Early voting in North Carolina is winding up ahead of Election Day, which is now less than a week away. The 11th Congressional District covers most of Western North Carolina. That seat has been occupied by Republican Mark Meadows since 2012, but his two opponents are hoping to change that in the coming days.
Congressman Mark Meadows is seeking his fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Even though he’s become a popular figure on TV news talk shows and a powerful figure as chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, he still faces criticism over his stance on health care.
“This is one of the main reasons why I felt strongly that I needed to get into this race,” said McDowell County Democrat Phillip Price, who owns a small wood recycling business and won a three way primary in May for the right to challenge Meadows.
“Mr. Meadows has tried to take away my health care numerous times, and has voted to take it away numerous times, and continues to threaten it and talk about how they’re going to succeed in taking away the Affordable Care Act, which will not just take away health care from 45,000 families in the 11th District, it would take away health care for approximately 20,000,000 people in the United States,” said Price.
Once again the philosophical framework of the government’s role in health care seems to be the most important election issue for many in the region, the state and the nation, but it’s not the only unsettled issue on voters’ minds this fall.
It may seem oxymoronic, but under unified Republican control of the House, the Senate and the presidency, government spending has grown and borrowing has increased, pushing what had been a $440 billion deficit in 2015 to a projected $1 trillion deficit for 2019.
“I’m a businessman,” he said. “If I were to borrow $10,000 and use that money to go on a lavish vacation, I’d have a hard time paying it back. But if I was to use that money to invest in lumber – which I’m in the business of – that I was able to sell for $25,000, that’s a pretty good investment. I can pay back the $10,000 loan and use the other money to maybe go on a vacation.”
Price, however, doesn’t think deficit spending is a good idea, especially in light of President Trump’s recent tax cuts. “Which is kind of the metaphor I was using, with the vacation. The GOP’s tax debacle, or the ‘billionaire bailout’ as I like to call it, basically they’ve borrowed perhaps $1.5 trillion over a period of time and what are they doing? Going on a lavish vacation, buying yachts. Buying back the stocks of their company. Buying third homes.”
Price faces an uphill fight. Meadows has raised five times what he has, and still has 12 times as much cash on hand, as of Oct. 17. Meadows has won his first three races by successively larger margins, and holds a seat in a district Cook’s Political Report calls a plus-14 for Republicans.
On top of all that, there’s another dog in the fight - probably for the first time ever, the 11th Congressional District ballot includes a Libertarian candidate, Sylva contractor Clifton Ingram.
“I’ve read that Mark Meadows has as much as a 99.6 percent chance of winning, so that leaves me and Mr. Price with a very small percent,” Ingram said. “But I think giving it up to the people and letting them have the chance, they like the underdog a lot of times and I think a Libertarian can make his way into the House. Why not now? Why not District 11? I think Mountain people are very independent and Libertarian-type people so there’s a good chance for it.”
“I think it’s definitely going to be helpful, but it’s not necessary for me to beat Meadows,” Price said. “I’ll beat him without the Libertarian candidate being on the ballot, but he’s definitely going to take some of his votes.”
And if Price does win, he says he knows how to tackle the divisiveness in Washington. “We start talking about the things we have in common and not the things that divide us, because there’s so many more things that we Americans have in common than there are that divide us,” he said. “We need leaders that are going to focus on those things that unite us.”
On that same note, Price said this when asked to say something nice about his opponent.
“He chose a nice place to come live, from Florida,” said Price. “Western North Carolina’s beautiful.”
Early voting continues through this Saturday, Nov. 3 in advance of Election Day on Tuesday.