11/17/09 — U.S. Senate candidate makes stop in Goldsboro

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U.S. Senate candidate makes stop in Goldsboro

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 17, 2009 1:46 PM

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Kenneth Lewis

The election is still a year away, the primary isn't until May, but Kenneth Lewis of Chapel Hill is already on the campaign trail as he hopes to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

Lewis, a Democrat, was in Goldsboro Monday night -- a month after declaring his candidacy at his aunt's farm in Roxboro -- speaking to the Democratic Women of Wayne County at Wilber's Barbecue.

He explained that he chose that Person County farm to make his announcement because he felt it was symbolic of what his campaign is all about.

"My improbable journey to this moment began in many ways at the end of that long dirt road," he said.

It was on that farm, he explained, that his grandmother, a sharecropper, spent her last years. And it was on that farm that her 100 years of history and progress reached across generations, touching his daughter.

"And that progress didn't just happen. That progress was possible because many people worked on behalf of creating that progress," he said. "What they shared was a vision of what could be, and they were willing to work on behalf of making that vision a reality.

"That arc of progress really defines who I am, why I'm in this race and how I'm going to work in the U.S. Senate. I'm going to work on behalf of that progress" -- something he contends Burr hasn't done, citing Burr's votes for deregulation, his votes against the economic stimulus package and his stance on the current health care issue.

Hammering home his point, he pointed to Burr's now infamous directions to his wife about withdrawing as much cash as possible from their bank accounts at the beginning of the economic crisis last year.

"At the time we needed leadership, rather than provide leadership, our senior senator was the poster child for all that is wrong in Washington," Lewis said.

And that, he continued, is why he's running for office -- to provide a different kind of leadership.

"I'm not a career politician," he said. "I think we need more people in Washington who are connected to the lives of ordinary people.

"I am a living example of how investments on the front end of life pays dividends on the back end of life."

A graduate of Duke University and Harvard Law School, Lewis has 22 years of experience in business and community development law -- experience he plans to leverage in Washington, D.C.

For example, he explained, he would like to reform education to make better use of technology, particularly in rural areas. He also said he would like to see the government using its resources, through tax credits and other methods, to spur private innovation and investments in areas such as green industry.

"Government cannot solve all the problems, nor should it, but a smart government and an effective government can create opportunities for the private sector," Lewis said -- much like with the economic stimulus package.

"I'm not going to say it was a perfect bill, but it was a necessary bill," he said. "Without the stimulus package we were on the brink of slipping into a much more severe recession or depression and we pulled back from the brink."

Similarly, he also believes that the government has a role to play in improving and expanding health care coverage while reducing costs -- likely through a public option.

And it's because of his experience that he believes he can help the government make those kinds of strides -- more so than Burr and more so than his likely challenger for the Democratic nomination, North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

"I think she's been a fine secretary of state, but I think I possess a different set of life experiences and a different set of professional experiences, and I think I possess a different set of skills from those that can better benefit the people of North Carolina," he said.