The top Republican and top Democrat in the N.C. Senate have something in common this Father’s Day weekend: Both have sons campaigning for statewide office.
Phil Berger Jr. and Dan Blue III have followed in their fathers’ footsteps.
Berger, a former Rockingham County district attorney who lost a 2014 GOP contest for Congress, is challenging Judge Linda Stephens for the N.C. Court of Appeals. It’s a nonpartisan race.
Blue, a Democrat running for state treasurer, faces former Employment Security Division leader Dale Folwell for the open job.
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Blue III and Berger Jr. are both fathers themselves.
As president pro tempore of the Senate, Phil Berger Sr. is one of the state’s most powerful officials — but when his son was young he was also a football and baseball coach.
While the elder Berger inspired his son to follow him in practicing law, the younger Berger said he encouraged his father to run for the Senate in 2000.
Phil Berger Sr.: “He had always been interested in the same sorts of things I’ve been interested in, history, politics, public service. Growing up, the advice his mom and I gave was, ‘Do your best, work hard and do things that you’re interested in.’”
Phil Berger Jr.: “There are certainly advantages to being part of a political family and there are also disadvantages, and those come in the way of people who view me one way simply because of who my father is as opposed to judging me by my record and what I’ve done.
“I was actually one of the ones who encouraged him to run for the Senate back in 2000 and let him know that I would pick up any of the work around the law office that was necessary. We made a decision to go out on our own and form our own law practice.”
Berger Jr. is an independent person, his father said. Rather than push his son into a specific career path or offer unsolicited advice, he said he has served as more of an adviser who answers his son’s questions.
Now a father of two boys, Berger Jr. appreciates the time his dad spent with him while working as a young attorney.
Phil Berger Jr.: “The love of sport and the lessons that you learn on a field is one of the things a lot of people wouldn’t see or know about my dad. Somebody that was working his way through law school who took time to coach football and was a young attorney who took the time to coach baseball are the sorts of things that leave an impression on a kid. My father’s influence is one of the reasons I’m so involved actively in my kids’ lives.”
Blue is the son of Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue Jr., whose long legislative career includes time as House speaker.
Though Blue III has served as Wake County Democratic Party chairman, this is his first run for public office.
Dan Blue III: “The state treasurer is one of the most important and probably least understood positions in all of state government. It’s very different from being in one of the legislative positions, but it’s one of tremendous responsibility and tremendous potential as well.”
Blue III said his father has helped him in the campaign by answering some of the small day-to-day questions, offered tips on balancing work and life in politics and explained strategies for communicating effective messages.
Dan Blue Jr.: “The most important thing I believe that any elected official can do is always know that it’s the people who you represent that are important. Your sole goal has to be to represent them to the best of your ability … Your loyalty has to be totally to the people that you represent no matter what level of government you’re at.”
Dan Blue III: “Father’s Day means a lot more to me now that I am a dad. I can appreciate everything that my parents, particularly my dad, have done for me and everything that their parents did for them. Now I’ve got two kids looking to me the same way I looked at my father.”