Phillips Shows Up Late To 6th District Party
Republican Guilford County Commissioner Jeff Phillips announced this week that he is entering the 6th Congressional District race – vying for the seat Howard Coble has held for 30 years. Phillips entry into the fray brings the number of declared candidates to 732.
Actually, there aren’t 732 candidates in the race yet, but the candidates are piling up – with Phillips becoming the second Guilford County commissioner to join the crowded field after Democratic Commissioner Bruce Davis also joined the race last week on the less crowded Democratic side of the ticket.
Phillips said he did a lot of soul searching and thought long and hard before finally jumping into the race.
“It was the most significant decision of my life,” he said.
According to Phillips, a financial advisor, even though the race will be a crowded one, he believes he brings something unique to the table.
“With all due respect those in the race – all good men – I have more than 27 years in an industry that focuses on fiscal security, and 14 months as a decision maker,” said Phillips, who took his commissioners seat in December of 2012.
Phillips said he hopes voters will feel his enthusiasm and share his vision for the office, and he said he brings the “experience and passion of ideals” that he believes the people of the 6th District are looking for.
The Republican candidates who have announced so far are Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr., Greensboro City Councilmember Zack Matheny, retired bank executive Bruce VonCannon, former Associate Pastor of Lawndale Baptist Church Mark Walker, former Chairman of the High Point Republican Party Don Webb, pastor of Dillon Road Baptist Church in Jamestown Dan Collison, and Mike Causey, who has run for North Carolina insurance commissioner four times.
On the Democratic side of the ticket, Davis, who owns and operates a day care in High Point, will be going up against former General Counsel for the University of North Carolina system Laura Fjeld.
Phillips said that, if he ends up winning the Republican primary and Davis wins the Democratic primary, then he hopes the two of them can get along on the Board of Commissioners in the summer and fall as they compete for the 6th District seat. Las Vegas oddsmakers probably wouldn’t have that as the most likely scenario to say the least, but, with Davis’ announcement last week, and Phillips’ announcement this week, both men seem very upbeat over their prospects.
Phillips said that, ever since he announced his candidacy, his life has been a whirlwind of activity.
“It was an exciting day,” he said on Monday, Jan. 27, the first day of his campaign. “It was very positive, full of energy.”
The filing period hasn’t even started yet, but, according to some political pundits, the end of January is a late date to be getting into this race since other candidates have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and lined up endorsements.
Phillips said he has been assembling his team behind the scenes and getting all his political ducks in a row, and he said he wasn’t ready to declare his candidacy or any earlier.
Phillips’ “late” entry may have cost him an endorsement: In early January, the high-profile group, Conservatives for Guilford County (C4gc), which Phillips has worked closely with over the years – and which helped him win his commissioners seat – handed out their endorsements before Philips was in the race. C4gc endorsed Walker soon after holding a candidates’ forum. Phillips attended the forum but didn’t participate since he wasn’t a declared candidate.
Jodi Riddleberger, the very attractive co-founder of the conservative group, when asked about Phillips’ entry into the race, said very positive things about him, but she added that she and some other members of C4gc felt that this was a late date to be throwing hats into this particular ring. Riddleberger said the conservative group has endorsed Walker and nothing in that regard is changed by Phillips announcement. Walker has already been campaigning for 10 months – he got into the race in April 2013.
She said C4gc has been pleased with Phillips’ work on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.
“We continue to support his effort on the board,” she said.
Riddleberger added that said she thinks Philips has worked hard to lower taxes and keep county spending down.
Phillips said he’s looking forward to carrying his conservative values to Washington and fighting for his constituents in the US Congress. He said that, in many ways, county government and federal government are similar, and he added that Washington needs serious change.
“It’s not a pretty picture,” he said of Congress and Washington. “There needs to be a sense of urgency with what’s going on in Washington – and I have it.”
To become the next 6th District congressman, Phillips is going to need to raise a lot of money. He’s just now getting into the race, and national political operatives predict the winner will spend about $1.5 million.
Phillips said he’s just starting to raise money but he has been lining up financial backers for his campaign. He said he understands that all serious candidates are going to have to raise serious money. He said that it would not surprise him if some candidates spent north of a million dollars for the primary and the general election together, but he said he believed that winning the primary could be done for considerably less. Phillips added that the winner of both the Democratic and Republican primary should see an infusion of money after winning their primaries.
This isn’t Phillips’ first time running in the 6th District race: Four years ago he took on Coble and four other Republicans seeking the seat.
When Phillips ran against Coble in 2010, it wasn’t the same district it is today. The lines of the 6th Congressional District have been completely redrawn and the makeup of the district is much different. In that Republican primary, four years ago, Phillips came in fifth out of six candidates and was only able to pull in 2 percent of the vote.
Phillips said he learned a lot in that race and he said that Coble was a huge political force. He added that, whenever he and Coble appeared together on the campaign trail, he always began by thanking Coble for his service.
Phillips said this week that this year’s winner of the 6th District race has some very big shoes to fill. He said Coble was “an icon, a stalwart, a wonderful man and a much loved individual.”
He also said he had “no illusions” about the 2010 race when he ran in it, and he said that, even though he hoped for a better outcome, he still met many people and made many connections throughout the district. He also said what he learned on that campaign helped him win his commissioners seat in 2012.
Since Phillips’ District 5 seat on the Board of Commissioners is not on the ballot this year, Phillips will be able to continue serving his four-year term as a commissioner if he doesn’t win the 6th Congressional District seat.
Phillips’ fellow county commissioner, Carolyn Coleman, said after his announcement that her first thought was that he has a lot of business to help the county take care of this year, and she wonders if he has time to run.
“He’s chairman of the Budget Committee,” Coleman said, adding that she wouldn’t be surprised if Phillips’ commissioners duties, in conjunction with his campaign, start spreading him too thin in 2014.
Phillips said that, as he runs for Congress this year, he’ll remain dedicated to his job as commissioner.
He said it will no doubt be a busy time in his life, but he added that both of his daughters are grown and out of the house so he at least doesn’t have those responsibilities.
“I may look young, but I’m 51,” he said.
BY Scott D. Yost
January 30, 2014
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