Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — The only thing the two candidates for North Carolina’s District 10 congressional seat agree on is that their opponent is an extremist who will move the country in the wrong direction.
Democratic State Rep. Patsy Keever says incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry has voted to destroy Medicare and cut agriculture while opposing legislation giving women equal pay for equal work. This, she says, shows he is “very extreme.” She says voters will reject “the very most extreme things of the Republican Party” and that she hasn’t yet found a policy on which she agrees with McHenry.
Ditto for McHenry. He says he hasn’t seen any moderation in Keever’s service in office or in her campaign. He describes Keever as a friend of labor unions and a supporter of tax increases, government growth, and a single-payer health care system. That makes her “a very extreme liberal that not only wants to be a part of President Obama’s team, but wants him to be even more liberal.”
This isn’t Keever’s first foray into congressional politics. In 2004 she lost the race for the 11th District seat to Charles Taylor. She currently serves Buncombe County in N.C. House District 115.
Double-bunked with Democratic colleague Susan Fisher in N.C. House District 114 as part of redistricting, Keever instead began a quest to oust McHenry. In May’s primary, she defeated Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy and former teacher Timothy Murphy. Keever touts her life experience — teacher, Buncombe County commissioner, legislator, mother, grandmother, and widow — as preparation for serving constituents giving her an advantage over McHenry.
“It’s always about people. It’s not about Big Oil or corporations or big business. It’s about people. It’s about the farmers and the teachers and the firemen, the elderly, the children,” Keever says.
McHenry was elected to the U.S. House in 2004 and is serving his fourth term in the District 10 seat. He is a deputy minority whip, a House Financial Services Committee member, and a subcommittee chairman on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He began his elective career in the legislature, elected to the North Carolina House in 2002.
In May, McHenry easily vanquished two primary challengers, Ken Fortenberry and Don Peterson, winning 73 percent of the vote. He says he’s proud of his congressional record and is focused on looming challenges.
“We still have a lot of work to do to balance the budget, to improve our economy, to fix the tax code, and to fix financial regulatory policy so we can have real capital formation,” he said.
Keever believes the redrawn District 10 is ready to elect a progressive. One reason is that the new map moved the liberal enclave of Asheville, and its Democratic voting base, out of District 11 and into District 10’s new seven-county configuration.
District 10 now spans from Asheville and eastern Buncombe County through Polk, Rutherford, Cleveland, Gaston, Lincoln, and Catawba counties. Map changes reduced the percentage of Republican voter registrations from 42.67 percent to 35.6, kept Democratic registration nearly the same – 39.3 percent, down from 39.77 percent — and increased unaffiliated registration from 17.4 to 25 percent.
McHenry believes he has a strong record of effective conservative leadership. He points to his stewardship of part of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) as his biggest accomplishment of the past two years.
The law, signed by President Obama in April, includes McHenry’s idea for crowdfunding, which gives small businesses more options to raise money by allowing them to tap small investors through an online platform such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. McHenry cites this law and his work on border security and trade adjustment assistance as examples of his ability to work with Democrats.
If elected, Keever says she will focus on education issues, policies for women, and balancing the federal budget. Accomplishing these goals requires bipartisan cooperation, she said, “but we don’t ever do that on the backs of the middle class and the elderly and children and college students.”
When asked to discuss a compromise she is willing to make, Keever declined. “I’m not going to put my cards on the table and say, oh, I’m willing to give up this before we talk about anything. That’s a question I couldn’t answer right now and I wouldn’t expect anybody to answer that question,” Keever said.
The North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation rates District 10 as “Lean GOP.”
Donna Martinez is a contributor to Carolina Journal.