Our choice in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race

The Observer editorial board

North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Deborah Ross speaks to the crowd before speaking at a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton in Charlotte, in July.
North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Deborah Ross speaks to the crowd before speaking at a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton in Charlotte, in July. AP

Fifty Republican foreign policy experts have said Donald Trump would be “the most reckless president in American history,” given his lack of experience and rash temperament.

Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, surely knows how dangerous the impulsive, thin-skinned political novice would be in the Oval Office. Burr, perhaps more than any Republican senator, should have taken a principled stand against Trump.

And yet, Burr has not. He has embraced Trump, putting his party and his own political expediency ahead of national security. Burr didn’t even back away when the videotape surfaced of Trump boasting about groping and assaulting women. Burr continued to stand by Trump after multiple women came forward to say it wasn’t just “locker-room talk.”

For that reason, among many, we do not support Burr’s quest for a third and (he says) final term in the Senate.

Burr’s Trump embrace hints at our broader problem with him. In this case, as in others, the 60-year-old Burr shows himself to be a consummate Washington insider, a go-along-to-get-along politician who routinely puts party before country.

For instance, he has joined other Republicans in refusing to give a hearing to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, the eminently qualified Merrick Garland. He has also blocked the nomination of highly-respected former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson to a federal judgeship in eastern North Carolina.

Burr also has blocked any public airing of a 6,000-page report into Bush Administration-era torture practices such as water-boarding. Instead of fulfilling his role as a check on powerful intelligence agencies like the CIA and the NSA, he seems to view himself as part of the intelligence establishment.

Burr, after all these years in the capital, seems better-known and more well-respected inside the beltway than here in North Carolina.

That perhaps explains why, rather than running primarily on the strength of his political brand, he’s taking misleading pot-shots at his lesser-known Democratic opponent, former state representative Deborah Ross.

Among other things, Burr and his allies contend that Ross, while leading the N.C. chapter of the ACLU, opposed creation of a state sex offender registry. But Ross has said she critiqued provisions she thought unwise, then ultimately voted multiple times to strengthen the state’s sex offender registry.

Burr insists she’s too liberal for North Carolina. There aren’t many former ACLU lawyers who wouldn’t qualify for that label.

However, Ross, 53, showed an ability to work with Republicans in the General Assembly to advance bipartisan legislation – for instance, a 1999 bill mandating insurance coverage for birth control. That’s a muscle she would need to flex as often as possible, should she become a senator for our politically divided state.

Ross’ time with the ACLU and in the state legislature gave her policy knowledge on subjects ranging from juvenile justice and racial bias to domestic violence and First Amendment disputes.

She is smart, energetic and ambitious. We see in her the makings of a strong, independent-minded senator – the kind Burr sadly is not.

Voters should give Burr an early retirement, and send Ross’s new energy and ideas to Washington instead.