Will locals lobby new state senator?

Published 8:43 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Staff Writer

Now that Beaufort County has a new state senator, it’s time to familiarize him with the county’s unique challenges, some local leaders said in recent interviews.
As previously reported, a Democratic Party committee met Friday night to select a replacement for retiring Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare.
The committee chose former Dare County Commissioner Stan White to be Basnight’s successor. White will represent eight northeast counties, including Beaufort County.
Tom Richter is mayor of Washington Park and chairman of the nonprofit Beaufort County Committee of 100, which assists the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission with industry-recruitment work.
Richter suggested officials could invite White to the county for a meet-and-greet session at the Washington Civic Center.
Richter said he’s a registered independent but expects White, a Democrat, and Beaufort County’s new state representative, Republican Bill Cook, to work together on local issues — local bills, economic-development projects — in a nonpartisan fashion.
“We hope that Stan and Bill Cook will get along effectively to make things happen for Beaufort County, and so many of the issues that both Republicans and Democrats and independents up there (in Raleigh) mull over and deal with are really nonpartisan kinds of issues,” he said.
Richter also lauded White, a current member of the N.C. Board of Transportation, for his work on the U.S. Highway 17 Association, which advocates for improvements in the U.S. 17 corridor. These improvements have been among the EDC’s priorities for years.
“Stan is not an unknown quantity to people in Beaufort County, and I really can’t see why we can’t have a good relationship with Stan,” he said.
Richter and other supporters of outgoing state Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, traveled to Friday night’s meeting to demonstrate their backing for a movement to appoint Williams to Basnight’s old seat.
“Of course we’re disappointed that Arthur wasn’t selected,” Richter stated. “We thought that because of his experience — we thought that his demonstrated ability to deliver to his constituents was important. We thought that his personal contacts with so many people up there (in Raleigh) was a strong attribute.”
He added, “Stan White, on the other hand, is also a known entity, a man we think has knowledge of the region, an understanding of the region and another guy with demonstrated capability over decades of work in eastern North Carolina.”
In general, this viewpoint was shared by Beaufort County’s two Democratic delegates to the district-level meeting. Both delegates voted for Williams on all three ballots Friday night.
“I don’t know that lobbying is going to be required here,” said John Murphy, one of the two delegates.
“I think we need to establish a dialogue with (White), both the Democratic Party and the county commissioners, to make sure he’s aware of our particular needs, which in some ways are different from the rest of the district,” Murphy observed.
The Rev. David Moore, the other Beaufort County delegate, was resigned to what he saw as the reality of the situation.
“Well, there’s not much we can do now,” said Moore. “We have to get behind the winner and hope that the Republicans don’t come out too hard on us with redistricting.”
Redistricting — the redrawing of legislative district lines — will take place this year based on the results of the 2010 census. Since they control both chambers of the General Assembly, GOP lawmakers will drive redistricting.
Moore predicted some of the eight counties in Senate District 1 will be shifted around during this process.
“I think that what’s going to happen is the Republicans are going to redistrict, and when they redistrict, I think we’ll never be these eight counties again,” he forecast.
Larry Britt, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party, differed with his Democratic counterparts.
“I will say I’m glad it’s not Williams. The people of Beaufort County already rejected him,” said Britt, referring to Cook’s successful bid to unseat Williams in November 2010.
Asked whether he foresees any challenges for Cook and White if they’re called on to cooperate on local initiatives, Britt answered, “Not with Bill. I don’t know Mr. White, but I know Bill will work with anybody, but he’s not going to abandon his values, and he understood what people wanted when they put him in office.”
He added, “I didn’t expect anybody but a hard-core Democrat to replace Basnight.”