Senate hopeful in North Carolina: ACLU work defended freedom

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Deborah Ross is taking head-on Republican criticism of her role with the American Civil Liberties Union, saying Wednesday the organization’s entire purpose is standing against government overreach.

Ross met with Associated Press reporters as she finds herself in a surprisingly close campaign with two-term GOP incumbent Sen. Richard Burr.

In ads and press releases, Burr’s campaign and a super PAC criticized Ross as too liberal, citing her “out-of-touch and extreme record” with the ACLU in the 1990s. Ross left her job as the state chapter’s executive director in 2002 to run for the state legislature, where she served for a decade.

Ross pointed to the organization’s recent court victory over a North Carolina election law as one way the ACLU fights for individual freedoms. A federal appeals court ruled last month that the 2013 law illegally targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision” to reduce their ability to vote.

Part of the law requires a photo ID to vote and reduces early in-person voting by seven days. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is considering whether to keep it in place for November’s elections.

“The organization, the ACLU, fights for individual freedom against government overreach, regardless of your race, religion, political belief,” Ross said. “Right now, people are seeing the American Civil Liberties Union in a positive light.”

The constitutionally protected right to burn an American flag has also become part of the campaign. Last week, Burr questioned why the ACLU would defend someone who burned the flag, but wouldn’t represent a man who wanted to fly the flag on a pole in his yard.

“I think that’s hypocritical,” Burr said, referring to a recent newspaper article about a Granite Falls man who in 2001 asked the ACLU to help him when he was told he couldn’t have the flag pole on his property. The man also was accused of violating several other deed restrictions.

Ross said she didn’t recall that specific request, and the ACLU wouldn’t become involved in a dispute involving residential land use.

The Senate contest was a statistical dead-heat with registered voters in North Carolina, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll release last week. The poll found 46 percent Ross supported, Burr backed by 44 percent and 9 percent undecided.


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AP reporter Gary Robertson contributed to this report.

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