Candidate Rey tells Democrats Burr can be beat

Candidate Rey tells Democrats Burr can be beat
January 14
00:00 2016
Photos By Todd Luck
Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey tells Forsyth County Senior Democrats why he should get Democratic nomination for Senate.

By Todd Luck

The Chronicle

In 2011 Chris Rey ran for office for the first time, facing off against an incumbent mayor of Spring Lake with 31 years in public office, ten of them as mayor.  He achieved not just an upset but a landslide, getting 76 percent of the vote.

Rey told Forsyth County Senior Democrats during their meeting at Golden Corral on Dec 7 that was a feat he’d like to repeat, but this time against incumbent Republican Senator Richard Burr.

“This campaign is about believing,” Rey told attendees.  “I want you to believe, number one, that Richard Burr can be beat, make no mistake about it, he can be beat.”

Rey is running in the Democratic primary against two opponents for the chance to take on Burr, a two-term Republican incumbent. Rey, who grew up in and around Spring Lake, became the youngest mayor in the town’s history when he was elected at 34 years old. Spring Lake had an estimated population of 13,037 in 2013. It’s a small, rural town, oftentimes unknown to people in other parts of the state, Rey said that he believes that to be an asset, not a weakness, of his campaign, allowing him to connect with voters.

“The majority of the folks I connect with, even though a lot of them may live in these big cities, just about everyone who came up and spoke to me this morning is from a small town,” said Rey, who’s been reelected unopposed twice.

Rey said he’d left Spring Lake years ago but found that it had become a town “in transition and not in the right way” and that inspired him to come back to run for mayor.

Spring Lake was badly in need of jobs, economic development and infrastructure improvements. The town was also recovering from a police scandal that caused its police force, which has less than 30 sworn officers, to lose its authority in 2009, with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office taking over law enforcement in the town.

He said the town has transformed over the last four years. The reformed police department got its full authority back in 2013 and has implemented body cameras. He said that economic development has improved as he’s attended many ribbon cuttings and ground breakings.

However, Spring Lake still has serious economic challenges. The town is next to Fort Bragg and its economy is dependent on those who work at the base. Job cuts at the base, caused by the across-the-board government cuts of the 2013 sequester, hurt the local economy. Rey said that Burr’s vote for the sequester helped spur him to run for Senate.

“How do you vote against the interests of your state?” Rey said.

The sequester was part of the bi-partisan 2011 Budget Control Act, which created automatic cuts if a congressional “super committee” could not agree on a way to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years, which it failed to do. Burr has said that voting for the act was a “big regret” of his.

Rey’s mayoral career is just part of the biography he touted. He’s an Army veteran who was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star.

After his time in the military, he interned for Representative John Lewis. Rey said he learned a lot from Lewis and made an impression on the Georgia lawmaker and civil rights leader.

“He said to me, ‘Young brother, you’re going to run for office one day,’” Rey recounted, doing his best impression of Lewis. “And I told him I was never, ever going to run for office one day. He was like, ‘No, no you will and when you do, I will be there for you.’”

Lewis was true to his word and made appearances for Rey in his mayoral campaigns. Rey is a member of the National Guard and has also worked on cyber security policy for the Department of Defense. He is executive director of Cumberland HealthNET, a non-profit organization that connects the uninsured with healthcare in Cumberland County.

Rey said that among his priorities if elected would be investing in public education, taking care of veterans and their families, closing the gender pay gap and helping those in the lower and middle class.

During Q&A, former County Commissioner Beaufort Bailey asked Rey how he would work with the “sorry conservatives in the Senate” if he won the seat. Rey responded that his time as mayor prepared him to work across the aisle and get results.

“As a mayor of a city, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or Democrat, I had to get things done,” Rey said.

Mildred Griffin, a regular at the Senior Democrats meetings, said she was impressed by Rey.

“He’s dynamic, I just love him,” she said. “He has a lot of experience in leadership.”

Senior Democrat Chair Fred Terry, the husband of N.C. Rep Evelyn Terry who also attended the meeting, said that next month Senior Democrats will be hearing from one of Rey’s primary opponents, Kevin Griffin, a Pfafftown native who is CEO of a staffing firm in Durham.

“The vote in Forsyth County is critical for any candidate running for statewide office,” said Fred Terry.

Deborah Ross, a former Democratic N.C. representative, is also running for the seat and is the early favorite in the polls.


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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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