Brad Miller chuckled through most of the first debate
with his Republican challenger, who led a tense and often
awkward discussion about sex-related issues Tuesday in
Winston-Salem, N.C. Vernon Robinson, who has run a
series of brash advertisements about the two-term
Democratic representative, charged that Miller wants to
import gay people to the United States and
supported scientific studies that would pay teenage
girls to watch pornography.
''Those are San Francisco values, not North
Carolina values,'' said Robinson, repeating a common
theme of his campaign.
A bemused Miller countered by blasting Robinson
for a campaign mailer that implicitly suggested the
congressman was gay and criticized Miller for being
''childless.'' Miller's wife had a hysterectomy more than
two decades ago.
''It's clear that Vernon Robinson is obsessed
with sex,'' Miller said after the 40-minute debate,
which also touched on issues that included Iraq, North
Korea, and illegal immigration.
During the debate, Robinson complained that
Miller was one of 129 cosponsors of a bill that would
have allowed gay people to bring their partners
to the United States. After the debate, Miller
acknowledged supporting the bill and said the measure would
have produced ''a form of a civil union. It is a
limited modest legal recognition of a long-term
relationship so we aren't forcing gays to be in temporary
Robinson repeatedly talked about how Miller
voted in 2003 to support a package of research grants
for the National Institutes of Health, noting that
they contained research on the sexual arousal of girls, the
masturbation habits of old men, and other sex-themed studies.
While Robinson asked voters to look at Miller's
record in Congress, Miller asked voters to look at
Robinson's record in campaigns. ''They know every
campaign he runs consists of things he just makes up, wild
distortions, or ridiculous exaggerations,'' Miller said.
''The voters of this district have already figured out
that this is what this campaign's about.''
Robinson, a former university business
professor, began his political career in 1988 with an
unsuccessful run for the state senate. He's entered
about a dozen races for office, including North Carolina
superintendent of public instruction, the state house, and
his local board of education.
Robinson's deep conservative convictions helped
him win a spot on the Winston-Salem city council in
1997. While he earned reelection four years later, he
was ousted last year after he erected a one-ton monument of
the Ten Commandments in front of City Hall. (Mike