Pro-lottery ad campaign targets 3 senators

By: - August 19, 2005 5:00 am

Raleigh News & Observer


North Carolina’s main teachers’ lobby began a radio advertising campaign Thursday targeting three state senators in an effort to convince them to vote for a lottery.

The ads target three Republicans, Richard Stevens of Cary, Harry Brown of Jacksonville and John Garwood of North Wilkesboro.

"We think it’s important that we send a message that a lottery is important for education," said Eddie Davis, president of the N.C. Association of Educators. "We feel like there are senators who might be able to change their positions."

The ads are tailored to each senator and district, citing the amount of school money and scholarships that lottery revenue would likely produce for that area. And it provides the legislative office number of the lawmakers.

"Some of the opponents want the government to restrict you from buying a simple $1 ticket," says the announcer. "They think they know what is best for you."

The NCAE radio ad campaign comes at at time when Gov. Mike Easley has been working the phones trying to win over votes, according to Mac McCorkle, a political adviser to the governor.

The lottery has already passed the state House. But a Senate vote was postponed last week when supporters found they were one vote short. The Senate will consider the lottery again when it returns from an informal recess Tuesday.

The measure was opposed by all 21 Senate Republicans and by five of the 29 Senate Democrats. In the case of a tie, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, has said she would vote for the lottery.

Brown was heavily courted by pro-lottery supporters because he said during last year’s campaign that he would vote for a lottery if the proceeds were used to build schools.

A lottery is expected to raise more than $500 million per year for schools. Under the Senate bill, half the proceeds are to be used to reduce class sizes in the early grades and help pay for preschool programs; 40 percent would go for school construction and 10 percent for college scholarships.

Davis said the teachers’ group was targeting Garwood because he has been an ally of public education, and because he lives near the Virginia border and would be more aware of all the North Carolinians who are playing the Virginia lottery.

"We hope the Republican senators will not walk in lock step and all be opposed to it," Davis said.

The two political parties have taken different approaches the lottery. The state Democratic Party platform is silent on the lottery, while the state Republican platform opposes it.

"A state lottery turns government into a bookie, succeeds only on the basis of false advertising, capitalizes on broken dreams and personal irresponsibility, and places the burden of taxation most heavily on those who are least able to afford it," says the state GOP platform.

Legislators in Seattle

More than two dozen legislators escaped the lottery drama this week to visit the home of Starbucks and the Space Needle for the National Conference of State Legislators annual meeting. Taxpayers will pick up their costs for travel to Seattle, hotels and other expenses.

Twenty-nine legislators — five senators and 24 House members — signed up to have their conference registration paid, according to legislative records. At least one, Chapel Hill Democrat Verla Insko, canceled, said a spokeswoman for House Speaker Jim Black.

When they return, legislators may file for expense reimbursements, with the money coming from the legislature’s operating fund.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates schooled attendees on the need for education improvements. The official schedule had a slew of meetings on health, transportation and taxes.

But the calendar included some leisure, too, such as a trip to a Mariners baseball game.

Lagana leaves for law school

Seasoned Democratic operative Susan Lagana alighted in her current job as chief spokeswoman for the state Department of Cultural Resources for only 5 1/2 months. Today, she bails out to go to law school at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Lagana, 31, is a veteran of both of Erskine Bowles’ unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate, serving as campaign spokeswoman in each. Before that she was the media contact person for former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller.

Her replacement hasn’t been chosen.

Cultural Resources oversees state museums, historic sites, archives, libraries, the N.C. Arts Council, the N.C. Museum of Art and the N.C. Symphony.

By staff writers Rob Christensen, Lynn Bonner and Craig Jarvis. Christensen can be reached at 829-4532 or [email protected].

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066