MOCKSVILLE One is a conservative Republican businessman and a newcomer to politics. The other is a conservative Republican businessman and a newcomer to politics.

With nearly identical policy positions, Jay Helvey and Nathan Tabor, two candidates for U.S. Rep. Richard Burr’s seat in the 5th Congressional District, had a hard time distinguishing themselves yesterday. At a luncheon sponsored by Citizens for a Sound Economy, the candidates were at a loss when a spectator asked each one to name a specific policy position that differentiates him from the other Republican candidates in the race.

“Ultimately, it seems to me that you’ll need to look at the priorities and life experience of a candidate,” Helvey said.

The luncheon was the second in a series featuring congressional candidates.

Though the Republican primary won’t be held until May 2004, the field of GOP candidates is large. Others who have said they intend to run are Ed Broyhill, a Winston-Salem businessman; Joe Byrd, a former Wilkes County commissioner; John Cosgrove, a Clemmons businessman; state Sen. Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk, Ed Powell, a former state representative; Vernon Robinson, a Winston-Salem City Council member; Jim Snyder, a Lexington lawyer; and David Vanhoy, a Summerfield businessman.

Burr, a Republican, is running for the for U.S. Senate seat now held by John Edwards.

Helvey, 44, is the president of Helvey and Associates, a consulting firm for educational and nonprofit organizations. He said that his experience working in Tokyo and Frankfurt during a 17-year career in banking makes him uniquely qualified to work with international issues, including national security and trade.

“I think you need to send someone to Congress that has a global outlook and global experience,” Helvey said.

Tabor, 30, is a part-owner and the vice president of Revival Soy of Kernersville. Tabor said he is the only candidate who has created jobs in the 5th District, expanding his company to more than 140 employees in just five years.

Tabor also tried to carve out a niche as the candidate of the Christian right, telling the group of about 20 people that he had received endorsements from local ministers as well as from national religious figures the Revs. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

“It is time that our elected officials stand up and say God belongs in society,” Tabor said. Helvey said he also supports keeping “God in the public square.”

Helvey singled out job loss as the biggest issue facing the 5th District. He said that manufacturers in the district had been “the victims of unfair trade” and cited China as the culprit.

Helvey said he generally opposes tariffs but would go along with a bill supported by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., to impose a 271/2 percent tariff on Chinese imports if the country refuses to re-evaluate its currency.

Helvey and Tabor also said they support President Bush’s tax cuts. Tabor said he would support a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds majority in Congress to raise taxes. In a flier that he distributed yesterday, Tabor also said he wants comprehensive tax reform and the elimination of the Internal Revenue Service.

Tabor and Helvey will get another chance tonight to try to stand out from the field at a debate sponsored by the Forsyth County Republican Women and Forsyth County Young Republicans. All of the Republican candidates but Cosgrove will attend. The debate will begin at 5:30 at the Ramada Inn on University Parkway.

Lisa Hoppenjans can be reached at 727-7369 or at


Photos; Jay Helvey 2. Nathan Tabor