Former Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis touts his experience holding office and his 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps as important advantages in his quest for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
That’s a background of service to country and community that sets him apart from his opponent, Advance farmer and businessman Ted Budd, Davis said. Davis, a Democrat, and Budd, a Republican, are in the contest to represent the new 13th Congressional District.
“It’s important,” Davis said of his background in local government. “If you’re going to elect someone to one of the highest offices in the land, we need to look at experience.
“I seem to have been serving all my life.”
Davis, 59, who held office on the Guilford board from 2002 through 2014, made the comments in a wide-ranging, hourlong interview Friday afternoon with the News & Record’s editorial board.
Budd, 44, who is in his first race for public office, is set for a similar interview Friday.
Fielding questions that ranged from police-community relations to the war in Syria and foreign trade, Davis depicted himself as a moderate who appreciates the role of private enterprise in the nation’s well-being, but who also sees an active role for government in helping the disadvantaged and righting injustice.
If elected, Davis said he would work toward standardizing police training and disciplinary practices on a national level, likening it to the manner in which the Marine Corps operates. He recounted a recent incident in which he felt that he and his campaign staff had been racially profiled by a High Point police officer.
Davis mentioned a dispute he had with former Guilford tax director Jenks Crayton as emblematic of his integrity in office. Davis said Friday he spoke out in the dispute because he believed the county was not being well served by Crayton.
Crayton resigned a year after, after an investigation that cleared the former tax director of any misconduct.
On foreign affairs, Davis said he would be reluctant to send “troops on the ground” to Syria. He expressed concern about Russia’s threatening activities on the international stage, adding that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appears too suspiciously cozy with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.
Acknowledging that he served on the Guilford board during a time when relations were particularly tumultuous between Democrats and Republicans, Davis said he was able to work with commissioners of both parties.
“I stayed out of a lot of the back and forth. There was not a lot of the back and forth going on with me,” he said, noting that he had worked closely with Republicans from both Guilford and Forsyth counties to make possible the Carolina Field of Honor veterans’ memorial at Triad Park.
Budd’s campaign manager responded to Davis’ remarks about the value of prior governmental experience by saying that Davis should be thanked for his military service, but by disagreeing with him about the value of his elective experience.
Rather, Davis has evolved into a “professional politician” who has run for office repeatedly over the years yet failed to ever hold President Barack Obama publicly accountable for the “horrible way” the federal government has treated military veterans, Budd campaign manager Andrew Bell said in an email.
“Ted Budd is a small-business owner and political outsider with experience making payroll, balancing a budget and taking care of customers,” Bell said. “That’s the kind of experience the working families of the 13th Congressional District want to see in Washington.”
Davis, who grew up in High Point, also owns a small business, a child care center that works with children from infancy through 12 years old.
Budd owns a gun shop in Rural Hall and has expressed concern about threats that Democratic initiatives pose to the Second Amendment that protects gun ownership.
Davis said he owns “multiple” firearms. He said he would support nothing to dilute that freedom but does believe there needs to be such restraints as background checks that screen for mental-health issues.
The new congressional district has no incumbent because it did not exist until February, after a federal court invalidated the General Assembly’s earlier congressional map. A panel of U.S. District Court judges ruled that two of the previous districts — Districts 1 and 12, which included much of Greensboro — had been racially gerrymandered with an eye toward eroding the impact of minority voters.
The new 13th District includes about two-thirds of Guilford’s registered voters, all of Davie and Davidson counties, plus a large swath of Iredell and a small part of Rowan counties.
Davis said the federal government can boost prosperity in the 13th District and the rest of the nation by properly supporting public schools, ensuring universal pre-kindergarten education for all children, covering students’ first two years of tuition through community college, and such programs as high school-based “early college,” establishing a “living” minimum wage, retaining the Affordable Care Act, and making sure future trade deals do not sacrifice local jobs in their zeal to improve commerce with other nations.
“I’m not 100 percent for free college, other than the first two years,” Davis said. “And the first two years, that’s a pretty good bump.”
On several topics such as foreign trade deals and the need to reform the nation’s immigration system, Davis spoke more in terms of desired outcomes than articulating specific programs or tactics to achieve the hoped-for goal.
In response to the strained relations between many African American communities and police, he suggested establishing a national program to train and discipline police officers, much the way the Marine Corps ensures that each of its recruits receives the same basic training and then is held accountable through the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
He said he has recent, personal experience as an African American feeling racially targeted by a police officer. A High Point officer stopped him and several African American campaign aides as they drove through town in a car festooned with campaign signs and flags, he said.
The officer asked to see the driver’s license and registration, but backed off when Davis piped up from elsewhere in the car and identified himself as a congressional candidate. The officer said he had stopped them because the car’s registration sticker had expired but, in fact, they found the registration was good through next March when they checked the plate after the officer left, Davis said.
Davis said too many police agencies around the country are over-militarizing by “dressing like we used to dress in the Marine Corps,” and disrespecting their oath to protect and serve by engaging in oppressive behavior.
“That’s the way it goes down in the African American community,” Davis said. “That should not happen. It is not OK.”