ROCKINGHAM — Candidates for Richmond County’s state Senate seat are lining up endorsements from policy powerhouses and political heavyweights ahead of the Nov. 4 general election.
Democratic Sen. Gene McLaurin said Tuesday he’s earned the support of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the N.C. League of Conservation Voters. His Republican opponent, school board member Tom McInnis, has gathered GOP support from Capitol Hill.
“I’m proud that the North Carolina Chamber has endorsed me as a businessperson and I have the support of the conservation voters,” McLaurin said. “The business community and the protection of our natural resources can go hand in hand. You can do both.”
McInnis said fellow Republicans U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson have both made formal endorsements on his behalf. The Iron Horse Auction Co. owner also has the Auctioneers Association of North Carolina’s support.
“The challenge has been that since they’ve gotten out of session the last few days, they’re running behind on endorsements,” McInnis said. “We don’t really expect to have any group endorsements for probably another three or four weeks.”
The Libertarian Party of North Carolina has endorsed Libertarian state Senate candidate P.H. Dawkins of Hamlet in the three-man race for the District 25 seat.
Endorsements from many think tanks, trade groups and political action committees are forthcoming, as PACs cannot make candidate contributions while the General Assembly is in session.
Candidates in competitive races typically receive support from party leaders in addition to the boost they see from policy groups’ endorsements. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a probable Democratic gubernatorial front-runner in 2016, spoke at a June 26 fundraiser for McLaurin held at Discovery Place Kids.
“The North Carolina Chamber PAC proudly endorses Gene McLaurin for state Senate,” Lew Ebert, chamber president and CEO, said in a Tuesday statement. “Gene runs a business and understands what it takes to bring jobs back to North Carolina — specifically to rural parts of the state.”
McLaurin is president of Swink-Quality Oil and Gas.
Ebert said the Tar Heel State is open for business and named McLaurin as a driving force behind a statewide increase in jobs and a decline in the unemployment rate.
“North Carolina’s jobless rate fell more than any state in America in 2013, thanks to Senator McLaurin and other legislative leaders who had the courage to fix our broken unemployment insurance system and match workers with good jobs,” Ebert said. “There is work still to be done, and we know that we can count on a continued commitment to enhancing our state’s business climate from strong, jobs-minded legislators like Gene McLaurin.”
The League of Conservation Voters’ Conservation PAC included McLaurin’s name on a Monday endorsement list of 14 Senate candidates — six incumbents and eight challengers — and 21 House candidates — 11 incumbents and 10 challengers.
The group makes endorsement decisions based on incumbents’ environmental voting records and issue questionnaires sent to all candidates.
“I am proud to have the endorsement of N.C. League of Conservation Voters,” McLaurin said in a statement. “Our children and grandchildren are depending on their elected officials for safe and clean drinking water, land and air. As your state senator, I believe we can create good jobs and protect our natural resources.”
The first-term senator voted against a controversial state law that paved the way for hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina. Known as fracking, the process of extracting natural gas beneath underground shale has resulted in widespread opposition from environmental groups concerned with potential groundwater contamination.
“After two years of unprecedented anti-environmental attacks by the leaders of this General Assembly, we need these pro-conservation candidates to come to Raleigh and stand up for clean air, safe drinking water and the health of our communities,” Dan Crawford, the league’s governmental relations director, said in a statement. “The 2013-14 General Assembly passed a succession of bills weakening protections for clean air, water, and land; cutting funding for environmental enforcement and for conservation trust funds; fast-tracking the environmentally hazardous drilling method of fracking; and failing to require full cleanup of dangerous coal ash pits.”
The winner in November’s contest between McLaurin and McInnis will represent Senate District 25, which includes portions of Richmond, Scotland, Anson, Stanly and Rowan counties.
Analysts say direct-mail and television advertising typically do more to sway voters than endorsements from politicians and trade groups, but there’s still some value in having someone vouch for you.
“Endorsements help define a candidate,” University of North Carolina journalism professor Ferrel Guillory said this spring. “You can tell the candidates by the company they keep.”
Reach Editor Corey Friedman at 910-817-2670 and follow him on Twitter @RCDailyJournal.