Democratic Sen. Joel Ford, who’s running for mayor of Charlotte, said Wednesday that he’ll voluntarily reimburse the state for legislative per diem money he took on days he missed.
Ford’s comments came a day after his campaign said that he “has canceled travel reimbursements and per diem payments … in preparation for the mayoral campaign’s rigorous months ahead.”
Records show that Ford has missed all or part of at least 17 days of the session and has excused absences for 65 votes through Tuesday. He has cast 184 of 252 possible votes. That’s fewer than all but one member of the Senate.
Ford said he released Tuesday’s statement in anticipation of attacks on his legislative record. He faces incumbent Mayor Jennifer Roberts and Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles in the Democratic primary.
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“I know in this season people are looking for attacks,” he told the Observer. “And so I’m trying to be truly a husband and a father, a business executive, a state legislator and a candidate for mayor of Charlotte.”
Ford, who is in Charlotte this week, said he plans to be in Raleigh for “important votes” and to maintain constituent services.
Lawmakers make $104 a day and get 28-cents-a mile travel reimbursement. For a 330-mile round-trip to Charlotte, that’s about $92. Most legislators make an annual salary of $13,951.
Ford works for Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, North Carolina’s largest state-funded mental health managed care organization. He makes $150,000 a year as vice president of community development. Among other things, he oversees development of an $11 million Cardinal project in Winston-Salem.
Sam Spencer, Roberts’ campaign manager, alluded to Ford’s missed votes last week. On Wednesday he and Lyles declined comment.
Ford alluded to the limited ability for Democrats to affect legislation in the Republican-dominated Senate.
“I’m doing both jobs effectively given the fact that there are 35 Republicans and 15 Democrats,” he said.