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Billy Yow endorses Phil Berger Jr. for congress

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GREENSBORO — Former Guilford County Commissioner Billy Yow endorsed Phil Berger Jr. in the fierce Republican runoff for the 6th Congressional District.

"He is a very upstanding, outright speaking, honest, with integrity man," Yow said of Berger at a Wednesday morning press conference at Berger's Greensboro campaign headquarters.

Yow said he's heard from people across the district who have met Berger Jr. as he's campaigned and they've all been impressed. Yow said the Rockingham County District Attorney has impressed him, too.

"Year after year, serving the public, he's done an astounding job," Yow said of Berger. "He has shown that he has the integrity that it takes to hold the seat Mr. Coble has held for many years, to represent the citizens."

Yow served on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners for 12 years, stepping down in 2012. He unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Howard Coble in the District 6 Republican primary in 2010 and 2012. He was considering another run this year but sat it out after a serious head injury a year ago.

Coble, who will step down from his seat this year after 30 years, introduced Yow at Wednesday's press conference as "the commissioner with the beguiling smile."

"That smile can be receptive or it can be a trap, depending on how the issue is resolved," Coble said, joking.

"When Billy served as a county commissioner I can say without reservation he was not just one of the most popular elected officials in the county but also in Piedmont North Carolina," Coble said. "Everybody knew him, and everybody respected him."

Berger will face former minister Mark Walker in the GOP runoff on July 15. The winner will take on Democrat Laura Fjeld for the seat in November.

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Yow said Berger's experience in office distinguishes him from Walker — and the voters will see that.

"As a preacher he hasn't faced some of those pressures and made some of those decisions that Phil has had to," Yow said. "Phil has had to deal with a broader group of people, and people see that and see he can represent all of the people."

Local tea party group Conservatives for Guilford County has thrown its support behind Walker. Yow, who had a falling out with the group after they endorsed someone else in the 6th District primary in 2012, said he doesn't think they'll be much of a factor in this election.

"Who have they endorsed that's ever really won?" Yow said. "They don't have reach across the district really, outside of Guilford County. And Phil is reaching out to the entire district. That's a lot of area."

Guilford Commissioner Linda Shaw, who also attended the event, agreed.

"I want somebody with some experience and I want somebody who is going to answer to all of the citizens, not just certain groups of people and organizations."

Walker has gotten strong tea party support throughout the district, but his campaign has from emphasized from the beginning that their appeal is wider than that. Walker says proof is the strong showing he made in the crowded May GOP primary, taking 25 percent of of the vote to Berger's 34 percent and forcing a runoff.

Guilford Commissioner Alan Branson also weighed in on the race Wednesday. Walker will represent a wider swath of the district and not just business and special interests across the state and in Washington, Branson said.

"One of the things that Mr. Coble has always been is a man of the people," Branson said. "He's always been out there, always been transparent with his constituents. Mr. Berger hasn't been that way in this campaign. He comes off as cocky. He doesn't come to public forums. He's turned down debates. That's now what you want to see." 

Berger said he's looking forward to a Time Warner Cable debate with Walker on July 11 - but he won't have to spend much time on debate preparation.

"In terms of preparation, I say the same thing everywhere I go," Berger said. "I'm consistent on the issues, I'm grounded in conservatism. So as far as debate prep, that's not something we engage in. I speak the truth on the issues all the time."

Contact Joe Killian at (336) 373-7023, and follow @JoeKillianNR on Twitter.

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