by Joe Schwartz
Editor's note: This is the first in four U.S. Senate candidate profiles that will be posted in this space during the next few days to help voters get a better idea of who's running in the May 4 Democratic Primary.
Marcus Williams is the only Democrat running for the U.S. Senate that answers the phone at his campaign headquarters (in his case, it's also his law practice).
"Attorney Williams," he says, in a deep bellowing voice.
He's also the only one who can defeat Richard Burr, he says.
"I believe I am the one person who can beat him because I'm most experienced in the things that matter," the Lumberton lawyer said. "We're sharper on the issues in an extensive and broad way and I can handle Mr. Burr in a debate, and that's going to show."
Numbers don't back that up, though. Williams doesn't even show up in surveys by Public Policy Polling and the Rasmussen Reports and he finished third in the Democratic Primary during the 2008 U.S. Senate race, more than 600,000 votes short of Kay Hagan's total.
So what makes him so sure?
"My mom used to say I was hyperactive, but my involvement has been extensive in the community," he said.
His record goes back to 1971 when he served as the first black student body president of Lumberton High School. He was student body president at UNC in 1974 and a member of the Tar Heel wrestling squad. He went on to led students at the University of Minnesota, where he received his law degree. He was active with the New Hanover County Democratic Party in the 1990s and now serves as president of the Roberson County Bar Association.
He served as chairman of Legal Services for the Lower Cape Fear for 17 years, which he says gives him a record of working with foreclosure, saving farms and residences and "dealing with rapacious vendors who try to prey on the working poor."
Williams now touts his community work, building a business incubator in Wilmington and raising funds for his church to add a school next door.
"I will be a laser beam on the issue of job creation," he said, noting his past work and intention to attract high-wage paying businesses and spur on education.
He's against Don't Ask Don't Tell, for gay marriage and cap and trade. He says recent health care reform puts the county on "the right track" but that it should go farther.
But he's a long shot in even the most optimistic of eyes, a distant forth in the race against Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, former State Sen. Cal Cunningham and Durham-based lawyer Ken Lewis.
"I run a pay-as-you-go campaign, a lot of volunteers and a lot of anonymous faces out there," said Williams, who didn't file any campaign finance report for 2009 with the Federal Elections Commission.
"It's a small budget operation, but it's heavy in shoe leather and sweat equity."