Liberals losing a voice

Staff WritersFebruary 25, 2003 

One of Raleigh's most commanding liberal voices -- Chris Fitzsimon of the Common Sense Foundation -- is heading to Washington to work for the Rockefeller Family Fund.

Fitzsimon, a former television reporter known for his resonant bass voice, will be project director for the fund's Environmental Integrity Project.

Fitzsimon founded the Common Sense Foundation nine years ago after a stint working for then-House Speaker Dan Blue. A common sight at the General Assembly, he has fought the death penalty, sought better health care for the poor and generally spoken on behalf of the have-nots, who often have little pull on Jones Street.

"There was a big voice missing in state government," Fitzsimon said. "All decisions shouldn't be made by corporations with a lot of money that contribute to campaigns and hire lobbyists. The debate is much different than it was nine years ago."

Fitzsimon will have trouble extricating himself from the issues he has been so passionate about all these years. Even Monday, he was lamenting Gov. Mike Easley's proposal to pass a law limiting state spending growth.

"It might be good politics, but it's just disastrous policy, I think," he said.

Fitzsimon will remain at Common Sense through the end of the month. He is confident, he said, that the organization's mission will continue. A search committee is accepting applications, he said.

Bowie bows out

Rep. Joni Bowie of Greensboro on Monday gave up her claim to be second in command of the House.

Bowie had sent an e-mail message to her Republican colleagues Friday telling them the rumors that she would drop her candidacy for co-speaker pro tem were false.

Shortly after the November election, Bowie became the GOP caucus nominee, receiving more votes than any candidate for any contested House leadership office. But when Rep. Richard Morgan of Moore County bested two GOP caucus nominees for speaker, it became clear that Bowie's hold on the job was tenuous.

Last week, House Democrats confirmed an effort to pair their choice for speaker pro tem, Thomas Wright of Wilmington, with Morgan's choice. They said Morgan wants Rep. Julia Howard of Davie County for the job.

Bowie reminded her colleagues in the e-mail message of a pledge when she became the caucus nominee that "I would work with whoever was elected as the Republican speaker, and I would give them and the caucus members my full and utmost support. I remain committed to that pledge."

Her e-mail message concluded: "Hopefully we Republicans can join hands ... be inclusive and do the right thing ... "

Bowie had help on the e-mail campaign trail. Rep. Ed McMahan of Charlotte told 54 Republicans that they had pledged to support the caucus nominees in the weeks leading up to the session, and that meant they should back Bowie.

"I hope they will reconsider and have Rep. Wright and Rep. Bowie as our two choices," McMahan said.

It was for naught.

Bowie sent out a second message Monday to bow out.

"Am I disappointed?" Bowie wrote. "Absolutely, but in the spirit of unity I feel we should move on."

By staff writers Amy Gardner and Dan Kane. Gardner can be reached at 829-8902 or agardner@newsobserver.com

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