Ernest Reeves, a retired Army captain from Greenville is the most obscure candidate in a primary race where polls show most Democrats aren’t familiar with any of the four contenders.
While his opponents show up to forums across the state accompanied by campaign staff, Reeves typically arrives alone. But he says he’s been traveling across the state to “all the events that I can go to” to spread the word about his self-funded campaign for U.S. Senate.
“I have just as good a chance to win as anybody else,” he said. “I’m running to give people a choice.”
Reeves ran in the Senate primary two years ago against the then-incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, getting 9 percent of the vote. He points out that more than 43,000 voters chose him. He notes that Hagan later lost to Republican Thom Tillis – and he sees current front-runner Deborah Ross as a similar candidate.
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“She is a career politician,” Reeves said. “We’re setting up the same campaign we did with Kay Hagan, and she’s going to get beaten by the Koch brothers.”
Reeves says he wants to tackle poverty with a plan modeled off President Franklin Roosevelt’s response to the Great Depression.
“I want a new 21st-century job creation bill like they did in 1933,” Reeves said. “We need to do it because poverty is so high.”
He calls for the federal government to create 10 million jobs over three or four years working on infrastructure projects – similar to what the Public Works Administration did in the 1930s. It’s unclear how such a program would be funded.
Like his opponents, Reeves wants to see an increase in the federal minimum wage. He thinks it should be raised immediately to $10.25 per hour and reach $15 by 2020. “I want to make sure that our business owners are not affected,” he said.
On immigration issues, Reeves takes a more moderate stance. “I’m not for the pathway for citizenship (for immigrants in the country illegally), I’m for the DREAM program and a pathway to stay,” he said.
He says he’s opposed to “sanctuary cities” where police are encouraged not to enforce federal immigration laws. “I want to work on immigration reform, but honest immigration reform,” he added.
Reeves spent 22 years in the Army as a communications officer, and he spent time in Germany, South Korea, Japan and the Middle East. He was appointed as the escort officer to U.S. Ambassador Paul Bremer in 2003. Reeves’ website lists his current work as “an entrepreneur, mentor, adviser, counselor and advocate for the elderly.”
Reeves said he decided to make a second run for Senate because he was unsatisfied with Republican Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr.
“I believe that we need to have access to the federal government as well as our state politicians,” he said. “I want to be the people’s voice in Washington, D.C.”
Ernest T. Reeves
Education: Bachelor’s degree in communications, St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh; associate’s degree in liberal arts, Highline Community College in Des Moines, Wash.
Professional experience: Retired Army captain and communications officer (1982-2004); former manager at United Airlines
Political/civic resume: Ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate against Kay Hagan in 2014 and for Greenville mayor in 2015