Burr, Marshall are well off, but not wealthy

Both well off but not wealthy

staff writerJuly 27, 2010 

  • Sen. Richard Burr

    Hometown and party: Winston-Salem Republican

    Salary in 2009: $174,000 as U.S. senator

    Net assets: Between $1.3 million and $2.1 million

    Debts: Between $250,000 and $500,000

    Elaine Marshall

    Hometown and party: Lillington Democrat

    Salary in 2009: $123,198 as North Carolina secretary of state

    Net assets: Between $817,000 and $2.1 million

    Debts: None listed

    Source: Financial disclosure statements by the candidates

— Republican Sen. Richard Burr and his Democratic challenger, Elaine Marshall, are both financially well off, but neither would likely earn a second glance in a Senate that has been called "the millionaire's club."

Burr and his wife, Brooke, reported net assets of between $1.3 million and $2.1 million, according to a financial disclosure statement filed with the Secretary of the Senate office last month.

Marshall, the North Carolina secretary of state, reported assets between $817,000 and $2.1 million in her most recent report.

While both are financially more comfortable than the average North Carolinian, their wealth does not approach such multi-millionaire senators as Democrat Herb Kohl of Wisconsin ($214 million), Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia ($209 million) or Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts ($208 million), according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that tracks the influence of money in politics.

Nor are Burr and Marshall in the same economic neighborhood as former North Carolina senators such as Democrat John Edwards, Republicans Lauch Faircloth and Jim Broyhill or Democratic Senate candidate Erskine Bowles.

A rich past

North Carolina has had some very rich Senate candidates, said Tom Eamon, a political science professor at East Carolina University and the author of a forthcoming book on Tar Heel politics. "But Richard and Elaine are more typical of past campaigns," he said.

Burr's seat mate, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, had a net worth of between $2.8 million and $31.6 million in 2008, according to the center.

In many ways, this is the year of the uber-rich candidate - multi-millionaires and billionaires who are dropping big money in Senate and governors' races across the nation. In California, Meg Whitman, a former chief executive of eBay, spent $90 million of her own money to defeat, among others, Steve Poizner, who contributed $24 million from his own pocket in the GOP primary for governor.

Don't look for that here. Not being super rich means that neither Burr nor Marshall will be able to finance their campaigns by simply pulling out their checkbooks, although Marshall loaned her campaign $71,500 last year.

Both Burr and Marshall will have to rely on raising money from others, Eamon said. And because Burr has already raised $10 million, it means that Marshall has to seek the help of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the professor said.

Son of a minister

Both Burr and Marshall come from middle-class backgrounds.

Burr, the son of a minister, was national sales manager for Carswell Distributing before entering politics. He served 10 years in the U.S. House and the last five years in the Senate.

Burr has consistently ranked in the bottom half of the 100 senators in personal wealth. He ranked 78th in 2005, 63rd in 2006, 65th in 2007 and 68th in 2008, according to the center.

Among Burr's major assets were a residence and rental property on Capitol Hill valued at between $500,000 and $1 million and two financial accounts valued at between $50,000 to $100,000 each.

Much of Burr's wealth was tied up in his IRA retirement account. Candidates are not required to report the value of their personal residences or their automobiles in their financial disclosure statements.

His main liability is a mortgage of between $250,000 and $500,000 with Wells Fargo that he owes on his Capitol Hill residence.

His wife, Brooke, reported earning between $50,000 and $100,000 from a Winston-Salem real estate firm.

Burr's campaign declined to discuss his finances.

Farmer's daughter

Marshall, the daughter of a farmer, spent her career as a teacher, small business owner and attorney before being elected secretary of state in 1996.

Last year, Marshall's main source of income was her state salary of $123,198. Marshall, who lost her husband, Bill Holdford, to cancer last year, received a $24,000 survivor benefit.

Sam Swartz, Marshall's campaign spokesman, said her income was at the low end of the estimates.

Among her largest holdings are stock in Branch Bank and Trust and the Income Fund of America and Growth Fund of America, each valued at between $100,000 to $250,000. She also owned undeveloped land in Lineboro, Md., and Lillington, and an office building in Lillington, each valued at between $100,000 and $250,000.

"She didn't come from much money," Swartz said. "She worked hard her whole life. She pinched her pennies and saved."

rob.christensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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