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Anti-encryption legislator trails in key Senate race

A stunning new polls spells doom for the Republican.

Feb 28, 2020, 11:31 pm*



Patrick Howell O'Neill

A senator who has led the charge to mandate government backdoors into encryption is newly in danger of losing his seat in the upcoming November elections.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) trails his Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Deborah Ross, 46 to 42 percent, according to a New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll. This is Ross’s biggest lead yet. The race is crucial when it comes to who will control the senate, who will win North Carolina’s presidential vote, and also for the future of the encryption debate in the federal government. 

Burr, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), wrote and continues to push anti-encryption legislation of unprecedented scope. Feinstein is not up for election again until 2018.

Burr’s bill stalled mightily in spring. The newest version faces even greater obstacles this year as anti-encryption efforts have lost steam in Washington

Earlier this month, the Obama administration effectively came out against any backdoor legislation.

“Legislation that forces a regulatory solution is not preferred,” Marcell Lettre, the under secretary of defense for intelligence at the Pentagon, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The administration is instead working “on a case-by-case basis” in “an effective, quiet dialogue with leaders in industry” so that “the nature of the conversation shifts in a number of ways.”  

Burr’s election efforts have been criticized mightily by fellow Republicans who worry that losing a state like North Carolina could have major consequences for the overall balance of power in the Senate.

Others, however, say Burr’s quiet style can still yield a victory.

“The best way to describe Richard is to look at the car he drives,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Politico. “He’s a workhorse, not a show horse. If you don’t believe me go look at his car. Which is a piece of crap.”

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*First Published: Sep 22, 2016, 2:19 pm