11th Congressional race attracts much attention
The quest for a seat in Congress representing North Carolina’s 11 district is one of the most hotly contested ones in the region.
With the retirement of incumbent U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, a Waynesville Democrat, and redrawn district lines that puts many of Asheville's Democratic-leaning precincts in another district, the wide-open seat sparked a vigorous campaign.
In the primary election, eight Republicans and three Democrats were vying for the right to represent their parties. Mark Meadows, a Highlands small business owner, was the highest GOP vote-getter in May, but his margin wasn't enough to avoid a second primary in July, which he won handily. Hayden Rogers, Shuler’s chief of staff, handily won the May primary.
Both Rogers and Meadows have been campaigning almost nonstop in the district, appearing at numerous campaign forums and events.
The distinctions between the two are stark and often repeated.
Meadows want to repeal the health care reform act; Rogers wants to fix it. Meadows supports the Medicare reform plan proposed by U.S. vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s plan, which will provide vouchers for those age 55 and younger to use toward senior health care; Rogers said he opposes “voucherizing Medicare and privatizing Social Security.”
Meadows wants to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, Rogers doesn’t.
Rogers is a fiscal conservative, who like his former boss, favors a balanced budget and has expressed support for a balanced approach to addressing the federal deficit. Meadows supports spending cuts and a balanced budget amendment.
The most recent financial reports show that Meadows has raised $930,349 for his campaign compared to Rogers’$690,936.
The ability to lead
Both candidates were asked to list the top three issues on which they would be willing to reach across the aisle and work with the opposite party, if elected, to address pressing national problems.
Meadows said the best way to end gridlock in Washington is to defeat Barack Obama.
“In the business world, we call it negotiation, and I am eager to negotiate with fellow Republicans, Democrats or anyone who is serious and committed to fixing our economy without raising taxes or increasing spending, which will only make things worse,” Meadows said in an email interview. “I'm not running to extend a political career or because I enjoy playing games the Washington. I'm running to get results, to fix these severe problems that I do not want my children and grandchildren to face. I am willing to work with Democrats on tax reform that removes corporate loopholes and new energy sources that reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
Meadows said he is not willing to compromise with President Obama and his party on an agenda that includes a government takeover of healthcare, tax hikes for small business owners and reckless spending sprees.
“Instead, I choose fiscal responsibility and giving Americans the stability they need to spark growth and to create a better America for future generations.
Rogers emphasized that gridlock is one of the most pressing issues facing the nation.
“Our leaders’ inability to work together has exacerbated many of our most serious national problems — the economic crisis, our exploding national debt, crumbling infrastructure, and agriculture policies, to name a few,” he wrote in an email interview. “I am proud to have worked for the past five years for Congressman Heath Shuler, who has served as a bridge builder between the two political parties and worked tirelessly to end gridlock in Washington.”
Rogers touts his prior experience as a small business, as well, and said in both careers, he took a pragmatic, solutions-driven approach to leadership.
“Should I be fortunate enough to be elected to Congress, I will continue this pragmatic approach, always put country ahead of party, and work with people across the political spectrum to move our country forward.”
The most pressing issues on which bipartisan action is needed, he said, is job creation, infrastructure and ending free trade policies like NAFTA that have shipped hundreds of thousands of North Carolina jobs overseas.
“Both Democrats and Republicans have good ideas to spur economic growth and create jobs, but leaders in Washington must be willing to work together to create a business and regulatory climate favorable to American workers and companies,” he wrote.
“We also must pass bipartisan legislation that makes substantial investments in our national infrastructure system. Historically, our transportation and infrastructure policies have been crafted in a bipartisan manner. As Congress has become more divided and partisan, our infrastructure investments have been neglected. We need bipartisan action on this issue now more than ever.”
Infrastructure investments include expanding access to rural broadband, building natural gas pipelines, improving roads, bridges, water and sewer lines, he said.