04/11/07 — Smith: Work in N.C. Senate won't suffer from campaign

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Smith: Work in N.C. Senate won't suffer from campaign

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 11, 2007 1:45 PM

State Sen. Fred Smith, R-Johnston, is campaigning for governor, but that doesn't mean he is ignoring his duties in the Senate.

"I think I'm meeting the needs of the people in my district," he said Tuesday after leading a devotional at the Tuesday Morning Men's Prayer Breakfast at Wilber's. "It just requires long days, but that comes with the territory.

"I'm working hard to be a good senator in the 12th senatorial district."

And, he continued, while it can be difficult for a Republican to be effective in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly, he's doing his best.

"What I'm trying to do up there is make a difference by pushing for bills that I believe will make a difference," Smith said. "We've got to do a better job in Raleigh."

One of the primary bills he is sponsoring is a state constitutional amendment to control state spending and preserve emergency funds -- legislation he said is even more important after watching the General Assembly spend a $2.8 billion budget surplus during the 2005-06 fiscal year.

"It was like a spending spree and now we're up there talking about cutting money to needed services," he said. "What we have is a budget that is shortsighted and only deals with the cash on the table. That's just not a sustainable model."

Smith also is working on state constitutional amendments to define marriage as being between one man and one woman and to prohibit the governmental seizure of property through eminent domain for economic development purposes, as well as a bill to raise the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state -- one of several initiatives to improve education that he is supporting.

"I believe education is important, but I think we need to turn it upside down. Education has changed. The student is the customer and we need an education system that meets the student's needs," Smith said, advocating not only charter schools and college prep courses, but also vocational education and other kinds of Learn and Earn programs.

Other measures that he is lending his support to include efforts to improve accessibility to affordable health care and to strengthen laws punishing child rapists.

But in between those efforts, Smith also is working hard to be elected governor in 2008.

After announcing his candidacy in Raleigh on March 23, Smith's first television commercial hit the airwaves early last week -- the first candidate to take that step.

Republican Bob Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice, is the only other candidate to officially file, though many expect Democrats Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and state Treasurer Richard Moore to run.

"Once I decided to run, it was incumbent upon me to be recognized," Smith said. "Name recognition is important. What I've got to do is take my message across the state to places where people don't know who Fred Smith is."

And right now, he continued, television is the best way to do that.

"We'll be getting out of the Senate by late July/early August. But now through the end of the session, I'll do my campaigning at night and on weekends. Once it's over, I'll campaign full-time," he added.

Fortunately on Tuesday, though, committee meetings didn't start until 11 a.m.

"I think it's important for public officials (to get out)," he said. "I think one of the problems is people get elected, get into Raleigh, get insulated and then run their re-election campaign on TV.

"That's why I come to these. I like listening to people. I believe a campaign should be a conversation between people and that's a two-way street."

Plus, he continued, it also helps people get to know him a little better -- particularly Tuesday in terms of his Christian faith, which is important to him.

"I think that faith is important. In many ways it affects who I am, my viewpoint," Smith, a regular Sunday School teacher, said. "Barack Obama (U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate from Illinois) says that people of faith don't have to check their faith at the door of the public square. They're entitled to bring their faith in. And I agree with him, but the public policy we adopt needs to be filtered through the prism of what's best for society and what's best for all the people.

"All I'm trying to do is make a difference."