Richardson seeks to debate Basnight

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Staff Writer

Republican Hood Richardson challenged his election-year opponent to a series of debates.
Richardson said he doesn’t expect the challenge to be taken up by state Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, of Manteo.
“I don’t think I’ll hear from him,” said Richardson, a Beaufort County commissioner from Washington. “I don’t think he’ll debate.”
Richardson issued the challenge in a letter last week.
The Republican proposed holding a series of three debates at different places around Basnight’s Senate District 1, which includes Beaufort County.
Asked what debate format he favored, Richardson said any setup would do — “Any one that (Basnight) wants.”
“I hope he would come out and debate,” he said. “I’m not going to be surprised if he doesn’t.”
Richardson denied his call for debates constituted an attempt to raise his profile as he tries to take down a well-known, well-fortified incumbent.
He said the debates would illuminate the differences between the candidates.
Basnight wasn’t immediately available for comment Monday.
State Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, declined to comment on whether Basnight should debate Richardson, focusing instead on the reasons he supports the senator.
As president pro tempore of the Senate, Basnight supported opening the East Carolina Heart Institute in Greenville, Williams related.
“That’s brought 500 jobs to the hospital, 200 jobs to the heart center, for an additional payroll of $20 million,” he said.
An old East Carolina University news release, found online, shows the institute was “established by the N.C. General Assembly with $60 million in state appropriations to improve the cardiovascular health of the people in eastern North Carolina.”
“Sen. Basnight’s a personal friend of mine, and Sen. Basnight’s a friend to everybody in eastern North Carolina,” Williams said. “We all pay taxes, and I think Sen. Basnight and myself included have done all we could to try to bring some of that tax money back to eastern North Carolina.”
Basnight “was very responsible for helping us all do that,” Williams added, referring to the heart center.
“Mr. Richardson — what’s he done?” he asked.
Demographically, Senate District 1 is competitive for Richardson, according to an early poll by the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank.
Most area political observers contend Basnight will have nothing to worry about Nov. 2, the day of the general election.
Privately, even some local Republicans acknowledge Richardson isn’t likely to win.
Basnight was re-elected with 30,398 votes in 2006. His GOP opponent, Ron Toppin, scored 13,758 votes.
Basnight ran unopposed in 2008.
The senator had more than $717,000 cash in his campaign account at the end of the second-quarter reporting period, according to a report available on the State Board of Elections’ website.
Richardson had $3,587.35 cash on hand at the end of the same period.
Despite the reality on the ground, Richardson asserts he can be an effective challenger.
Richardson said he’d had no response to his debate letter as of Monday afternoon.