Editorial: N.C. avoids a ride on the crazy train

Aug. 23, 2013 @ 01:21 PM

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk said Tuesday she won’t run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Kay Hagan.

North Carolina Republicans should sigh a giant sigh of relief, while Democrats should be sad to see her stand aside.

Foxx could have been North Carolina’s own Todd Akin, Sharron Angle or Christine O’Donnell, a candidate whose positions make her an easy favorite with conservatives but whose mouth is prone to spouting the kinds of ill-phrased half-thoughts that wind up losing winnable elections.

Foxx, 70, currently in her fifth term representing the reliably Republican 5th District, had been considered a potential favorite of economic and social conservatives among party activists.

But she has baggage that tends to grow each time she speaks in public. In June, The National Memo warned of the many “incidents that would certainly attract a spotlight in the general election” if Foxx ran for Senate, including:

*Warning that Obamacare would lead to seniors “being put to death by their government.”

*Referring to the murder of Matthew Shepard – a gay 17-year-old in Wyoming who in October 1998 was tied to a split-rail fence and savagely beaten to death – as a “hoax.”

*Saying that she has “very little tolerance” for those with student loan debt. (Foxx, it should be noted, is a former community college president.)

In 2010, Foxx even denigrated the claim of her Democratic opponent, who once lost part of a finger in a workplace carpentry accident, to be a regular working man.

She’s a reliable vote for the right in House, but on the campaign trail she’s a loose cannon.

Foxx’s opponents won’t get rid of her soon. In her current House district, Foxx will win re-election as long as she wishes to run, or until her lifelong tenure on the public payroll – the state community college system, Appalachian State University, N.C. state government, the General Assembly, now 10 years and counting in Congress – begins to chafe her anti-government base and she faces a primary challenge from some Republican with at least a smidgen of private-sector experience. (Surely there's at least one in that district with political ambitions.)

N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis of suburban Charlotte would seem to be the main beneficiary of Foxx sitting out the Senate race. Cary physician Greg Brannon also is considered a top name in the race. Heather Grant, a former Army nurse from Wilkes County, announced her candidacy last month, while state Senate leader Phil Berger and Southern Baptist leader the Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte are considering running.

Tillis may be endeared to the voters who tend to turn out the strongest in GOP primaries by affiliation with some measures strongly favored by conservatives passed during this year’s General Assembly session. That could help win him the primary.

Tillis’ positions may alienate some moderates in the general election – but no one so far has accused Tillis of crazy talk, so he stands a fighting chance.