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Ex-House leader stumps for Steinburg

031018SkipStam

Former state House Speaker Pro Tem Paul "Skip" Stam (center) chats with former Elizabeth City Mayor Joe Peel (right) during a fundraiser for state Rep. Bob Steinburg (seen at left in background), a candidate for state Senate, at the Culpepper Inn in Elizabeth City, Saturday. Stam's grandson, Aidan Stam (left), listens to the conversation.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Former state House Republican leader Paul ”Skip” Stam campaigned in Elizabeth City on Saturday for state Senate hopeful Bob Steinburg, calling his former colleague a consistent supporter of conservative principles.

Steinburg, an Edenton resident who currently represents the 1st District in the state House, is seeking the state Senate seat in District 1 and faces Dare County businessman Clark Twiddy in the May 8 Republican primary. The winner will take on the winner of a Democratic primary in the November election.

Stam, a former House speaker pro tem who served in the chamber from 2003 to 2016, said Steinburg has a voting record from three House terms that shows him to be a supporter of conservative policy initiatives such as school choice, traditional marriage, restrictions on abortion, voter ID, and reducing the corporate income tax.

Interviewed prior to his appearance at a Steinburg fundraiser at the Culpepper Inn, Stam said he doesn’t know Twiddy personally and doesn’t really know his politics.

“But he has extremely bad judgment in whom he supports if he’s a conservative Republican,” Stam said. “It gives me great concern.”

Stam said his concerns about Twiddy stem from the Dare businessman’s past financial support of Democratic leaders such as Roy Cooper and Marc Basnight. Basnight, a successful restaurateur in Dare County, became one of the most powerful officials in the state as a longtime president pro tem of the N.C. Senate.

Stam said that even while he liked Basnight personally, “I would never have given him a dime to further his agenda for North Carolina.”

Stam, who is now an attorney in private practice in Apex, said that around the same time in 2010 that he and other Republican leaders announced a conservative agenda for the state that included school vouchers, a waiting period for abortions, voter ID and a reduction to the corporate tax rate, Twiddy made a contribution to Basnight.

While that contribution and one to current Gov. Roy Cooper’s gubernatorial campaign don’t prove Twiddy is not a conservative, Stam said they do draw a sharp contrast with Steinburg’s consistent voting record in support of a conservative agenda and his strong advocacy for that agenda both in committee and floor debates.  

“Some people just sit up there and vote but Bob debated a lot,” Stam said.

Twiddy doesn’t deny making contributions to Democratic candidates in the past. He calls them “a mistake” and something he wouldn’t do “if I had it to do over.” However, he also tries to put them in perspective.

“At the time of these contributions, many of us involved in the real estate rental industry were concerned about new services like Airbnb and how the state guidelines we operate under applied to this new service,” Twiddy said of the donation to Cooper, who defeated then sitting GOP Gov. Pat McCrory in November 2016.

Twiddy claims the donation to Cooper was made 15 months before the state’s then-attorney general announced he planned to run for governor. He claims he supported McCrory’s election bid and says he’s donated five or six times as much to Republican candidates as he ever contributed to Democrats.

“I fully supported Gov. McCrory and gave substantially more to McCrory and in fact, I have given more contributions to Bob Steinburg over the years than to Cooper,” Twiddy said. “I regret the contribution to Cooper — much like Donald Trump regrets his contributions to the Clintons.”

Twiddy in fact points to Trump’s example, noting the past donations the then-GOP hopeful gave to both Bill and Hillary Clinton proved to be no handicap with GOP voters in the 2016 presidential primary.

“If that didn’t stop them from voting for Donald Trump then I don’t see why it’s an issue now,” Twiddy said.

And like Trump, Twiddy notes that at the time he gave money to Democrats “I had no idea I was going to run for office.”

As far as the contributions to Basnight are concerned, Twiddy said, “that was a different time in North Carolina.” He noted that Republicans were not in power in Raleigh then. Basnight and the Democrats were.

Twiddy said his past motivation as a business owner and employer in making donations to political candidates was to have good relations on both sides of the aisle. As the second-largest private employer in Currituck County and one of the largest employers in Dare County, Twiddy said he has a lot of people depending on him, so he has to consider their interests and concerns as well as his own. 

Asked about the issues that Stam cited as examples of the conservative agenda he claimed Steinburg has fought for in Raleigh, Twiddy said he supports those conservative positions.

Twiddy said he supports voter ID. Voting is precious because it is one of the rights that the nation’s military personnel have fought to defend, he said. 

“If you have to have an ID to get Sudafed then it makes sense that you would have to have an ID to vote,” Twiddy said.

Twiddy said he also supports the state’s 72-hour waiting period for a woman to get an abortion.

“I think that’s a great idea,” Twiddy said.

Twiddy said he supports reducing the corporate income tax.

“I support lowering the corporate tax rate and more importantly, reducing many of the restrictions that hinder North Carolina's small businesses, which are the economic engines that drive our economy,” he said.

Tax cuts for corporations are an opportunity to invest back in the company, Twiddy said.

“We reinvest in the company and try to hire more smart folks,” Twiddy said.

Steinburg, who was first elected to the state House in 2012, pointed out that he got to know Stam well in the General Assembly because in committees members are seated alphabetically, meaning he and Stam were seated next to each other. 

“It means everything to me,” Steinburg said of Stam’s supporting, adding Stam convinced him to run again in 2012 after he lost a close race in a challenge to Democrat Tim Spear in 2010. Steinburg won re-election in both 2014 and 2016.

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