This year’s U.S. Senate race has brought millions of dollars in spending and a barrage of attack ads, often painting not-so-nice images of the contenders in 30-second blasts.
To get beyond the caricatures and talking points, we asked the three candidates – Republican Sen. Richard Burr, Democrat Deborah Ross and Libertarian Sean Haugh – a series of 20 personal questions.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. My favorite (movie, TV show or book) about politics is:
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Burr: “I don’t have any favorites. Politics isn’t fun. (Pause) What’s the one on Netflix that I watch? ‘House of Cards’? That’d probably be it.”
Haugh: “The Candidate” with Robert Redford
Ross: “The American President.”
2. My biggest pet peeve is:
Burr: “(When) people criticize me about not wearing socks. (Plus), I hate to be tardy.”
Haugh: “See, post-heart attack, I’ve been trying to let go of all that stuff. But – people who drive 15 miles under the speed limit.”
3. On my first date with my spouse, we:
Burr: “Went to the beach.” (It was 40 years ago – he was 21.)
Haugh: “I met her in a Libertarian meeting.”
Ross: “We went to Margaux’s” (a North Raleigh restaurant that’s still in business today)
4. My favorite U.S. Supreme Court justice is:
Burr: “(The late Antonin) Scalia.”
Haugh: “Justice (Stephen) Breyer”
Ross: “Sandra Day O’Connor”
5. My career goal at age 11 was:
Burr: “Professional athlete.”
Haugh: “To be president – I got smarter.”
Ross: “To be a doctor.”
6. The last book I read was:
Burr: “Lone Survivor,” by Marcus Luttrell. (The full title is “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.”)
Haugh: “‘A Distant Mirror’ by Barbara Tuchman” (The full title is “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century” – it’s a history of medieval Europe)
Ross: “‘Bookends’ by Patricia Ferguson, a former county commissioner in Bertie County, about poverty.”
7. The public event or person who has shaped my political philosophy the most was:
Burr: “(Ronald) Reagan.”
Haugh: “Barry Goldwater.”
Ross: “Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.”
8. My proudest accomplishment as a public official has been:
Burr: “Probably the passing of the ABLE Act. ... I think that’s what (government) is for.” (The ABLE Act, passed in 2014, amends the tax code to allow for tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities.)
Haugh: “Helping my party grow. It’s really the most gratifying thing to me ... helping us get bigger vote totals than we’ve received before.”
Ross: “I have a lot of proud accomplishments as a public official. One of them was the comprehensive ethics reform that we did in the wake of Jim Black (the House speaker convicted of corruption). That’s was a pretty big deal. Also comprehensive domestic violence reform and the Museum of Natural Sciences (expansion).”
9. A vote I wish I could take back is:
Burr: “I’m not sure there’s one I’d take back.”
Haugh: “I don’t know that I have one, to be perfectly honest. I spent two weeks when I was in college volunteering for the first George Bush presidential campaign in 1980. It set me straight.”
Ross: “Well, I’m going to stand on my record.”
10. A foreign leader I really admire is:
Burr: “The King of Jordan. King Abdullah. He’s been thrown everything. He manages to hang on.”
Haugh: “The Dalai Lama. I really admire him for being spokesperson for peace and unity as well as justice for his own people. I also admire Pope Francis a lot for similar reasons.”
Ross: “There are a lot – Aung San Suu Kyi (of Myanmar) and (German chancellor) Angela Merkel.”
11. If I could travel across the country with any person in history, it would be:
Burr: “Teddy Roosevelt. Because he had a love of the land. And that’s what most Americans don’t realize about this country – the geographical diversity. You can go someplace in the United States and see (among) the most beautiful places ... in the world.”
Haugh: “Mark Twain – I know that’s probably a hackneyed one, but he and I would do a lot of the same things.”
Ross: “Abraham Lincoln.”
12. My nickname is/was:
Burr: “Burrhead” (back when he was young and his hair was long).
Haugh: “I don’t have one. People called me names, but I never had a nickname. My name is hard to spell – I realize that I have a lot emotionally invested in my name. I’ve always been very attached to my name.”
Ross: “My nickname is Deb for people who really know me. But the only real nickname I’ve ever had was my dad used to call me Ace.”
13. Multiple choice: The mountains or the beach?
Burr: “The beach because of my wife.”
Haugh: “The mountains.”
Ross: “I like the beach better.”
14. My favorite song is:
Burr: “I’m an odd one. I listen to anything country and anything classical. Two great extremes. When I’m really in the car, I’ll cut on Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons.’ That’s probably the thing that’s soothing to me the most.”
Haugh: “’I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun” by Rotary Connection. They were a psychedelic band from the ‘60s.”
Ross: “I have a lot of favorite songs. One of them is Lyle Lovett’s version of ‘If I Needed You.’”
15. On an ideal Saturday, I would:
Burr: “Work around the house.”
Haugh: “I would watch my Oklahoma Sooners win a football game.”
Ross: “Take a long walk, go to the farmers’ market, have lunch with friends, go to the movies with my husband.”
16. If I could watch only one hour of TV every week, it would be:
Burr: “Bret Baier’s show on Fox (News).”
Ross: “I’m kind of boring – I like to watch the Newshour on Friday nights.”
17. My spouse and children think I’m too:
Burr: “I’d say thrifty.”
Ross: “Too much of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to him leaving things strewn around the house. He’s messy and I’m neat.”
18. My least favorite thing about holding public office is:
Burr: “That my job is in Washington.”
Haugh: “Having to spend so much time in Washington, D.C.”
Ross: “You don’t have control over your schedule.”
19. The one thing that helps me get through long campaign days is:
Burr: “What keeps me going is the interaction with the people I’m going to see at the next stop.”
Haugh: “I’m always having fun with it. This is another question where I don’t fit in. I don’t really have long campaign days. Post-heart attack, I’m still recovering. Part of my doctor’s instructions is when I feel like I’m pushing myself too hard, don’t push through it, just stop.”
Ross: “People – I always have energy for people. So if it’s an event that involves interacting with people, I’m always going to find it.”
20. The one thing my opponent has said about me that has really bothered me is:
Burr: “The fact that she has insinuated that I’ve gone to Washington and only looked after myself. For anybody who knows me, they know that is 100 percent crap.”
Haugh: “What bothers me is they don’t talk about me. They’re both trying to ignore the fact that I exist. I found out that it was both of them that insisted I not be in the debate.”
Ross: “That the people of North Carolina don’t value the Constitution.”
Hometown: Born in Charlottesville, Virginia; grew up in Winston-Salem.
Education: Bachelor of arts, Wake Forest University, 1978.
Professional experience: National sales manager for Carswell Distributing, 1978-94.
Political resume: U.S. House, 1995-2005; U.S. Senate, 2005-present.
Family: Wife Brooke, a real estate agent, and two adult sons, Tyler and William.
Religious affiliation: United Methodist.
Burr factoids: The son of a Presbyterian minister, Burr played football at Reynolds High School and Wake Forest University. He’s a distant relative of Vice President Aaron Burr, who shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel. And Burr doesn’t usually wear socks. “I just grew up that way,” he says.
Education: Tufts University
Professional experience: Pizza delivery driver
Political resume: Former chair and executive director, Libertarian Party of North Carolina; former political director, Libertarian National Committee
Family: Spouse Pam Adams, 2 dogs (Obie and Mali), 2 cats (Buster and Benny)
Religious affiliation: None
Haugh factoids: While he says he could do other jobs, Haugh prefers to make his living delivering pizza. “I've never enjoyed greater job satisfaction,” he says. While his opponents campaign with expensive ads, Haugh addresses voters with a friendly “Howdy!” in YouTube videos in which he sips craft beer while outlining his platform.
Education: Law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill; bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brown University
Professional experience: General counsel for regional transit agency GoTriangle, 2013-2015; former state director, American Civil Liberties Union
Political resume: N.C. House of Representatives, 2003-2013
Family: Married to Steve Wrinn, no children
Religious affiliation: Christian
Ross factoids: The daughter of an Air Force doctor and a preschool teacher, Ross left a corporate law job to join the ACLU in 1994. In the legislature, she often partnered with a political opposite – staunch social conservative Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam – to develop bipartisan bills.