Retired Duke Energy employee challenges Steen

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 30, 2008

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
Fred Steen is being challenged in the Republican primary for the District 76 N.C. House of Representatives.
Robert Campbell, a retired resident Duke Energy employee, is looking to unseat Steen, who is making his third bid for office.
Steen, 47, has served as the District 76 representative since 2004 when he was named to complete the unfinished term of Eugene McCombs, who died in office. Steen has since been elected to two terms of his own.
Campbell, 65, is a resident of eastern Rowan County and has a Richfield address. It is the first time he’s run for office. He and his wife, Janet, have two children and three grandchildren.
Campbell worked 27 years for Duke and was employed at the McGuire Nuclear Station. His life experiences include the Navy (1962-65), farming, construction and teaching. He says he would bring a wide breadth of experience to the state legislator’s job.
The N.C. House District 76 seat covers roughly the eastern and southern half of Rowan County.
Both Steen and Campbell describe themselves as fiscally and politically conservative, and said if elected they’d work in a variety of ways to improve the economy.
Steen said small businesses are taxed too much and said the legislature needs to look at a form of tax reform.
“If they do everything by the book, there’s not a lot left at the end of the day,” Steen said of small business owners, which includes he and his wife, Tina, who own Midway Florist in Kannapolis.
“We need to make sure we’re giving the taxpayer a bang for his buck,” Steen continued. “A little tax reduction could go a long ways toward spurring the economy.”
Asked about tax incentives used to lure companies to the state, Steen said few people care for them. But he said incentives have become such an accepted means of doing business that they’re almost necessary in order to compete with other geographic areas.
Steen is a member of the legislature’s Municipal Annexation Committee and said he planned to go to the full House to recommend a moratorium on forced annexations.
His decision, Steen said, comes largely because of the entourage from Salisbury who traveled to Raleigh last week to protest a proposed forced annexation of neighborhoods west of town. Plans for the proposed Salisbury annexation have since been nixed.
Steen said a toll bridge to replace the current Interstate 85 bridge over the Yadkin River should be considered only as a last resort.
“We should exhaust all other alternatives first,” he said.
Steen said the bridge serves the entire East Coast, not just the people of Rowan and surrounding counties who would be most affected by the implementation of a toll.
“It needs to be replaced and we need to get the funds immediately,” Steen said. “If we’ve exhausted all other means, then we could look at a toll bridge.”
Among the House committees on which Steen serves: Agriculture, Appropriations, vice chairman of Central Government, Commerce, Ethics, Local Government II, Rules, Transportation and vice chairman of Wildlife Resources. He also serves as a member of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services.
Campbell has an associate degree in electronics from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, an undergraduate degree in business from Limestone College and a master’s degree in education from Appalachian State University.
After retiring from Duke Energy at the end of 1999, he taught at Mitchell Community College and was involved in the Federal Reemployment Initiative to help people losing traditional manufacturing jobs prepare for new careers.
He was also the college’s JobLink partner, assigned to work closely with the Employment Security Commission.
Campbell said he would favor laws against harboring illegal aliens or paying them benefits. He’s also against foster care for illegal aliens or their receiving disability payments through Social Security.”Illegal aliens are putting a burden on all of us, especially those on low incomes,” Campbell said. “If you’ll work for minimum wage, they’ll work for 50 cents less.”
He said providing tax incentives for those wishing to develop hydrogen and ethanol fuels would go far toward improving the economy which he said is being devastated by the price of diesel fuel that’s approaching $4 per gallon.
Campbell said ethanol fuels are being promoted in Brazil where residents are paying less than $1 a gallon. “And they’re mostly a Third World country,” Campbell said.
He said he’s opposed to forced annexations and said any annexations should come about only if the municipality can provide adequate services to residents of the affected areas. Campbell also said that a population density vs. acreage formula should be factored when considering annexations.Campbell said he’s opposed to a toll bridge for Interstate 85 over the Yadkin River as well any other sort of toll. He said too many people would simply take alternate routes in order to avoid the roads affected by tolls. That would just clog those other roads, Campbell said.
He said he’s been bothered already by contacts he’s had from representatives of special interest groups wanting to know how he’d vote on matters concerning those groups.
Campbell said those special interest groups include those representing law enforcement and educators.
“North Carolina is usually not a pro-union state until you get to government,” he said. “They have a total disregard for anyone else. It’s not right. Nobody’s out there looking out for Joe Blow. He’s on his own.”
Campbell said he was also upset about county property revaluations and the costs of health care. He noted that he owns a 70-acre farm, but when he was granted the opportunity to object to the revaluation, “I got the same amount of time as a person with a quarter-acre.”
Campbell noted that he recently spent a single night in the hospital and his bill was $11,000.
“The only hospitalization for the poor is Hospice,” he said.
Campbell said he’s raised himself through hard work.
“I come from a poor, humble beginning,” he said. “God has looked out for me.”
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or