SALISBURY – A hard battle is waging on for representation of the 8th Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, a Democrat from Biscoe, is fighting to keep his seat in a district that now leans more conservative since the latest redistricting.
His Republican challenger is Richard Hudson, a Concord resident.
This is the first election when U.S. House District 8 has included part of Rowan County. It now covers many of the southeast Rowan precincts that used to fall in the 6th district, represented by Howard Coble.
The district also includes all or parts of Cabarrus, Union, Randolph, Davidson, Stanly, Anson, Montgomery, Richmond, Scotland and Robeson counties, along with a small piece of Mecklenburg County.
As of Sept. 12, the 8th District had 201,700 registered Democrats, 150,700 registered Republicans and 103,200 unaffiliated voters.
That might look like an advantage for Kissell, but many unaffiliated voters swing Republican in North Carolina.
Compared to 2010, registered Democrats in his district have decreased from 49.7 percent of voters to 44.2 percent, while registered Republicans have increased from 27.6 percent to 33 percent.
This past summer, Kissell said he would not be endorsing President Barack Obama. The Congressman also steered clear of last month’s Democratic National Convention, which Republicans pointed out was just 10 miles from his district.
But even as Kissell continues to distance himself from Obama, Hudson has continued to link Kissell with the Democratic president on the campaign trail.
The issue the two candidates seem to disagree about most is Kissell’s view on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”
Kissell voted against the law in a floor vote when it was originally passed. He said he could not support a bill that uses $700 billion from Medicare to pay for its programs.
But he also voted against the first major effort to repeal it.
Since then, Kissell has voted multiple times to repeal the law partially or entirely. He said that he wanted to move on to other issues after the law passed, but Washington continued to focus on it.
Hudson has a different view.
“When he got a new Congressional district that was more conservative, he voted to repeal it,” Hudson said. “The bottom line is… we don’t really know where he stands on it.”
He says Kissell has voted 23 times “to support it or partially support it,” compared to just 11 where he voted not to.
That includes votes on bills that would defund all or part of the plan – not just votes on the plan itself.
Kissell said many of the votes Hudson refers to are technical or procedural. In other cases, the health care proposals have come attached to larger bills that the Congressman didn’t support.
“I remain the only person in this race who voted against the health care bill,” Kissell said. “All the other technicalities, those don’t matter. I voted against this bill when it mattered.”
The two actually agree that there are some good provisions in the Affordable Care Act, including covering people with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.
Kissell says those insurance reforms should have been handled in individual bills, while Hudson argues that they could have been encouraged in the industry without creating new laws.
Hudson says he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with “market-based, common-sense reforms.” Those include creating competition between insurance companies across state lines, allowing individuals and groups to pool together to buy insurance, and reforming the medical liability system to keep down medical costs.
Kissell has raised more money and has more cash on hand going into the general election. Hudson spent a good deal of his funds during the Republican primary race and runoff, but he has received several recent large donations.
Those include contributions from Bill and Shari Graham, of Salisbury, who each gave $7,500 to Hudson’s campaign in July.
From Jan. 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, Kissell raised $973,200 and spent $374,400. He still had $608,600 in the bank.
Kissell has brought in $336,100 from individuals, $4,700 from party committees and $628,600 from non-party committees.
Hudson raised $731,000 and spent $557,400 from Oct. 1, 2011, to June 27, 2012, when his last report was filed.
His receipts include $379,200 from individuals, $251,100 from non-party committees and a $100,000 loan to himself, which he repaid.
Jobs and the economy
As for the finances of the nation, Kissell said he wants to continue the work he’s been doing since he got to Washington.
“We’ve got to emphasize American manufacturing and American jobs,” Kissell said. “The bad trade deals that sent our jobs away, we’ve got to reverse that. … Repealing NAFTA would be good start.”
Hudson said job creation has been stalled is because of policies enacted under the Obama administration, like the federal stimulus that Kissell voted to support.
“These policies have created uncertainty, so people who have capital and want to invest and create jobs can’t predict what their costs are going to be,” Hudson said.
He also said “out-of-control spending” in Washington is hurting the economy, and he will oppose raising the debt ceiling any further unless cuts are made equal to the amount that the ceiling is raised.
Both candidates say they want to get rid of burdensome regulations that hurt businesses unnecessarily. Hudson said he thinks banking regulations, in particular, are hurting small businesses that need loans.
Kissell said he has voted to end restrictive regulations in agriculture, and he will continue to work on helping farmers stay in business.
Kissell said he wants to reform and simplify the tax code “from top to bottom.”
He said the country should have a balanced approach to taxes that emphasizes American economic growth, helps small businesses and supports the middle class.
“We need to look at the group of people who are hurting the most, which is working, middle-class folks, and make sure we take care of them,” he said.
Hudson says federal income tax rates should be lowered and flattened.
“We need to reduce our corporate tax rate so we can encourage manufacturing job growth,” Hudson said. “Because of our tax policies, companies are moving overseas, and we need to bring those companies home and bring those jobs back to America.”
He also said he wants to repeal inheritance tax or “death tax,” which is levied when people inherit property that their family members have left them in a will.
Hudson said he would like to send federal education money back to the state level. He said money that school systems get should come without federal “strings” attached, and even the state has too much control over local schools.
“I believe the curriculum for children in Rowan County ought to be set by parents, teachers and administrators in Rowan County, not by Washington, D.C. bureaucrats,” Hudson said.
Kissell agreed that the best decisions about education are made locally, and there should be more control on that level. He said the federal government should focus on giving “a little boost” to public schools that serve low-income students and families.
“We have to see what funding can be allocated, especially in our poorer school districts, to give those children opportunities and education that everybody else might have,” he said.
Both candidates said military action should remain an option for the United States when dealing with Iran.
“We cannot afford for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, period,” Kissell said.
Hudson said Obama’s policy in Iran has been an “absolute failure” because it shows weakness.
“The last thing we want to do is use military action in Iran,” Hudson said, “but the best way to avoid using our military is for the Iranian regime to believe that we will.”
By Karissa Minn
October 5, 2012