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Friday, October 22, 2010

Richard Burr Accuses Incumbent Elaine Marshall Of "Gutter Politics"

Burr, Marshall Clash In Final NC Senate Debate

The two major-party candidates for U.S. Senate on Thursday accused each other of lying in competing television ads and on the campaign trail and tackled the touchy issue of whether gays and lesbians are born or choose to be that way.

During their final debate before the election, Incumbent Democratic challenger Elaine Marshall accused Republican Richard Burr of having views on homosexuality that are "wrongheaded and discriminatory" when discussing whether they agreed with the policy barring gays from serving openly in the military. But Burr said she didn't listen to him and was trying to inject race into a discussion of gay rights.

Burr said the "don't ask, don't tell policy" has worked. When asked by moderator Judy Woodruff how he viewed gay behavior, Burr said he wasn't "sure that any of us know whether it's genetic or by choice. And I'm not sure that's even relevant that somebody chooses that lifestyle and how it might then impact our policies."

Marshall, who said earlier that being gay isn't a matter of choice and wants the policy repealed, said "there is ample evidence that it is biological and Sen. Burr obviously believes it's by choice."

"We shouldn't be judging people by the color of their hair, the color of their eyes, the color of their skin or other factors that they have no control over," she added. "That's wrong in America and what he's talking about is governmental discrimination."

Burr shot back: "I made it very clear what my position was, but don't bring race into this."

Although both candidates said Congress, not courts, should decide the policy's future, the sharp exchange capped a testy one-hour debate at the University of North Carolina studios less than two weeks before the Nov. 2 election and one week into the early voting period.

Each candidate harped on what they're saying about the other in television commercials.

Burr accused Marshall, North Carolina's secretary of state since 1997, of telling untruths on the campaign trail by accusing him of voting for bad trade deals and focusing upon his 2008 vote on the bank bailout. Burr, who defended his bailout vote and said he voted later against expanding it to invest in automobile and insurance companies, argued it was Marshall who has changed her mind during the campaign on whether she would have voted for it.

Burr tried to set the tone early by saying his 2004 Senate race with outgoing University of North Carolina System President Erskine Bowles was congenial and "we never made up things." He suggested Marshall was.

"The tactic may be to go in the gutter, secretary, but I'm not going there," Burr said.

Marshall said Burr approved financial deregulation while in Congress that led to the mess in financial industries the nation found itself in two years ago. She also countered that Burr's TV commercial saying she was for a cap-and-trade plan to reduce greenhouse emissions was just not true.

Marshall said after the debate that the "gutter" comment was designed to scare her but it didn't work. Her campaign said later Burr was mischaracterizing his race with Bowles.

Seeking to draw in undecided voters struggling in the sputtering economy, Marshall tried to cement herself as the outsider candidate in the race and that Burr, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1994, listens more to special interests.

Burr "has been there for 16 years as he's just part of that club," Marshall said. "I'm not."

Burr said it's government who has stood in the way of improving the economy. Until Washington brings predictability on taxes and policies to people seeking the American dream, he said, "I'm not sure we can hope that our neighbor will find a job."

The debate, the second hosted by the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation at the University of North Carolina Television studios in 10 days, didn't include Libertarian Mike Beitler because surveys failed to show him with at least 10 percent support. About a dozen Beitler supporters holding placards getting debate attendees. Beitler participated in a League of Women Voters debate Oct. 13.

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Sources: WCNC, Google Maps

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