04/07/04 — Bowles says he's focused on east's needs

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Bowles says he's focused on east's needs

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on April 7, 2004 2:06 PM

Erskine Bowles wanted to go to Congress two years ago to help improve the lives of rural North Carolinians, he said then.

He still does, he said Tuesday.

"It's been a long time since we've had a senator who was truly focused on our needs," Bowles said during a visit to the News-Argus.

Erskine Bowels


As the chairman of the N.C. Rural Prosperity Task Force, Bowles gained the knowledge of how to help the high-unemployment areas down east and in western North Carolina, he said.

Bowles understands the political culture in Washington, having served as both the head of the Small Business Administration and White House chief of staff under President Clinton.

And he gained valuable political experience during his first campaign, against Elizabeth Dole for one of North Carolina's seats in the U.S. Senate, he said.

"You learn so much when you run for the first time," Bowles said. "I feel more seasoned, more at ease."

Bowles, a Democrat, is running now for the other Senate seat, held by John Edwards. Edwards, a possible vice presidential nominee, does not plan to seek re-election.

The only Republican to announce for the seat is U.S. Rep. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem.

Bowles campaigned Tuesday in Goldsboro. He talked to the Rotary Club in the afternoon, met with Seymour Johnson personnel and attended a fund-raising reception at the home of Phil Baddour, a classmate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

If elected, his first priority would be to get people back to work, he said.

Bowles has recently announced a job creation plan, including a buyout for tobacco farmers at $8 per pound for quota owners and $4 per pound for growers, investment in small business and a repeal of tax breaks that encourage companies to move jobs overseas.

He would also stop all new trade agreements until Washington cracks down on illegal imports. All existing trade agreements need to be enforced, he said.

Bowles would not favor any tax increases and supports most of the tax breaks that were pushed by the Bush administration, including the elimination of the marriage penalty, he said.

As White House chief of staff, he had helped President Clinton pass a balanced budget in 1997, he noted. That was done primarily through spending cuts, he added.

He praised Sen. Dole for her work on a tobacco buyout bill. If elected, he would sign on as a sponsor and work hard to get it passed, he said.

Born in Greensboro in 1945, Erskine Bowles was the second of four children of Jessamine and Hargrove "Skipper" Bowles. Skipper Bowles was a businessman; the head of the N.C. Department of Conservation and Development (now the N.C. Department of Commerce ) under Gov. Terry Sanford; a member of both the N.C. House and N.C. Senate; the Democratic nominee for governor in 1972; and later the chairman of the board of trustees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Erskine Bowles graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a business degree in 1967. He earned his MBA from Columbia Business School in 1969. In 1975, Bowles founded what would become Bowles Hollowell Conner, an investment banking firm specializing in middle market transactions.

In 1993, Clinton asked Bowles to head the Small Business Administration. Bowles reorganized the agency and increased the number of loans awarded to businesses owned by minorities and women. Bowles served as deputy chief of staff to the president from October 1994 to December 1995. He was responsible for the coordination of the government's response to the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

In December 1996, Clinton appointed Bowles as chief of staff, a position he resigned from in November 1998.

Bowles and his wife, Crandall, have three children in their 20s: Sam, Annie and Bill.