instead of a mirage … to believe that until we are all equal we cannot be free … to believe that we can create jobs and opportunity here."

Click here to see more about candidate Chris Rey: http://chrisrey.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Chris-Rey-For-US-Senate-1776716065888263/timeline/

Kevin Griffin of Durham admits he is new to the political process. His website includes a simple answer to the question about why he is running in the Democratic Senate race: "to stop the insanity". Griffin is President and CEO of a staffing company.

"Year after year, we see how Congress has the lowest approval ratings of all time," Griffin says on the front page of his campaign website. "Yet we continue to send the same politicians to Washington and hope for something different to happen.  It's time for a change."

Click here to see more about candidate Kevin Griffin: http://gowithgriffin.org/  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KevinGriffinSenate

Libertarian Sean Haugh ran in the 2014 North Carolina Senate race along with then-incumbent Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis. Haugh received nearly four percent of the votes (109,100) in a race that Tillis won by less than 50,000 votes.

In a recent social media post, Haugh listed the main reasons for why he is running for Senate again in 2016. "Stop all war and stop spending more money than we have," Haugh posted on the website Tumblr. "If you want a third issue, let me go off about how our entire monetary system is based on transferring wealth from the people to the financial elites that own our government."

Click here to see more about candidate Sean Haugh: http://www.seanhaugh.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HaughForSenate/
Tumblr: http://emperorsean.tumblr.com/post/135909533558/pa-questionnaire-1-why-are-you-running

To see the entire list of candidates running in North Carolina, click here: http://bit.ly/1XP0eF9

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