This guy has been in office for 1/4 of a century! Another reason for term limits! Read on.
From the Washington Daily News
One of the state’s leading newspapers has said its time for Senate leader Marc Basnight to go, and time for new leadership in that chamber.
In a Sunday editorial, the Winston-Salem Journal noted that Basnight, D-Dare, is rapidly losing key allies in the Senate as other long-serving leaders tender their resignations.
“This would be a good time for Basnight to say goodbye, too,” the Journal opines of the Senate president pro tempore.
The editorial has prompted strong reaction from Beaufort County officials and leaders throughout northeastern North Carolina who say that Basnight has served the state and region honorably and should continue in his Senate post.
“With Basnight controlling the Senate for so long, the coastal counties have had disproportionate political influence,” the editorial also said. “Much pork has flowed to his district, and some necessary reforms stalled because of coastal opposition.”
“That’s a lie,” said Tom Thompson, director of the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission. “The coast has not had disproportionate influence in Raleigh. Everyone across the state has had fairly equal access to the office of president pro tem of the Senate.”
“No one can look at eastern North Carolina and say, ‘Look at all the gravy we’ve got’,” he said. “I’d challenge them to say where it is.”
Thompson also said that with the redrawing of state legislative districts following the 2010 Census, eastern North Carolina stands to lose political influence even if Basnight remains as Senate leader. If Basnight doesn’t stay, “eastern North Carolina is going to hear a giant sucking sound” as lawmakers from the Piedmont steer more state money to their region, he said.
Schorr Johnson, Basnight’s spokesman, responded to the Journal’s call by saying the senator answers to the people in his district and his Senate colleagues. He added that the senator was traveling out of state this week and might not have read the opinion piece in question.
An attempt to reach Basnight by phone was unsuccessful.
Johnson reiterated that Basnight intends to seek re-election.
“The people who live in the first senatorial district are the ones who elect him and then, as pro tem of the Senate, the members of the Senate elect their pro tem,” Johnson commented. “What a newspaper in Winston-Salem has to say would probably have no bearing whatsoever on his thinking or plans.”
Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, said that under Basnight’s leadership northeastern North Carolina has finally received some of the recognition that it deserves and some of the benefits of having a native son among the state’s most powerful politicians, but not at the expense of other areas of the state.
Owens represents the 1st House District which includes Camden, Currituck, Pasquotank and Tyrrell counties, which are also represented by Basnight in the state Senate.
“It’s truly ridiculous. Senator Basnight has worked tirelessly for the entire state,” Owens said in an interview Thursday afternoon. “Whoever wrote that article should be ashamed.”
Addressing regional matters, the editorial contends that it’s “time for another part of the state to enjoy the benefits that derive from having a president pro tem. Should an urban senator get the job, for example, it might be easier to shift road-construction funding formulas to give cities and suburbs a more share (sic) proportional to their populations.”
Sen. Linda Garrou, D-Forsyth, disagreed with her hometown newspaper’s assessment of Basnight in an interview with the Daily News.
Garrou, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and one of the Senate’s leaders, said Basnight should stay in the Senate “as long as he is willing to serve” and that she would “lead the charge” if Basnight opts to retain his post as Senate president pro tem.
“There will never be another president pro tem with the desire to serve North Carolina as strong as Senator Basnight,” she said. “He cares for the whole state and has set an example for the entire Senate.”
Basnight has been elected to serve 13 terms in the Senate, or, so far, about a quarter-century.
Basnight has been dogged by questions about his health recently. He has revealed that he has a rare nerve illness, though in May his doctor told the Charlotte Observer that the disease isn’t fatal and doesn’t impact the senator’s cognitive abilities.
In a recent Daily News interview, Basnight indicated that he still is fit to serve, and stated that his condition hasn’t changed over the past two years.
“It affects my coordination and my speech, and that’s what it does,” he said. “I’m the same today I was last year and two years ago, so it doesn’t change.”
Recently, Basnight has been confronted with the loss of some of his top lieutenants in the Senate, including former majority leader Tony Rand and finance co-chairman David Hoyle, D-Gaston.
Sen. R.C. Soles, D-Columbus, the longest-serving senator in the state, has announced that he won’t seek re-election.
The Daily News also sought local reaction to the Journal editorial.
“I’ve agreed with the editorial for a long time,” said Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson, a Republican.
“The problem is if you want government to continue as it has in the past, with ever increasing taxes and more burdens on the citizens, then you need to vote for Sen. Basnight to stay in office,” he said.
Richardson acknowledged that Basnight’s seniority has bearing on the influence wielded by northeastern counties.
Beaufort County Commissioner Robert Cayton offered his unqualified support for Basnight.
“Eastern North Carolina has faced many challenges,” said Cayton, a Democrat. “Sen. Basnight has helped us overcome them, and we are stronger today because of his capable leadership.”
Speaking of redistricting, Cayton added, “Certainly, as we look at the 2010 Census and we see a lot of resignations in the Senate, we realize that there is going to be substantial change in the General Assembly.”