Early voting in North Carolina wraps up this weekend ahead of Election Day next Tuesday. When voters head to the polls in Western North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, they’ll have a choice between two challengers, or the Republican who’s held the seat since 2012.
When Mark Meadows was first elected to Congress in 2012, the Senate and the presidency were both controlled by Democrats. Since then, Republicans have taken over all three, plus added two justices that will put the Supreme Court on conservative footing for at least a generation. Meadows calls it a work in progress.
“We can be happy about that,” said Meadows. “As a conservative, having conservative Supreme Court justices is something that will outlive this particular administration for many years to come. At the same time, you can’t travel across Western North Carolina without seeing that there’s still a whole lot of work to be done.”
Some of that work, according to both voters and his challengers, is on the subject of health care, a national debate in which Meadows – as chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus – has played a substantial role.
“We have to do two things. One is, we have to lower premiums. We’ve got to address that,” he said. “The second part of that is that we have to make sure that pre-existing conditions are covered. Those two pillars, when we were starting the negotiations, I said it came down real simple – handle pre-existing conditions, and lower premiums.”
Meadows said Americans may still see government subsidies for Obamacare plans, in addition to other, more affordable plans that will allow for coverage better tailored to the individual needs of the consumer.
While Democrats like Meadows’ opponent Phillip Price – and Libertarians like his other opponent Clifton Ingram – may not agree, one thing they do agree on is that the federal budget deficit, which has risen over the past four years to nearly a trillion dollars, is out of control.
“Listen,” said Meadows. “Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, deficits and continuing deficits are not something that are sustainable. And what was criticized under the previous administration needs to be criticized under this administration.”
Meadows thinks the government should only grow by the rate of inflation. “The problem we’ve had is, the inflation rate has been about 2 percent but we’ve grown the size of government 6 percent,” said Meadows. “I would be in favor of saying, alright, we’re going to grow the size of government along with the inflation rate, and so we’ll continue to bump that up, and then over time because of the economy doing well, it would balance out.”
Many of the issues Meadows mentions require the cooperation or at least the acquiescence of President Donald Trump, with whom Meadows has had a sometimes combative, sometimes productive relationship.
“I’ve got a very good relationship with the president right now,” he said. “It’s been really one that, as you mentioned, has been both difficult at times and good at times. I think what he has come to understand is that my first priority is the people that I represent in Western North Carolina, and as long as it aligns with them, I’m going to be all in.”
The nature of that relationship with Trump could play at the polls this year, with some lauding and some loathing a man who has proven to be a highly-controversial president. One common theme, however, is that nobody seems to know exactly what effect Trump might have.
“You know, I don’t really know, Cory. For me, I am who I am, and I learned a long time ago – this is not your first rodeo, or mine – I don’t focus on the politics of things,” said Meadows. “Just to be candid, I think if you do the right thing for the right reasons hopefully the results take care of themselves in elections.”
And in a Washington more divided than perhaps at any time since the Civil War, Meadows said he’s eager to see civility return. When asked to say something nice about Price, he offered this. “I haven’t said anything about my opponent, but I can say this: anybody who’s willing to put their name on the ballot and run, put themself out there – not just them, but their family – is to be applauded.”
Same-day registration and early voting continue through Saturday Nov. 3, in advance of the General Election this Tuesday, Nov. 6.