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Lauch Faircloth, senator who pushed for fiscal oversight in Washington, dies at 95

Lauch Faircloth, a North Carolina farmer who came to Washington as a tax-cut Republican but whose only term as senator was defined by battles with Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, as lawmakers took near-total control of city operations in the midst of a financial crisis in the 1990s, died Sept. 14 at his home in Clinton, North Carolina. He was 95 years old.

Brad Crone, a former aide, confirmed the death but gave no specific cause.

As the District stumbled toward possible bankruptcy in the mid-1990s, Mr. Faircloth became the face of congressional malaise as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for the District of Columbia. The news was increasingly dire: the city’s budget deficit had reached more than $720 million, services were being slashed, and the tax base was plummeting as middle-class residents rushed to the suburbs.

“My ability to run a city is exactly that of Mayor Barry: none,” said Mr. Faircloth, whose full name was Duncan McLauchlin Faircloth but who used a shortened version of his middle name, Lauch (pronounced lock).

On the other side was Barry, combative and confident, making a stunning political comeback to regain the mayor’s office in 1994 for the fourth time. Barry’s political future once seemed over after he was caught smoking crack during a 1990 FBI operation and served six months in federal prison. “I’m in recovery,” he said when he announced his candidacy in 1994, “and so is my city.”

Mr. Faircloth and Barry couldn’t have been more different. While Barry was cutting his teeth as a political activist in the 1960s, Mr. Faircloth was quietly forging deep ties among North Carolina’s political leaders. While Barry struggled in the 1980s as mayor in a city increasingly plagued by crime and a crack epidemic, Mr. Faircloth was building a thriving network of cotton fields, hog farms and dealerships. automobiles.

Mr. Faircloth remained a stalwart, old-guard Southern Democrat — serving on state commissions and once running for governor — until he felt the pull of the Republican Party’s growing conservatism and the new brand image of “family values”. He switched parties in the early 1990s and received a warm welcome from North Carolina’s Republican patriarch, Sen. Jesse Helms.

Mr. Faircloth defeated his former ally, Senator Terry Sanford (Democrat), in 1992 with a campaign preaching a doctrine of tax cuts, balanced budgets and tougher rules on social programs. That earned him a spot on the influential Senate Appropriations Committee — and the top spot on the district’s subcommittee.

Although Congress has always exercised some control over district affairs, Washington’s financial crisis put Mr. Fairchild and Barry on a collision course.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton signed a Republican-led congressional plan for a control board that would have considerable authority over D.C.’s purse strings, with the ability to override the mayor and other officials .

The board and its CFO effectively became the paymasters and accountants of the district. Barry, aggrieved and resentful, unleashed much of his anger on Mr. Faircloth, who helped lead the process of creating the control board.

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Barry’s supporters, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, gathered for rallies that cast Mr. Faircloth as the main villain of Washington DC’s new spending controls. Mr. Faircloth seemed to ignore this. “I’ve heard so many meaningless statements from Marion Barry that one more doesn’t matter,” he told the New York Times. “It’s airy banter.”

Mr. Faircloth opened the vault for some projects, using the subcommittee to get additional money for D.C. schools, law enforcement and repairs to municipal buildings. Meanwhile, even more radical surveillance measures were taking shape.

A federal plan to rescue the district was developed in 1997 between lawmakers, including Mr. Faircloth’s team, and the Clinton administration. The plan transferred control of most city operations to the Board of Control and restructured some of D.C.’s debt, including transferring a $4.9 billion pension deficit to the federal government. Barry ended up with a few smaller agencies, such as DC Tourism and Parks.

Barry lashed out at Mr. Faircloth. “When he had the opportunity to go after the district and start violating democracy, he did it,” Barry told reporters. “The senator. Faircloth started the rape.

Ironically, it was Barry who first called for the federal government to take control of many district programs in February 1995, claiming that the city’s system of local self-governance – adopted in 1973 – was broken and had need a bailout. What Barry opposed was any restriction on his own powers.

Mr. Faircloth lost his re-election bid in 1998 to Democrat John Edwards, a North Carolina trial lawyer who became the running mate of Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) during an unsuccessful campaign for the White House in 2004.

As returns rolled in from North Carolina in 1998, Barry gleefully predicted that Mr. Faircloth would return to his hog farms. “He is so busy attacking me and the people of the District of Columbia that he has neglected his constituents in North Carolina. Now he can go back to tending the pigs,” Barry said. “Goodbye, Faircloth.”

Barry did not seek a fifth term as mayor and left office in early 1999. He died in 2014. The Board of Control and its day-to-day oversight of DC’s finances ended in 2001.

When Barry announced he would not run again, Mr. Faircloth got his chance at a farewell.

“He was a terrible mayor,” Mr. Faircloth told the Washington Post. “He did not have the capacity to run the city and Congress lost confidence in him. To give the capital back what 280 million Americans expect, it was time for a change.

In a 1998 look back at the duels between Mr. Faircloth and Barry, Washington Post reporter Michael Powell gave Mr. Faircloth the winning edge.

The mayor “had spent two years driving the Board of Control out of control, pledging to cooperate even as he worked to overthrow it,” Powell wrote. “It was internal guerrilla warfare, and Faircloth crushed it like a bug.”

Duncan McLauchlin Faircloth was born in Sampson County, North Carolina on January 14, 1928 and was the youngest of four sons. His family owned a 2,500-acre cotton farm in the southeastern part of the state.

Mr. Faircloth dropped out of High Point College (now High Point University) in North Carolina during his junior year after his father had a stroke. He took over the family farm after the death of his father and gradually expanded his business to pig farming. He also became involved in businesses such as automobile franchises and construction.

He was drafted for service in the United States Army in 1954, but received a hardship discharge due to his responsibilities back home. He began making influential political allies while serving as an aide and advisor to U.S. Senator W. Kerr Scott (D-N.C.). Mr. Faircloth supported Sanford’s successful bid for governor in 1960 and served on the North Carolina Highway Commission.

In 1977, he was appointed Secretary of Commerce under Governor James B. Hunt (D), and remained in that position until 1983. Mr. Faircloth then made his own bid for governor , but failed to secure the Democratic Party nomination. for the 1984 elections.

During an August 1983 campaign in western North Carolina, a twin-engine Cessna 414 used for the trip skidded off a rain-wet grass runway and crashed into the headwaters of ‘a lake. Mr Faircloth, his assistant Crone and two others managed to get out of the plane as it filled with smoke.

“The water saved us,” Mr. Faircloth told The Post. “The plane was on fire throughout and the water put out the fire. … Before we were 50 feet away, the plane caught fire again and was burned to the ground.

In the Senate, Mr. Faircloth increased federal funds for North Carolina’s agriculture and businesses and took a strong right-wing tilt on social issues by voting against the expansion of reproductive care and gay rights. He has led calls to establish work requirements as a condition of access to welfare.

Both of his marriages, to Lady Tarlton and Nancy Bryan, ended in divorce. Survivors include a daughter from his second marriage and two grandchildren.


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