Monday, February 15, 2010

A Conservative Viewpoint
- Basnight, Spear And
‘Basnight’s Pier’

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

In a recent column I shared a rumor with readers from sources that N. C. Rep. Tim Spear, D-Washington might vacate his second district House seat early next year to replace Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare who would be retiring due to lingering health concerns. This of course assumes both would be re-elected this November.

Soon after that column ran throughout the district and elsewhere, the Daily Advance in Elizabeth City and the Chowan Herald in Edenton, featured a front page story with the headline: “Basnight, Spear deny succession rumor.” In spite of their public protests, the rumors persist.

Basnight spokesperson Schorr Johnson said the rumor is “…..absolutely not true.” He (Basnight) is planning to seek re-election. He plans on seeking election two or five more terms.”

Basnight suffers from a neuro-degenerative condition of the cerebellum which is located in the rear part of the brain. Although he has suffered from dizzy spells and his speech is occasionally slurred, Basnight has said the disease won’t impede him from carrying out his legislative duties.

The newspapers also reported that Spear said he does not intend to “seek” Basnight’s seat if and when he steps down. My column never suggested Spear would seek anything, but rather that early next year he would be appointed to fill Basnight’s unexpired term should he retire. Spear goes on to say that “there is no way under the sun that someone could predict the appointment to fill a senatorial seat.” I disagree. If Basnight wants Spear to get his seat, it will happen. He is the most powerful politician in the state.

Spear cites his own appointment to the House in 2006 to try and make his point. He was appointed when former Rep. Bill Culpepper relinquished his seat in the House to take a seat on the state Utilities Commission. Eight Democrats from four counties determined who would fill that position. Basnight was supporting Spear. Anyone naïve enough to believe the Senator had no influence over the process is either living on another planet or totally ignorant of how the state Democratic machine works. Basnight’s influence has certainly not diminished since Spear was first appointed. Look for an instant replay early next spring.

Although Spear went to great lengths to refute my assertions, I was struck more by something he didn’t say than what he did.

Spear could have squelched any speculation about the veracity of this rumor by simply saying: “If I am re-elected to the House this November, I will fulfill my commitment to the voters of Chowan, Hyde, Washington and Dare counties who elected me to represent them in the N. C. House of Representatives. Under no circumstances will I accept an appointment to the state Senate before my full House term expires in 2012, even should such an appointment be offered.” To date no such voter assurance by Spear has been given. By his not doing so, it appears this could quite possibly be more of the same old Democratic smoke and mirrors that has too often been used to hide another back room, good-old-boy, wink and nod deal that has already been cut.

In a recent “Basnight’s Pier” article from, publisher Carter Wrenn refers to the $25 million reconstruction of Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head as the grandest fishing pier in existence, complete with a ballroom and restaurant. Wrenn reports that one of the companies involved in this project is Basnight Construction.

There were some in the media, including me, who wondered if Sen. Basnight had any connection to this company. When initially confronted he told reporters he hadn’t been affiliated with Basnight Construction in a decade. Upon further investigation the Civitas Institute found Basnight’s memory a bit off. The Raleigh think tank reviewed his official Senate Financial Disclosure Form, and discovered Basnight reported he had served as company president eight of the last 10 years.

Civitas also discovered Basnight Construction was awarded a sub-contract for the pier in December 2008 pending approval for funding of the project. Tim Spear was one of the sponsors of HB 628 “Aquariums Satellite Area Funding” that passed the House on April 9, 2009 and the state Senate on April 14 2009. Sen. Basnight voted yes on the passage of the bill. On Aug. 5, 2009, four months after this deal was signed, sealed and delivered; Basnight submitted his letter of resignation from the Board of Directors of Basnight Construction and transferred his 2800 shares of company stock to his now former business partner and cousin Jimmy Basnight.

It appears Sen. Basnight should be very appreciative of Spear for all of his help in delivering the bacon for Jennettes’s Pier. Now how might he thank him? Well, one way would be to once again work his magic and see that it is Spear who is appointed to succeed him in the Senate once he steps down. Not only would Spear be grateful for the added prestige that comes with serving in the upper chamber, but Basnight could keep skin in the game by allowing Spear to continue carrying his water.

The thing about rumors is that they are often difficult to pin down and prove true. But given the aforementioned, if there were ever a rumor that could be more than a rumor, this may be the one.


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