One of the more intriguing North Carolina congressional races is for the open seat in the 13th Congressional District between Democrat Bruce Davis and Republican Ted Budd.
The district underwent a radical geographic shift earlier this year as the result of redistricting mandated by a federal court. That prompted incumbent Republican George Holding to run for and win the 2nd Congressional District primary. Its reconfigured boundaries are closer to his Wake County home.
Previously, the 13th District covered a good portion of the Triangle area, but now encompasses a radically different alignment — the southwestern portion of Guilford County, all of Davidson County, most of Iredell County, and the northwestern portion of Rowan County.
The North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation, which tracks elections, lists the district as leaning Republican, according to conventional voting behavior. Its composition is 37.2 percent Democratic, 35 percent Republican, and 27.4 percent unaffiliated.
Davis served on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners for 12 years. He did not prevail in earlier attempts to win seats in the 6th Congressional District or the state Senate 28th District.
Davis knows a good chunk of the 13th District. He has been the owner and operator of a High Point child care center for several years.
Budd has never held or sought elected office. He is the owner of Pro Shots, a shooting sports retail store, training center, and indoor range. He believes the federal government is too intrusive in general.
“Most of what the federal government does, except for military and highways, we can do here in the state of North Carolina,” Budd said. “There’s too much duplication, and it’s out of control.”
Davis, a 20-year Marine veteran, told Carolina Journal his campaign “was in full combat form.”
He said he’s getting a positive response not only from Davidson County’s strongly Republican voters, but also throughout the district.
“They’ve felt like they’ve never had anyone come out and talk to them, find out what’s on their mind,” Davis said.
The biggest issue is the pursuit of jobs, made essential by hard-hitting downturns of the furniture industry in Davidson County and the textile industry in Rowan County.
“Everyone wants to know what they can do to spark economic development,” Davis said.
Aviation is important, Davis said. Greensboro’s Piedmont Triad International Airport has been the focus of many aviation-related jobs over the years, from the FedEx hub to Honda Aircraft.
It’s important that local officials continue to build on that, Davis said, because aviation is “not only important to Guilford County, it’s important to the whole 13th District.” Most residents live within a brief commute of PTI.
More specifically, Davis said, a major key to attracting industry is having ready-to-develop sites, a key selling point for a district with many empty buildings.
“We can build on the strong heritage of manufacturing, especially with the large number of people with those skill sets,” Davis said. But they must keep that prowess sharp.
“Companies want to make sure we have a trained, educated work force before they’ll even think about coming here,” Davis said. “That’s why it’s so important we support our education system from the bottom up, from Pre-K all the way up” with full funding.
When asked whether he supports making college tuition-free, as proposed by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Davis said at the very least students should pay it forward by volunteering, and working with different groups such as AmeriCorps.
“Four-year free college? I’m not quite sure that’s the answer. You’ve got to pay for it in some kind of way,” Davis said.
While Davis said he had some ideas about improving the Affordable Care Act, he wasn’t ready to comment. “I just know we need it.”
As a 20-year Marine Corps veteran, Davis is very concerned about reported issues with the Veterans Administration.
“I am very disappointed, because I talk to veterans every day, and every veteran has their own horror story,” not just about care, but customer service, Davis said.
“We need to streamline the system,” Davis said. “There’s too much bureaucracy.”
Davis said “It just makes sense” to give every veteran a voucher that would pay for medical care at any private hospital in the country.
Budd is a strong advocate for the 2nd Amendment, which he believes is under assault by liberal politicians.
“Our forefathers understood that the 2nd Amendment was a stopgap measure against totalitarian government,” he said.
In spite of his lack of political experience, Budd defeated 17 other candidates to win the right to face Davis in the general election on Nov 8.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s been very rewarding and eye-opening to the process. We’re real honored to have accomplished everything with the team so far,” Budd told Carolina Journal.
Budd said he’s spent a lot of time in Guilford County, which contains a good chunk of Greensboro, a Democratic stronghold unlike its outlying areas.
But whether he’s knocking on doors in downtown Greensboro or rural Iredell County, Budd said, the issues that concern citizens most are the economy, the national debt, and national security.
“Those are the things that are coming across very loud and clear, whether it’s someone in an urban area or someone in a rural area,” Budd said.
Budd said citizens are concerned about radical Islamic terrorism and the role illegal immigration could play in fostering it.
“They just want it stopped, and if it takes a wall to do it, then they’re fine with that,” Budd said.
Citizens also believe the United States needs a strong military, and that the Obama administration has “decimated our military’s morale.”
As for Obamacare, Budd emphasizes “repeal but replace” with a plan returning health insurance decisions to the individual. It’s great that businesses offer health insurance to their employees, Budd said, and they should be encouraged to continue to do so.
However, he said, companies should focus on business, “not become General Motors — an insurance company that makes cars on the side.”
“Businesses offer health insurance as a perk, but it’s not the main purpose of the business,” Budd said. “It has the regulatory effect of getting them away from their focus, and hurting their business. Businesses need not be at the front and center of health care. The individual does. They can make the best decision for themselves, and operate closest to the free market.”
The best path for health insurance to operate closest to the free market is to allow tax deductions for individuals, and open insurance for purchase across state lines. That’s especially important in North Carolina in the wake of massive Obamacare health exchange failures because Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina “effectively has a monopoly.”
Budd believes high schools need to do a better job of matching students with more specific career goals, and more specific targeting of higher education to prevent students from spending too much for the education they get.
If “you’re seeking a librarian’s salary, you don’t [need] to pay for a Yale education,” Budd said.
He expressed concern about the massive debt students incur, only to graduate with slim job prospects.
“Sometimes federal funding can be very disruptive and serve as a disincentive rather than forcing community colleges to work with local businesses to make sure these students have jobs,” Budd said.
He believes the best way to spark a lagging economy is drastically to reduce regulations, which place huge burdens on businesses.
“Complying with massive regulations means less time and money spent advertising, marketing, and [adding] capital improvements,” Budd said.