Sen. Richard Burr is running for re-election in North Carolina. His opponent, Deborah Ross, a Democrat, is giving him a tough race in what polls are deeming a tossup. The two will go toe-to-toe Thursday night in the state’s one and only Senatorial debate.
Burr, 60, a former Wake Forest football player, was first elected to the Senate in 2005. Before that, he was North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District representative starting in 1999. He said he gained interest in politics because he thought taxes were too high.
Here’s what you need to know about Burr:
1. Burr Has ‘Forgiven’ Trump for Lewd, ‘Indefensible’ Comments About Women
A 2005 video was leaked to media last week showing Trump and then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush talking, joking and laughing about women. Trump told Bush about his failed attempt trying to have sex with a married woman, and added later that he could “grab them by the p—y” because of his stardom.
While the comments angered some Republicans throughout the country, with some even disavowing Trump, Burr told the Raleigh News & Observer he’s still supporting Trump and that he’s “forgiven” the presidential candidate.
“I think what he said is indefensible, and I’m not going to try to defend him,” Burr told The News & Observer. “But as a son of a Presbyterian minister, my dad always taught me that when people ask for forgiveness, you should give it to them. He did that, and I’ve certainly forgiven him.”
North Carolina Democrats pounced on Burr after the Trump video surfaced, putting together an attack ad linking Burr to Trump:
Ross has made the Trump connection a sticking point in the hotly contested election. She reminded her Twitter followers that Burr is supportive of Trump:
“You hear and read comments like this from professional athletes frequently, and they’re entertainers,” Burr told the News & Observer. “Donald Trump was an entertainer and is in many ways. I don’t think this is something that we dwell on after somebody has asked for forgiveness.”
McClatchy reported that about 20 minutes before the Trump video was published on the Washington Post’s site, Burr was named one of Trump’s national security adviser. Trump’s announcement said Burr and fellow Congressmen were “some of the brightest minds in foreign policy, nuclear non-proliferation, combating ISIS and rebuilding our national defense.”
2. Burr Easily Defeated A More Conservative Primary Opponent
In a year where the so-called establishment politicians have had their records and history scrutinized by a more populist message, Burr faced a more conservative candidate in the North Carolina GOP primaries in March. Burr won the race 61 percent to Greg Brannon’s 25 percent. There were two other candidates in that race.
In that primary, Trump topped Sen. Ted Cruz for North Carolina Republicans’ choice for the White House.
Burr hasn’t won over some conservative critics, including the Conservative Review, which scored him at 39 percent on its Liberty Card — an F rating. In a post about Brannon’s candidacy announcement, the Conservative Review stated, “During his tenure in Congress, Burr voted to expand federal involvement in education, ardently opposed defunding Obamacare, and supported big government interests including subsidies and bailouts.”
Meanwhile, it touted Brannon as a better choice for individual freedom:
3. Burr Said Same-Sex Marriage Should Be A States Issue, But He Personally Opposes It
In an interview with WRAL in 2013, before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of national same-sex marriage, Burr said states should be free to dictate whether or not it should be legal.
The interview, in response to former North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan announcing her support for gay marriage, bounced between policy and personal differences with same-sex marriage.
“I think there’s a likelihood that the Supreme Court will say, ‘We should never even consider this because it will infringe on states’ rights,'” Burr said. “I believe that 50 states would be required then to make a determination then on what the definition of marriage is in their states.”
Burr added later: “My personal opinion is that it’s between a man and a woman, but my role is not to influence what people believe in the state I live in or what the state does that I live in. That’s one of the reasons I wasn’t very vocal as it related to Amendment One. North Carolinians need to figure this out. It doesn’t need to be figured out by the Congress of the United States.”
4. The North Carolina Republican Is The Highest-Ranking Senator Overseeing U.S. Intelligence
When he isn’t running for re-election in North Carolina, Burr spends his time in Washington, D.C., as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s chairman. The committee oversees, studies and reports on U.S. intelligence, including the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, cybersecurity and the CIA.
Burr’s first television ad this election cycle was centered on his chairmanship. In the 30-second spot, the narrator places blame on President Barack Obama for ISIS and says Burr is the response to terror threats:
According to the News & Observer, however, Burr hasn’t won many fans in the civil liberties arena because of his support of the American government’s use of technology and spying.
5. Burr’s Father Said They Are Distant Relatives to Aaron Burr, Who Shot Alexander Hamilton
Burr is married to his wife, Brooke, a real estate agent “graduated from Salem College in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics Management,” according to her bio. The couple has two sons, William and Tyler.