Durham Mayor Bill Bell announced Monday his endorsement of Kenneth Lewis, Trinity ’83, a Durham attorney vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate.
In an event held at the Beyu Caffe in downtown Durham, Bell praised Lewis’ strong family background and calm demeanor.
“He will be bringing a very important and sensitive touch to the U.S. Senate,” Bell said of Lewis’ bid to represent North Carolina.
Lewis, who has spent more than 20 years as a business and finance lawyer, is a longtime participant in Democratic politics and helped fundraise for President Barack Obama’s Senate and presidential campaigns.
Lewis said he has spent time working with nonprofits and helping small businesses gain their footing.
“I am not a career politician,” Lewis said in an interview Monday. “I am not going to Washington D.C. to join the Senate—I’m going to change the Senate.”
If selected to represent the Democratic party, Lewis will be up against incumbent Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who has held his Senate seat since 2005.
But a spokesperson for Burr maintained that he also is not a career politician and has been loyal to his constituents.
Burr’s Campaign Communications Director Samantha Smith noted that prior to running for Congress in 1994, Burr spent 17 years as a sales manager.
“His No. 1 priority has been serving the people of North Carolina,” Smith said, adding that Burr has spent approximately 190 days in the state this year.
Representatives for Cal Cunningham, former Democratic member of the North Carolina Senate, and North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall—Lewis’ two primary rivals for the nomination—could not immediately be reached for comment Monday night.
Lewis said his campaign would make a special attempt to reach out to young people.
Ayo Matory, a Harvard University student who was sitting at the cafe during the endorsement ceremony, said Lewis approached her and invited her to join his campaign.
“He was very friendly and warm,” she said, adding that she intends to take him up on his offer.
But recent polls indicate Lewis may still be facing an uphill battle.
A survey released March 16 by Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh-based survey company, showed that Lewis has the support of 11 percent of North Carolina primary voters, Marshall is shown in the lead with 20 percent and Cunningham follows with 16 percent. The Democratic primary election will be held May 4, and the North Carolina U.S. Senate election will take place Nov. 2.
Nonetheless, Bell expressed optimism about Lewis’ chances for success in the campaign and as a senator.
In an interview Monday, Bell described Lewis as very methodical and a quick learner.
“We’ll be seeing a lot more of this young man,” he said.