Saturday, November 03, 2012 1:10 AM
Sen. Buck Newton faces unusual race
Senator focuses on his own message as opponent remains in jail
By Jon Jimison | Times Editor
Sen. Buck Newton hasn’t really had a normal election race yet.
His opponent, Clarence Bender, is currently in the Nash County Jail under $300,000 bond and stands accused of trafficking prescription drugs.
And two years ago, a bitter battle between the Republican Newton and then-incumbent A.B. Swindell resulted in a defamation and libel lawsuit after Democrats erroneously accused Newton in campaign ads of selling drugs. Newton dropped the lawsuit this spring in a settlement agreement that included an apology from Democrats.
For Newton, 44, the Republican says he’s changed nothing about what he’s doing in this campaign since his opponent ended up behind bars.
"I’m running the same kind of campaign regardless of what is going on with my opponent,” Newton said. "I want folks to know where I stand and where my record is regardless of who my opponent is and what he is doing. I have changed nothing.”
"As to his problems, I have no other comment,” Newton said.
Newton’s district has changed since he took office. He used to represent Wilson and Nash counties. He still does, but the district also includes the northwest portion of Johnston County following statewide redistricting.
"With new districts and district lines, I think it’s very important to work hard in the new areas of the district,” Newton said. "I’ve been working hard to do that. Folks in Wilson probably know me the best having been born and raised and working there my entire professional life.”
Newton said he’s working to get to know the folks in Johnston County as well as getting to know the Nash County folks better. He’ll spend election day in all three counties.
There are about 190,000 residents in the district now.
Newton said he’s proud of his work in the Legislature, including lawmakers’ work balancing a $2.5 billion shortfall, finding ways to cut taxes and streamlining state government.
"There is more to do,” Newton said.
Newton cites education reform that began during the short session as important and putting more emphasis on shrinking K-4 class sizes.
Continuing education reform is a goal and challenge for lawmakers, he noted.
"I was pleased to lead the charge in the Senate on comprehensive annexation reform,” Newton said. "I’m very pleased to be successful in that effort. I was also very pleased to handle gun-law reform, such as the castle doctrine.”
Newton supported the still controversial fracking legislation, saying it sparks economic opportunities for North Carolina.
"Other states have done it safely for decades,” Newton said.
Newton also pulled off a successful legislative maneuver to add an amendment to the state budget to block tolling Interstate 95 for two years. The controversial Department of Transportation plan to toll I-95 has picked up opponents throughout eastern North Carolina.
"I was happy we were able to block tolling on 95 for two years,” Newton said. "Improvements are needed without resorting to tolls.”
Newton remains against tolls.
Another big goal for the Legislature is comprehensive tax reform, he said.
"A lot of work is going in that,” Newton said. "It will have long-lasting effect on businesses and the economy.”
Newton said as a general principle and philosophy he believes in open government and transparency in government.
"The media and public need to find out what is happening,” Newton said.
Newton was cosponsor of the proposed Sunshine Amendment, which ultimately didn’t "have the legs to get through.”
The measure would have written public access to records and meetings into the state constitution.
Newton describes this campaign as very different than his previous one in 2010, but said he works just as hard.
Last time around, Newton was challenging a 10-year incumbent in Swindell from Nash County.
At first, "I was working very hard to let folks know I was even running,” Newton said. "I was running a good campaign and made serious inroads in his support and had a poll showing me in the lead and my opponent reacted.”
That reaction, Newton said, included the controversial ads falsely accusing him of selling drugs 20 years earlier. Newton said the ads were not true and filed a high-profile lawsuit.
"I was able to disprove his allegations and folks were turned off by what he had done,” Newton said.
Earlier this year, Newton dropped his lawsuit against Swindell and the Democratic Party after receiving a signed apology from Swindell and the state Democrats.
Newton said all along it was a case of mistaken identity and the legal documents backed him up.
In the end, Newton won both Wilson and Nash counties, winning overall by just under 6 percent.
"They eventually stopped,” Newton said of the ads. "I suspect they realized they weren’t working.”
Newton said he’s looking to the future.
"I’m really looking forward to the next session and working with the new governor,” Newton said. "I believe that will be Pat McCrory.”
Newton said he expects to continue working on ElectriCities and electricity rates.
"I really don’t know how the process will take shape,” Newton said. "I intend to continue to work on this issue. It’s not going away. We have made significant progress on this issue and have a greater understanding of it.”
Bender was arrested earlier in October on drug charges.
Bender, 59, is currently a Castalia town commissioner, and has denied the charges against him. He was charged with four felonies, including trafficking opium or heroin and maintaining a vehicle/dwelling/place for drugs.
He told The Wilson Times he never sold drugs and would continue his campaign despite remaining in jail. He was still in custody Friday afternoon.
"Everything’s going to continue,” Bender has said.
Bender had complained earlier to the newspaper that he hadn’t picked up much support from Democrats, particularly in Wilson during his campaign.
The arrest hasn’t help his case with party leaders.
Nash County Democratic Party Chairman Marvin Arrington said he didn’t know Bender and had not recruited him for District 11.
"He decided to run. I didn’t know him; he filed on his own,” Arrington said. "He put us all in a bad situation, and now it’s worse.”
But when it comes down to this election, Arrington said he is telling people to still vote a straight Democratic ticket. Bender’s name will appear on the ballot. Individuals voting a straight Democratic ticket will be voting for Bender.
Arrington said although he isn’t happy with what has occurred, he is not telling anyone to vote for Newton. He said Democrats still want the seat.
Newton, an attorney, said after Bender’s arrest: "I am sorry to hear that. I think it is important to remember people are innocent until proven guilty. But the news is disturbing.”
Before his arrest, Bender complained he was often overlooked. He said his focus would be on jobs, the economy and education.
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I'm so glad I found my solutoin online. said...twindad said...
I'm so glad I found my solutoin online.
Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 6:20 AM
I'm so glad I found my solutoin online.
Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 6:20 AM
The title and substance of this article should be "Sen. Buck Newton has already won the race". Who are we kidding?!
Saturday, November 03, 2012 at 7:38 PM
Voting this way would also put Bibbs in office...then we would be sending 2 more crooks to Raleigh
Saturday, November 03, 2012 at 9:22 AM