U.S. Senate candidate strikes chord with Caldwell Tea Party

Apr. 02, 2014 @ 10:55 AM

The crowd that gathered in the Caldwell County Library Tuesday night was inspired, enthused and even brought to tears by Mark Harris, a U.S. Senate candidate hoping to win a crowded Republican primary.

Harris joined four other Republican candidates, all challengers, in speaking with the Caldwell County Tea Party: Ben Griffin for Caldwell County Board of Commissioners, David Learner for district attorney, David Aycock for Superior Court judge, and Lance Wilson for Caldwell County sheriff.

But Harris was the real highlight of the night, speaking for 20 minutes on his background, ideas and aspirations for office, taking time to answer any questions from the crowd.

Harris, a Winston-Salem native and a minister at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, touted his background in many levels of leadership positions from his school days to his days in the ministry. Working on Ronald Reagan’s campaign in the ‘80s made a lasting impact on his life, Harris said, and he models his political ideology on Reagan’s three-legged stool, consisting of strong domestic policy, strong foreign policy, and strong traditional values.

Harris said he wants to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, focusing on reforms that will harbor a free-market-driven health care system, as well as strengthening the military, securing the border and reducing the power of federal departments, mainly the federal Department of Education.

The strongest reactions from the crowd came from Harris’ comments on immigration, saying the U.S. needs to first secure the border and enforce current laws before introducing new legislation.

Harris said he is “absolutely opposed to restricting gun owners’ rights,” saying that the nation’s capital is filled with men and women who react to tragedy instead of proactively working to prevent it.

He said he found correlations among three recent high-profile shootings in the country: at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and the naval yard in Washington, D.C. In each incident, he said, the shooter was mentally ill, influenced by violence in the media and a victim of the breakdown of the family, saying the people in the U.S. are “waiting for somebody to stand up and proclaim” that these issues should be addressed instead of making gun control a “political haymaker.”

Harris moved more than one member of the crowd to tears when he told a story about telling his father, who Harris was raised in an orphanage, served in World War II and was held for a time in a Nazi prison camp, that he might run for office. When he was contemplating his run for Senate, Harris drove to Winston-Salem to speak with his father, who is now 89 and bedridden, and his father told him, “Son, be careful,” Harris said.

“Dad, for you to have the audacity to say, ‘Son, be careful,’ after all that you’ve risked and sacrificed for me?” Harris said. “No, I know what I’m supposed to do.”