RALEIGH, N.C. — As North Carolina heads into early in-person voting later this week, Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic rival Deborah Ross both want voters to know where they clearly differ on issues.

But Ross also wants them to keep viewing those differences through the filter of Burr’s support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as proof the two-term senator lacks proper judgment. Burr counters that Democrat Hillary Clinton has problems too, and he says repeated questions about Trump are a diversion from the Senate campaign voters want.

Here’s a recap of key differences from their only scheduled debate and what the candidates are saying about each other three weeks before Election Day:


Ross says she would have voted for the federal health care overhaul had she been in the Senate in 2009 because it was better than what uninsured people faced previously.

Burr voted against the law and wants it repealed. Ross criticizes him for proposing a replacement that relies largely on tax credits to pay for coverage and would end subsidized health care exchanges. Ross says she’d work to fix the Affordable Care Act if elected.

Burr wants to give “it back over to the private insurance companies, and we know what kind of service you got,” Ross told viewers during last week’s televised debate.

But Burr said the exchanges aren’t working, as premiums soar and insurers withdraw. In North Carolina, only Blue Cross and Blue Shield now offers policies on the exchange in all 100 counties.

“We cannot maintain this escalation of premiums and believe that it’s viable,” Burr said after the debate.


Both Burr and Ross say they would work for comprehensive immigration legislation but differ about what to do with people living in the country illegally.

Burr said those who want to seek citizenship “should have to leave the country just like everybody else and then come back in.”

“I think it’s safe to say there’s no pathway that I can support that provides amnesty to anybody who came here illegally,” he added.

Ross said she would have backed 2013 Senate legislation offering eventual citizenship to these immigrants. “There was a fair, tough path to citizenship,” she said. Burr voted no.


Both agree U.S. ground troops should be an option for the fight against Islamic State militants but stopped short of calling them to action.

They said they supported establishing no-fly zones over Syria to protect civilians in that nation’s civil war. The situation is complicated by Iran and Russia backing forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. As a reminder to viewers of his leadership role on the Senate intelligence committee, Burr said he had called on Barack Obama’s administration to create no-fly zones three years ago.

“Only one person up here has sat across the table from Bashar Assad,” he added. “I know him to be a ruthless man.”

Ross countered that Burr’s committee chairmanship didn’t “necessarily mean that he has done everything that he can to make the people in Syria safe and to make us safe.”


The state law limiting non-discrimination rules for LGBT people is an issue in this federal election.

Asked in the debate whether he agreed transgender people should be able to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity — prohibited in House Bill 2 for public schools and government buildings — Burr replied, “I don’t think so.”

Burr said he hoped the Charlotte City Council, which approved a non-discrimination ordinance, and the legislature, which approved House Bill 2 in part to cancel that ordinance, could reverse themselves after Election Day. He suggested Charlotte leaders hold a city referendum on a revised policy.

Ross, a former state House member, said she’s always opposed House Bill 2 “because it’s discrimination” and wants it repealed. She blames Burr for not leading efforts to get rid of it. She said the law has devastated North Carolina’s economy. Burr counters the economy remains one of the fastest-growing in the nation and hasn’t seen the law stopping that.


Burr and his allies are sure to keep running campaign commercials until Election Day about Ross’ actions when a lobbyist for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Ross and her supporters are keeping the focus on Burr’s support for Trump, as well as Burr’s Senate voting record and the suggestion that his campaign donations from the health care and energy industries mean he’s been doing their bidding.