Richardson positioned for Senate run?

Published 1:20 am Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson recently was appointed to the board of the Northeast Commission, fueling speculation he’s positioning himself to run for a state Senate seat next year.

Based in Edenton, the Northeast Commission is one of seven regional economic development groups established and funded by the N.C. General Assembly.

Hood Richardson

Richardson was appointed to a two-year term on the economic development board by state Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.

Berger is president pro tempore of the Senate.

Also appointed to the commission board was Mark Hamblin, a former Washington councilman. Hamblin was appointed by state House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg.

Richardson, a Washington surveyor and engineer, said he learned of the appointment about two months ago.

The Republican said he didn’t seek the appointment, and he indicated he doesn’t see his service on the commission board as a step toward building a broader political base.

“I don’t know how the two are linked,” he said. “I still haven’t decided, and will not decide for some time, what I’m going to run for.”

In an interview last month, Richardson suggested he was weighing a run for a seat in the Legislature.

He has run unsuccessfully for legislative seats in the past.

“I’m going to run for something,” he commented early in July.

Richardson was adamant that he would not run against first-term state Rep. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort.

Cook has said he will seek re-election in 2012.

This leaves open the possibility Richardson could launch a bid for office in the 1st Senate District. District 1 currently is represented by Sen. Stan White, D-Dare.

Though Richardson on Tuesday wasn’t making any commitments to a Senate run, he did highlight his priorities for the commission.

“I hope that we can get ourselves headed in the direction of trying to build an industrial base for the people who don’t have jobs in eastern North Carolina,” he commented.

Pushing tourism isn’t high on Richardson’s list.

“That’s a fleeting market,” he said. “We need something that’s repetitive, annual, a regular business if you will.”

Yet, tourism is one focus of the commission. This was confirmed in an interview with Vann Rogerson, president and chief executive officer of the organization.

“Tourism has certainly been one area” the commission has identified as helping to make the 16-county region it serves globally competitive, Rogerson said.

It’s hoped a commission-coordinated study on the possibilities of heritage tourism will lead to $1 million in federal matching funds to market tourism projects in the 16-county area, he said.

“We look forward to working with our new (board) members because they are going to have to tell that rural story so that we can increase the wealth and opportunities in the region,” Rogerson said.

Bo Lewis is a retired executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce. He serves on the commission board with Richardson.

Lewis attended a recent commission meeting with Richardson.

“I’m all northeast partnership, and I hope he is, too,” he said of the county commissioner.