11th District candidates for Congress agree on nothing

Sep. 04, 2014 @ 09:27 PM

The two candidates running in the 11th congressional district didn’t agree on much during a debate Thursday night, but the thing they disagreed most about was who the district’s current representative is.

Both agreed his name is Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican running for a second term.

But while Democrat Tom Hill repeatedly pointed to Meadows’ record, and especially his reputation as a right-wing ideologue who helped drive last year’s government shutdown, Meadows kept referring to himself as a practical politician who can and has worked with Democrats on common-sense bills that would now be law if not for the Senate’s obstructionist leader, Democrat Harry Reid.

In response to the very first question in the debate, held at Western Carolina University, Meadows cited a bill he said he had worked on with Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-1st, to exempt Habitat for Humanity from home-lending rules that stem from a law intended to prevent a repeat of the mortgage crisis that wrecked the economy several years ago.

Meadows continued that theme throughout the night, ending with a closing statement that ignored policy entirely to make an emotional appeal to community and common interests.

“Not a Democrat or Republican, being an American is what it’s all about,” Meadows said.

Hill, who is retired from the aerospace industry and has never held elected office, portrayed himself as a populist liberal. The message he hit hardest and most often was the need to make sure “mega-rich corporations” and those people in the top 1 percent of wage-earners – the “super-rich,” whom he said had “hijacked” this country – stop avoiding taxes.

There was not a policy issue the two agreed on. Hill favors immigration reform; Meadows says the top priority is “closing the border.” Hill favors raising the minimum wage; Meadows opposes it and says the government has trapped the poor in a cycle of “comfortable poverty” that gives them no incentives to work harder. Hill favors closing tax loopholes and raising the rates paid by the wealthiest to close the deficit; Meadows calls Hill’s tax ideas “redistributing wealth” that ultimately would take money from workers, and he favors cutting spending. Hill cited the police shooting of a young man in Ferguson, Missouri, and the riots that followed, as evidence that “racism is still alive and strong in the United States”; and Meadows avoided much discussion of Ferguson, instead stressing his support of law enforcement agencies in Western North Carolina and officers because “each and every day they risk their life.”

Meadows, clearly the more experienced and relaxed candidate in front of a crowd, flashed carefully controlled emotion at points in the debate, especially on the subject of his role in last year’s government shutdown. A letter he sent to his fellow Republicans urging a hard line on defunding Obamacare has been widely cited as cementing sentiment for shutting down the government, but Meadows scoffed at the suggestion that a freshman could sway an entire party’s delegation. He said his only miscalculation was that “I believed Harry Reid would be reasonable.”

Hill in turn scoffed at Meadows’ tale. “That’s a pretty dance,” he said. “He was an architect of the shutdown. That’s the truth of the matter.”

The one thing they agreed on was that Hill’s age – he would be 76 when he takes office if he wins the election in November – should not be an issue. Hill noted that many members of Congress are as old or older than he is. Meadows said he has always taught his children to respect the wisdom and experience that comes with age. “The problem is not Tom’s age, it’s his ideological perspective,” he said.