Burr, Ross blast each other for missing votes, meetings

Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, left, and Democrat Deborah Ross
Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, left, and Democrat Deborah Ross

Much like the 2014 U.S. Senate race, attendance records are becoming a campaign issue as Republican Sen. Richard Burr faces off with Democrat Deborah Ross.

Two years ago, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan was criticized for missing 27 of 50 open Senate Armed Forces Committee meetings in 2013 and 2014. She also missed a meeting to attend a campaign fundraiser.

The N.C. Democratic Party is now criticizing Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr for missing Armed Services Committee hearings in 2009 and 2010. The Burr campaign countered by blasting Ross’ attendance record in the state House.

The Democrats released data this week showing Burr missed up to 58 of the 84 hearings the committee held during the two-year period. The incumbent has not served on the Armed Forces Committee in years.

The news release from the Democratic Party doesn’t address Burr’s attendance record in his current role as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose meetings often aren’t public.

“Sen. Burr is asking North Carolinians to re-elect him to a job he barely showed up for,” Democratic Party spokesman Matt Kravitz said in a news release.

Burr spokewoman Becca Watkins said the missed meetings were the result of scheduling conflicts with another committee. In his current role chairing the Intelligence Committee, she said, he has a “near perfect record of attendance.”

“Six and seven years ago, as the top Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Burr was required to lead hearings and attend bill mark-ups that overlapped with Armed Services Committee events,” she said. “That commitment sometimes required him to miss SASC hearings because they were regularly scheduled to start at the same time.”

The Ross campaign is requesting copies of Burr’s official schedule for the days when he missed meetings.

A day after the Democratic Party critique, Burr’s campaign issued a news release pointing to 150 N.C. House votes that Ross missed in 2009 and 2010. The missed votes represented 9 percent of all votes taken during that period.

Some of the missed votes took place while Ross was traveling abroad with the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. The group sponsors educational trips and forums, some of which have included participants from Burr’s staff.

“Ross’ preference for global travel over doing the work of the people in her district shows just how irresponsible Ross was during her time in the General Assembly,” the Burr campaign said in a news release.

The Ross campaign is pointing to news reports that Burr has taken a number of trips funded by lobbying groups, and notes that Ross supported the state ethics legislation that required her to publicly disclose her own travel.

“The reason we know about Deborah’s excused absences as part of a bipartisan program – similar to one that Sen. Burr’s own staff members participated in – is because she pushed for better disclosure laws here in North Carolina,” spokesman Cole Leiter said.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter