Voters in Tuesday's primary in North Carolina will decide party nominees at the federal, state, and local levels. One race in Western North Carolina will decide whether the region’s biggest political rivalry will get another go.
The current state House representative for Swain, Jackson and part of Haywood County is Democrat Joe Sam Queen, who’s defeated Bryson City Republican Mike Clampitt in three out of the last four elections. This past fall, Clampitt declared he was ready to return to Raleigh.
“Actually I was prepared as a Sergeant-at-Arms when I was there from 12 to 14, so that when I did get to Raleigh in 16 on the Trump train, I was able to hit the ground running,” said Clampitt. “I'm prepared now more than ever because of the people I know down there that are power hitters, the people that are in the know. And two, they know me. They know that I'm a person of action and that when I speak, I have something to say and it's not just a bunch of fluff and talking to hear myself roar.”
Clampitt took the seat in 2016 after two previous runs, but then lost it back to Queen in 2018. Clampitt says it’s important for Republicans to reclaim it because it's one of the few that are competitive. “It's very important for us to get the supermajority because of certain bills that the governor has vetoed,” he said. “One example is the born alive abortion bill. Had we had the super majority, we'd have over overrode the veto with the governor on that.”
But not everyone agrees that the retired fire captain Clampitt should be the one to again face Queen.
“Well, I think the big thing, one of the big things anyway in this race is that, uh, the last 10 years or so it's been this choice of two people,” said Cullowhee Republican Ron Mau. “It's time for somebody different to go to Raleigh and time to get something done and have different representation for the district. I just think I'm the right person for the job.”
Mau is a finance and economics professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a former village board member in Forest Hills, and a first-term Jackson County commissioner. “Just having that experience to get a better idea of how Raleigh affects counties and the decisions in Raleigh and how they trickle down to counties and how it affects them and one of the big ones that everybody hears about all the time are unfunded mandates,” he said. “I've been a county commissioner and tried to figure out how to deal with those. Because we’ve got to be conscious of the funding for counties.”
No matter who wins, Mau said he’d support Clampitt, and Clampitt said he’d support Mau.
“All Republicans.,” Clampitt said, “should be supporting all Republican candidates at any time.”
Polls across the state close at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3.