Cook: Steinburg unfit for state Senate seat

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State Rep. Bob Steinburg


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

In a rare rebuke of a Republican colleague, state Sen. Bill Cook issued a statement Monday claiming state Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, is unfit to represent the region in the state Senate.

“Bob Steinburg does not have the temperament, the work ethic or the judgment to be the Republican Senate nominee for our district,” Cook stated in an email Monday, reiterating his support for Steinburg's opponent, Clark Twiddy, in the May 8 GOP primary in Senate District 1.

Cook, R-Beaufort, chose not to seek re-election last year after court-ordered redistricting put him outside of a redrawn Senate District 1.

It's not been a secret that Cook favors Twiddy as his successor. Cook stated as much in an email after Twiddy, a Dare County businessman, announced his candidacy for the Senate District 1 seat last fall. Monday's announcement, however, offered some of Cook's most forceful language against Steinburg, with whom he has served in the General Assembly since 2013.

Cook claimed that Steinburg has gained a reputation with lawmakers as “hard to work with,” and that he has “publicly and unjustly insulted the state Republican Senate leadership, including the senator who is in charge of writing the state budget.” Cook was alluding to Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow.

“You cannot hurl insults at people whenever you have a disagreement with them and that is the norm for Bob Steinburg,” Cook said, also claiming his colleague has shown an “attitude of arrogance and disrespect” toward constituents.

Cook also claimed Steinburg had made statements during the campaign that were “less than truthful,” adding “those are not qualities to be sought in an elected official.” His statement did not provide examples.

Cook also said Steinburg's claims that he is the only “real Republican” in the Senate District 1 race are false.

“Clark Twiddy talks about less government, lower taxes, less regulation,” Cook said.

Steinburg rejects Cook’s criticisms, claiming they “tarnished” Cook’s legacy.

“It’s really very sad when you see someone at the end of his political career go out and trash a colleague,” Steinburg said. “It is unprecedented, what he has done, and it smacks of desperation.”

Steinburg said he has extremely strong relationships with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. As for Cook’s charge that Steinburg has insulted Brown, Steinburg said he had called Brown a “hypocrite” for supporting Twiddy, whom Steinburg claims is not a strong conservative.

Cook also criticized Steinburg for supporting use of “taxpayer money to subsidize the renewable energy industry,” claiming it runs counter to Republicans' free-market principles.

Additionally, Cook criticized Steinburg for what he called his “poor voting attendance record,” describing it as” one of the worst of any full-time member in the state House.”

The General Assembly's website provides data on legislators' voting, and shows Steinburg made the vast majority of votes he was “eligible” for, which doesn't include excused absences. For 2017, Steinburg made 748 out of 758 eligible votes, with lawmakers taking a total of 955 votes.

For the 2015-16 session, Steinburg made 1,181 out of 1,212 eligible votes, with lawmakers casting a total of 1,441 votes. The most votes Steinburg missed in any of the 2015-16 special sessions was four.

For the 2013-14 session, Steinburg made 1,811 of 1,842 eligible votes, with lawmakers casting 1,864 total votes.

Responding to Cook’s claims about his legislative absences, Steinburg said most of his missed votes last year occurred due to the death of his wife’s sister.

“The irony is Sen. Cook sent flowers to the funeral home,” Steinburg said. “That was then, this is now.”

Steinburg also said that, even while out of state for that funeral, he continued making calls in support of legislation for College of The Albemarle. Cook joined with state Rep. Beverly Boswell, R-Dare, in opposing legislation to allow COA to use state funds for to improve county-owned facilities in Currituck and Dare. The legislation only passed after Dare was dropped from the bill. Cook then said he opposed the bill because local lawmakers were divided on it.

In an email, Steinburg noted Cook’s position on the COA bill.

“It is hard to reconcile my opponent Clark Twiddy’s position on the NC Community College Board and his alignment with legislators who are so opposed to funding them in northeastern North Carolina,” Steinburg said.

As for Cook’s criticisms that he doesn’t adhere to free-market principles, Steinburg commented, “Sadly, there’s no such thing as a free market.” He claimed that Cook himself has continued to support subsidies for farmers, natural gas exploration, and more over the years.

Reached Tuesday, Twiddy thanked Cook for his endorsement, and said he's "very fortunate" to have his support, adding he's also fortunate to have the support of many District 1 voters.

Asked about Steinburg's comments about Cook and Boswell's initial opposition to the COA legislation, Twiddy described the bill as "really last-minute," but couldn't say how he would've voted on it.

Boswell similarly said in an interview last year she wasn't consulted about the bill and that it came up late in the session, just before a key "crossover" date that keeps legislation alive later in a session. Steinburg filed the bill on April 6, 2017, and it passed the House 114-2 on April 26, 2017.

Twiddy also said he respected Cook's deference to Boswell's position, and would work to resolve such divisions if they appeared in future local legislation.