ROCKINGHAM — In her bid to replace Sen. Richard Burr, former state representative Deborah Ross has been crisscrossing the state — from the mountains to the Outer Banks — making stops in Anson and Richmond counties Saturday.
More than 50 people came to the Hampton B. Allen Library to hear her speak in Wadesboro, according to Beverly Getzen, who described the candidate as “a bundle of enthusiastic energy.”
“She really made everyone understand who she was and what she was for,” Getzen said after the event. “And I don’t think anyone else could have done it as well as she did. It was straight to the gut. She knows the issues, she spoke to them, she knows the things that are important to the electorate. And she is there for us. It was extraordinary.”
Getzen said Ross spoke mainly about tax issues and education.
“And she made a big point of talking about the veterans issues, and the fact that Burr is very happy to send all these soldiers off to war anywhere,” added Getzen’s husband, Rufus. “When they get back, he does nothing for them, for their health, for their education, nothing. He voted against every bill that would provide veterans benefits.”
The Getzens moved to Anson County 11 years ago to be with family after retiring from working with the government.
Beverly Getzen was with the Army Corps of Engineers during the Clinton and Bush administrations and said infrastructure is one topic not brought up by many candidates.
“She struck me as being very savvy,” Getzen said. “She knows what she’s speaking of, she’s not just a bag of wind.”
During her time in the area, which also included stops in Stanly and Montgomery counties, Ross stopped by the Pee Dee Orchards stand for peaches and peach ice cream.
“It seemed like the perfect summer thing to do,” Ross said prior to speaking at the newly opened Richmond County Democrat Party headquarters in Rockingham.
The crowd was considerably smaller, but included Ross’ former colleague in the N.C. House of Representatives Ken Goodman.
“When she would get up on the floor in the House, you could see all the Republican faces go pale,” Goodman, D-Richmond, said while introducing Ross.
Other elected officials in the audience were Dobbins Heights Mayor Antonio Blue, Ellerbe Councilman Jeremy McKenzie and Richmond County Clerk of Superior Court Vickie Daniel. Dannie Montgomery, who is challenging state Sen. Tom McInnis, was also there.
Lois Jones, chairwoman of the Richmond County Democrat Party, said that Ross was the first candidate to reach out to her during this election cycle.
Following Burr’s recent announcement that this would be his last time running, Jones said, “Let’s send him home early.”
“We just want to make sure we let him go out in a comfortable way,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a very good year for Democrats, from the top of the ticket to the bottom of the ticket.”
Ross said she has visited many small towns — which she called the “heart and soul of North Carolina” — speaking on economic issues, including criticizing Burr and his plan to privatize Medicare and his votes to cut Social Security.
“That’s what our seniors need right now,” she said. “We’ve got make sure that those benefits are there for people, that they’ve paid into.”
She also spoke on: equal pay for equal work for women, more as a “family issue” saying two-thirds of families rely on a woman’s paycheck to make ends meet; student loan debt and college affordability “and the importance of having access to community colleges in a 21st century economy;” and infrastructure, as it relates to job creation.
“Those things have been resonating wherever I go — mountains to the coast, Democrat, Republican and everything in between,” she said, adding that it’s important that areas with rich agricultural and manufacturing histories don’t get left behind.
“What I’ve found in a lot of the small towns is that either historic preservation, access to the internet, Main Street program grants — those are the kinds of things that help revitalize areas,” she said. “Obviously, if we can bring in manufacturing again, that would be fantastic. But there are small towns across North Carolina that have reinvented themselves — but not if they don’t have internet access. We need to make sure people have the 21st Century technology they need to be able to participate in the economy.”
Ross also criticized her opponent for voting to give tax cuts to companies who send jobs overseas.
“I want to give tax breaks to companies that create jobs here,” she said, “including infrastructure jobs, manufacturing jobs, all those kinds of things.”
With her father serving as chief psychiatrist for Strategic Air Command during the Vietnam War era, Ross said she understands the needs of the military, veterans and their families.
“We know it’s a dangerous world and we’re gonna have to send troops to other countries to protect us and to protect our allies — but sending them means that we owe them a commitment, too,” she told the crowd. “When our troops come home, we need to make sure that there are good VA benefits for them, job retraining, education assistance. That’s what we did for our troops when they came back from World War II, and look what they did to make this country a better place.
“Richard Burr talks a good game,” Ross added, “but just saying thank you for your service isn’t enough.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.