Often people who I talk to about my campaign are surprised I still work at my job as a teacher. When I tell them that it isn't really a choice, that I'm not wealthy and I have to work to support my family they seem genuinely shocked that someone is running for Congress who can't 'just take a year off'. There are others here in my district who understand exactly what I'm talking about and are getting involved in politics, sometimes for the first time, because they know that we can't leave the business of Washington only to people who can afford to take time off and run 'full-time'. Here in North Carolina's 8th District, we've been represented for 10 years by the 6th wealthiest Member of Congress and this is where we find ourselves:
There's a reason a new poll shows that Voters in NC focus on economy.
June Nance, a 50-year-old unemployed educator from Scotland County, said she is learning to live without health insurance, exercising regularly and eating healthy.
"Thank God, I'm fairly healthy," Nance said. "I pray daily that nothing serious happens to me.
June is not alone.
Meet Robert Bridges.
After seeing textile plants close all around him, there is only one issue in the election for Robert Bridges -- the economy.
"I worked on a job for 31 years," said Bridges, 58, of Maxton, a former supervisor at WestPoint Stevens. "The plant closed, leaving nobody with nothing -- no insurance and no benefits."
Meet Carrie Chatham.
Carrie Chatham, 60, a patient care technician from Laurinburg, said she had cut back the number of visits to her six grandchildren in South Carolina to save on gas. She now also visits the grocery store once a week, rather than several times a week, on the theory she is likely to spend less money.
"I won't go too many places," Chatham said. "Food prices are higher. Everything is higher. I don't have that much money."
Meet Doug Yongue Jr.
Doug Yongue Jr., a 41-year-old Laurinburg pharmacist, said he sees the effect of the economic downturn in his pharmacy.
"People are having to decide between medicine, food and gas," Yongue said. "They will take their blood pressure medicine every other day because they have to eat and they have to drive."
Those polled across North Carolina tell us what we in North Carolina's 8th District have known for some time. Economic hardship and fear cuts across political party, race, age and gender. Everyone is struggling with rising gas prices, the cost of health insurance, taxes, the housing slowdown, and the ability to find a good job, but Scotland County in the heart of my District and so much like the surrounding areas with unemployment on the rise felt it first thanks in large part to the bad trade deals cut by politicians in Washington.
As Rob Christensen reports...
Few counties in North Carolina have been as hard hit as Scotland County, once a cotton growing and textile manufacturing center along the S.C. border about halfway between Raleigh and Charlotte. The unemployment rate for Scotland County was 9.9 percent in February, compared with 5.4 percent statewide and 5.1 percent nationally.
Among the Scotland County plant closings were Abbott Laboratories in 2002 (974 jobs), Cardinal Brands in 2003 (150 jobs), Charles Craft in 2005 (300 jobs) and Springs Industries in 2004 (200 jobs).
Now meet my opponent, Republican Robin Hayes.
"Every time I drive through Kannapolis and I see those empty plants I know there is no way I could vote for CAFTA," Hayes said. [AP 7/14/2005]
Hayes: "What does CAFTA sound like? NAFTA," he said. "It's not in the best interests of a core constituency I represent." Raleigh News and Observer, 7/14/2005]
"I am flat-out, completely, horizontally opposed to CAFTA," Hayes said. [Charlotte Observer, 7/25/2005]
"Congressman Hayes is extremely pleased to create a fair and level playing field, but it still does not change the fact that CAFTA is not a good deal for 8th District businesses," said Carolyn Hern, press secretary for Hayes." [Winston-Salem Journal, 7/21/2005]
Of course, just as he caved to President Bush on Fast Track Trade Authority, Robin Hayes caved on CAFTA as well, turning his back on the working families he was elected to represent.
Where is Robin Hayes today as we read about the suffering of his constituents?
Robin Hayes is seriously at the Washington Nationals new waterfront ballpark throwing the stadium's very first $1,000 a person fundraising party for his re-election campaign.
I would not expect constituents June, Robert, Carrie or Doug to be in attendance for Robin Hayes' $1,000 hot dogs, but rather the special interests Robin Hayes actually represents in Washington.
Instead, this school teacher, former textile employee and lifelong resident wants to represent the special people of this district, not Robin Hayes' special interests. That means I'm going to have to have your help. Just as another study finds North Carolina wages don't cut it, the working families of this District can't do it alone.
Every $1,000 frankfurter Robin Hayes sells to the oil, pharmaceutical and defense industry today represents another series of attack ads and misrepresentations aimed at hanging on to one more election cycle. It also represents another ten $100 donors or hundred $10 donors I must find in the real world.
Please support the real world and real change by helping to offset Robin Hayes' $1,000 fancy party today.