Citizens Times:Challengers take shots at McHenry in GOP race
Mark Barrett page 6A Citizen Times today
Friday, April 4, 2018
Reprinted From Asheville Citizen Times.
Challengers take shots at McHenry in GOP race
Asheville Citizen Times USA TODAY NETWORK
ASHEVILLE – One of the candidates in Tuesday’s primary vote for the Republican nomination in the 10th Congressional District is running to the left of incumbent Rep. Patrick McHenry and two are running to his right.
Kings Mountain resident Gina Collias runs a Facebook group called Rational Republicans and wants to pull the GOP away from what she considers some of its more extreme positions.
Swannanoa’s Seth Blankenship and Ira Roberts of Hickory favor a more limited role for the federal government and say McHenry hasn’t done enough to rein in federal spending or restrict or outlaw abortion.
Lincoln County resident McHenry, the heavy favorite, is asking voters to send him back to Washington for an eighth turn so he can continue his support for conservative legislation.
The primary race has been a quiet one. McHenry has easily won his party’s nomination every two years since he first won election in 2004 and his worked his way up in the House hierarchy to chief deputy whip.
The leadership job comes with access to significant campaign contributions — $2.2 million since the beginning of 2017 — but McHenry has sent most of what he has raised this election cycle to the committee that helps GOP candidates in the most competitive races.
Collias and Roberts said they have hardly seen McHenry on the campaign trail while Blankenship said the congressman often sends a representative to events.
McHenry’s challengers have been unable to raise enough money for much advertising or large contingents of paid campaign workers. As of mid-April, Collias had raised $23,134, Blankenship reported $6,549 in contributions and Roberts had gotten $5,400.
The 10th runs from the middle of West Asheville south and east to Catawba, Gaston and Lincoln counties, taking in much of Asheville and eastern and most of southern Buncombe County. Although
On the issues
Here’s a look at some of the things candidates in the Republican primary in the 10th Congressional District have said on the issues:
Seth Blankenship. "The federal government has the responsibility of protecting the Second Amendment," which he says was enacted so Americans could resist a tyrannical government if needed. Dealing with gun violence and school safety issues is "something that we need to push down to the individual states."
Gina Collias. Says federal and state government can do a better job in providing accurate background checks for gun purchases. Retailers "can go in and check my credit in five seconds. I don’t know why we can’t do that with background checks." She backs more research on gun violence and would consider raising the age for firearm purchases.
Patrick McHenry. Touts his support for a bill to improve background checks and provide more money for law enforcement in schools. The National Rifle Association’s political action committee has endorsed McHenry and gives him an "A" rating.
Ira Roberts. Opposes any further restrictions and is skeptical of gun-free zones. "People who commit crimes with guns aren’t going to follow the law anyway." He called mass shootings with semi-automatic weapons "tragic," but says, "Just because I own this semiautomatic rifle, it does not mean I’m going to go out and commit a crime."
Taxing and spending
Blankenship. Calls tax cuts enacted by Congress in December "great" but says the $1.3 trillion spending bill that contained significant increases for military and domestic programs was "terrible" and he would have voted against it. "The federal government continues to overspend the American public's money."
Collias. Questions both the tax and budget bills. "The tax bill has helped 1 percent and left 99 percent behind and that is unacceptable. ... That's not listening to the people of the United States and it's definitely not listening to the people of North Carolina."
McHenry. Voted for both measures. Said at the time that his vote for the tax bill "fulfills our commitment to cut taxes on American families and provide American businesses with much-needed tax relief." Said the spending bill "gives our troops the largest pay increase in a decade" and funds needed hardware and includes money to fight opioids and illegal immigration.
Roberts. Backs the tax cuts and says he would like to see the U.S. go to a flat tax. Criticized McHenry's support for the spending bill: "Funding Planned Parenthood is not a conservative value. Funding sanctuary cities is not a conservative value and continually increasing our national debt is not a conservative value."
David Wilson Brown, an IT consultant from Gaston County, is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
Blankenship. Said temperatures have gone up and down in the past and was skeptical of government action, but also said more research is needed. "I am not a scientist."
Collias. Says scientists agree it is caused by man and, "That’s their area of expertise." Says the U.S. should not have exited the Paris climate agreement.
McHenry. During a 2016 town hall, said he supports cleaner methods of producing energy but did not take a position on the idea of imposing a revenue-neutral carbon tax or whether he believes man is causing climate change. Environmental group The League of Conservation Voters gives him a 2 percent lifetime rating.
Roberts. Said the U.S. can encourage green energy but, "I don't think we're in a position where we can say we can just go totally green." Said man may or may not be contributing to climate change but the impact of human activity may be exaggerated.
Blankenship. "The federal government has gone way beyond the bounds for which it was first instituted. The Affordable Care Act is a prime example." Said the ACA should be repealed.
Collias. "Last summer, Americans spoke up twice and said do not repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. ... The ACA is not a perfect product but it was a start. We need to get those premiums down."
McHenry. Voted last year for a bill to repeal the ACA and replace it with a less generous system. He called its passage "the first step in our three phase process to undo the damage of Obamacare and repair our nation’s healthcare system."
Roberts. "I think Obamacare should be repealed but I think we should have something in the pipeline to go in its place." Said the ACA "seemed like a redistribution of wealth" but government could provide incentives for people to have insurance.
A graduate of Owen High School and Appalachian State University, the 27-year-old Blankenship worked in Washington at the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Leadership. He was chief of staff there before returning to Swannanoa in 2017 and is now a flooring salesman.
Part of the center’s mission is to educate officeholders on the Constitution, and Blankenship says the federal government’s reach has extended beyond what its framers intended.
He says that concern and opposition to abortion propelled him into the race.
"We have a Republican-controlled House, a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled White House," Blankenship. "We can stop abortion today. ... Why hasn’t anyone stood up for the unborn?"
Collias — the name is pronounced with an emphasis on the "i" — runs a real estate agency and is a licensed attorney.
She describes herself as a centrist and is asking both Republicans and unaffiliated voters, who can cast ballots in either the Democratic or Republican party primary, to support her candidacy.
Collias, 51, is critical of Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and says last year’s tax cuts inordinately help the wealthy. She favors modest measures to reduce gun violence and says Americans should not ignore the science behind climate change.
"I do not think we should have exited the Paris climate agreement. I do not think we should be the only country that’s not in it," Collias said.
McHenry, 42, could not be reached for comment for this story.
He plays a key role in rounding up votes for legislation backed by House leadership and the Republican caucus. McHenry is also vice chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and pushes bills to make it easier for companies using information technology to offer financial services to operate.
He has been criticized legislation he got through the House to reverse a court ruling that restricts the ability of financial institutions to collect on high-interest loans. Opponents say it would allow payday lenders to circumvent North Carolina’s law against the practice, but McHenry says that’s not his intent and his bill would not affect the state law.
Groups that rank lawmakers on how conservative they are typically put Mc-Henry somewhere in the middle among House Republicans. The American Conservative Union says it agreed with Mc-Henry’s votes 93.5 percent of the time over his career and the tea party-affiliated Freedom Works group gives him a 78 percent lifetime rating.
Roberts, 33, is a distribution center manager from Hickory. He is an Army veteran and graduate of UNC-Charlotte. He said he’s running because he had "become progressively more upset with the way Patrick McHenry would say one thing and vote another. He’s a member of the swamp."
The incumbent "claims all the time to be a conservative" but his record is different, Roberts said. McHenry and other career politicians have allowed the federal budget process to be subverted to benefit certain corporations and lobbyists, he said.
Roberts also questioned why incumbents have been unable to take action against abortion, saying money given to Planned Parenthood for birth control programs should not have been included in the most recent federal budget bill.
There will be two other names on the Republican ballot Tuesday: Perennial candidates Jeff Gregory, a retired postmaster from Shelby, and Albert Wiley Jr. a physician who lives on the North Carolina coast. Neither has raised more than $5,000 for his campaign, according to federal records.
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