Under the Dome

Does ACLU work make Deborah Ross vulnerable to Burr? Her primary opponent says yes

Deborah Ross
Deborah Ross cliddy@newsobserver.com

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Griffin says his primary opponent, former state Rep. Deborah Ross, would face attack ads from Republicans about positions she took as state director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“You look at her history, and she had to take positions that I don’t think the people of North Carolina would agree with at all,” said Griffin, who owns a staffing firm in Durham and is making his first run for elected office. “If she wins the primary, she will spend the entire general election defending every action she took as the director of ACLU.”

Griffin’s campaign offered two old news articles as examples of potential attacks from Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican incumbent.

In 1997, Ross lobbied against legislation that launched the state’s sex offender registry. She argued that many sex crimes involve a family relationship, and that other family members might not want their neighbors to know about the incidents.

“The real concern is about people who have committed sex offenses within their families and what (public notification) will do to their families,” she said in 1997.

Griffin also pointed to Ross’ 2001 opposition to a bill allowing public schools to display the Ten Commandments. She said the display would be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and said the ACLU would sue.

Ross’ campaign manager, Dave Hoffman, said Ross would not comment on Griffin’s criticism. Instead, he issued a statement that didn’t mention Griffin or the ACLU.

“Deborah has always been a strong voice for individual opportunity and freedom and she looks forward to taking on Sen. Burr who has been part of the problem in Washington for far too long,” Hoffman said. “Instead of being the champion that North Carolina needs, Sen. Burr has voted against raising the minimum wage, against equal pay for women and voted to put our seniors’ retirement security in jeopardy.”

Griffin says Republicans would have a hard time attacking him because he has never held office.

“Do you attack me for running a small business?” he said. “If Richard Burr is running against me, he has to run for himself.”

Democrats struggled to line up a well-known candidate to challenge Burr. In addition to Ross and Griffin, Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey and Ernest Reeves – a retired Army captain from Greenville – are seeking the party’s nomination.

A December poll by Public Policy Polling found that about three-quarters of likely voters have no opinion about the Democratic candidates. The candidates are scheduled to meet in two televised debates ahead of the March 15 primary.