Democrat Lewis wants to challenge Burr
By Shelley Smithssmith@salisburypost.com
Kenneth Lewis says on “the ladder to the American dream … each rung has become more unstable.”
He hopes to help repair that ladder, he said, as a U.S. Senator.
Lewis, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Richard Burr in 2010, was the featured speaker at the Rowan Democratic Party meeting Thursday evening at the Cohen Administrative Building in Salisbury.
Originally from Winston-Salem, Lewis currently lives in Durham and is a lawyer. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Duke University in 1984 and earned a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1986. Lewis has 22 years of experience in business law.
In 2008, Lewis helped lead finance operations for President Barack Obama in North Carolina and has also worked on Senate campaigns for Harvey Gantt and Erskine Bowles.
Lewis formally announced his run for Senate Oct. 15 on his aunt’s farm in Roxboro.
“My journey began on a dusty road in Person County,” said Lewis. “My mother is from Roxboro, and her mother lived there for 100 years.
“I have very fond memories of spending time there.”
Lewis said he has worked “shoulder to shoulder” with businesses in North Carolina, and has worked with and represented highly effective non-profits.
His No. 1 goal as a senator, he said, would be improving the opportunity for everyone to reach their own “American dream.”
“I am focused on using the federal government to try and reform education, using the government’s power of the purse. I want to make the dream more accessible from early childhood education through college.
“We need to work on educating parents. The most important ages for brain development are from birth to three years. If that doesn’t happen in the first three years of life, you don’t have sufficient brain development to maximize your potential.”
Lewis called Washington “broken,” a system that runs on contributions from lobbyists and concerns itself too much with corporate profits. And he said Burr, a Republican, is not the lawmaker to help repair it.
“I see a Washington right now that is based on political gain instead of based on real solutions,” he said. “Richard Burr has been in Washington for 16 years and has had plenty of opportunity to improve North Carolina.”
Lewis noted that Burr voted against the federal stimulus package.
“Google Sen. Burr’s name,” said Lewis. “You’re not going to find him leading the way out of the banking crisis. In the midst of the economic crisis, Sen. Burr has become the poster child of what’s wrong in Washington.”
Lewis also says Burr received $1.7 million from health insurance lobbyists.
“Sen. Burr’s voice is silent when it needs to be heard,” Lewis said. “He is more interested for standing up for the right wing than standing up for what is right.”
Lewis called his own life story a “living example” of his focus on education, as he was surrounded by academia his entire life.
“I will work on behalf of educational opportunities so every child in this state has opportunities from cradle to college,” he said.
Lewis said he also hopes to make an investment for North Carolina’s future.
“Clean technology, alternative energy and biotechnology companies will create successful and prosperous companies, creating jobs in North Carolina,” he said. “We need to attract and build businesses, and build profitable businesses that look out for people and preserve the environment.”
Saying the nation came together in support of Obama’s presidential campaign, Lewis argued the country’s dreams are attainable.
“For the first time in a long time, our politics reflect our dreams,” he said. “We need to continue to come together and propel ourselves into the future, and I see the promise for the future right here in Rowan County.
“We’re going to be committed to hold hopes, dreams and promises in our hearts. Together we’re going to fight for the rest of us, and we know we can propel ourselves into a future of promise.
“Together we can take that fight all the way to the floor of the U.S. Senate.”
Lewis said lawmakers in Washington are aware of policies that could help solve the problems with education and increase opportunity.
“Unfortunately we haven’t had the political will,” he said. “These are things the country has to work to solve.
“We have to have an educated, productive workforce in order to compete in a global workforce.”
More than 25 people attended the meeting, including candidates running for offices in the county’s municipalities.
The next Rowan Democratic Party meeting will be held in the Cohen building Jan. 25 at 7 p.m.
For more information about Lewis, visit www.kennethlewisforsenate.com.