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Two challengers for GOP Senate leader

Two Republican state senators are challenging their party's Senate leader for his job in a vote next weekend.

Sen. Bob Rucho, of Charlotte, and Sen. Pete Brunstetter, of Winston-Salem, both plan to run against Sen. Phil Berger, of Eden, the current Senate Republican leader. Berger is seeking a third term in the post.

The GOP caucus is scheduled to meet and vote on their leadership team on Sunday, Dec. 7 in Greensboro.

The challenge to Berger comes despite Republicans' gain of one senate seat in this year's election, pushing back against a national Democratic tide that pummeled Republicans elsewhere and in other N.C. races. Republicans will hold 20 seats in the N.C. Senate next year to Democrats' 30 seats.

"We're the only Republican legislative caucus in the nation that's in the minority in a state Obama carried and still picked up seats," Berger said. He and Sen. Tom Apodaca, of Hendersonville and the Deputy Republican leader, have headed the caucus since 2004.

Rucho, who once roomed with Berger in Raleigh, is retiring from his dental practice next month. He said he will have more time to devote to a leadership position, particularly raising the money that Republicans lacked in this year's campaigns.

"We just can't afford to continue to lose by 3 to 1 in fundraising," Rucho said.

Brunstetter said it's natural for the caucus to talk about new leadership every two years and especially after the GOP has taken a beating nationally.

"The question is not what happened in 2008," Brunstetter said, "but what needs to happen in 2010."


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Re: Two challengers for GOP Senate leader

Senator Brunstetter is correct about "what needs to happen in 2010," insofar as the next, very important, election is concerned. Meanwhile, there's the 2009 General Assembly and the difficult job of helping your Caucus, and preventing them from being the Senate Democrat's rodeo clowns, cannot be avoided. Phil Berger has done enough of a good job at the latter that his colleagues may have already forgotten that problem.

Senator Brunstetter's friend, the late Ham Horton, knew well the shortage of "institutional memory" there is among the Members of the General Assembly.

Among thousands upon thousands of possibilities, as just one example, the decision in the Pender/Stephenson case may be coming your way, requiring the redrawing of legislative districts, possibly just in the Pender-New Hanover House county cluster. Possibly the whole ball of wax.

Should the Majority be required to use the Census data they used in November 2003 or the corrected data they had the previous September and should have used but didn't, the data they didn't tell the Republicans they had...the data that didn't over-populate Orange County.

Court precedent required them to use the corrected data.

Will Brunstetter base a decision on whether Forsyth County becomes a fraction too small to support two Senate Districts? Which decision will be in his best interests as opposed to doing the right thing?

That's just one example. While the next election is underway, and te filing deadline for 2010 is already only 14 months away, there is a lot needs doing on Jones Street, too. It is a good thing to hold on to one thing without losing track of the other.

Cracking the greater than ten to one fundraising advantage held by the Senate Democrats, cracking what Rob Christensen calls the Democrat coalition with "progressive business" will take more than determination. It will take boldness and skill.

The likely voters know that a delayed sunset of a temporary tax is "a tax increase," which came as a surprise to Mike Easley and Tony Rand most of all.

And yet those same polls show a plurality believes Jim Black was a Republican, and that the Republicans control the General Assembly.

Just what will any leader of the Senate or House Republicans do to change that one, persistant perception? Yes, the last election is history, but elections have consequences, and the difference between a loyal opposition respected from fear or collaboration, and a bunch of rodeo clowns is a tough row to hoe.

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