Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives District 10

Seven-term Republican incumbent Patrick McHenry faces five primary opponents in his bid for re-election this year. McHenry currently serves as chief deputy whip, assisting the majority whip in galvanizing support for conservatives policies among members of the House.

In defending his most recent term in Congress, McHenry points to his support for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which he says is “the most significant tax reform in a generation,” and his vote for the American Health Care Act, which would have repealed the Affordable Care Act.

Jeff Gregory, a former member of the U.S. Air Force and a retired postmaster, believes McHenry hasn’t done enough to flex his conservative credentials, pointing to McHenry’s vote to raise the debt ceiling. Albert Wiley, who has worked as a nuclear engineer and a cancer specialist, also believes this vote is worth criticism. He classifies himself as a “Reagan conservative,” and like many of his primary opponents, supports the work done by President Donald Trump. Wiley and Gregory have both run against McHenry in the past. Seth Blankenship, who worked for the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship in D.C., also singles out McHenry’s support for the spending bill, which contains funding for Planned Parenthood and money that would help fund an infrastructure project in New Jersey and New York.

Gina Collias, a real estate broker and lawyer, is attacking McHenry from a position closer to the center of the aisle. The founder of the “Rational Republicans” Facebook page, Collias is a Trump skeptic who says the the president “promotes divisiveness.”

Ira Roberts rounds out the list of primary candidates this year. Roberts is a facility operations manager in Catawba County and a member of the Hickory International Council. Roberts did not respond to Xpress’s questions.

Patrick McHenry captured about 78 percent of the vote during the 2016 primary election. He won the general election that year with 63 percent of the vote.

Click on the name of a candidate to jump down to their responses:

Seth Blankenship

Experience: Capitol hill liaison and eventually chief of staff at D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship

Website: www.blankenshipforcongress.com

Seth Blankenship

In light of the recent school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead, how would you keep students safe? It is important to keep our children safe, especially when in school. No student should have to fear for his or her life in a classroom. Unfortunately, shootings have occurred in our schools. We need to address the issue and do all that we can to prevent the next one. No two situations are the same, but we can learn from each crisis that occurs. We need more brave men and women in uniform protecting our schools. We don’t have to look far to find brave school resource officers; for example, Sheriff Deputy Blaine Gaskill fired a single shot at a school shooter in Maryland that ended the entire situation. There are many brave men and women that protect our students daily and prevent other school shootings that we will, thankfully, never hear about.

(For challengers) Why are you running against Patrick McHenry? What are you hoping to improve? It is important for our elected officials to fully understand the foundation on which this republic was built upon. As the federal debt continues to be increased and the out-of-control spending of American people’s money, we understand that something must be done. The federal government continues to draw from the Treasury without regard for future generations. We have seen the sacrifices that great patriots have made before us and we must understand that the same must be true to future generations to continue to enjoy the freedoms that we have today. We must rebuild our foundation and restrain Congress from overspending OUR money.

(For challengers) Pick two votes by Patrick McHenry in his most recent term that you disagree with. Why do you disagree with them? HR 1625 ― TARGET Act. This bill appropriates $1.3 trillion dollars on many unconstitutional programs. More Republicans voted against the bill than Democrats. We had several representatives from the North Carolina delegation that voted against this bill. However, Congressman McHenry played a key role in getting this bill passed. As chief deputy whip, it is his job to make sure these types of bills pass the house. It continues to fund Planned Parenthood and over half a billion dollars to fund the Gateway project (money only to be spent in New York and New Jersey).

How would you rate President Donald Trump’s performance? Is he doing a good job? A bad job? Why? President Trump took the world by storm when he defeated his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in November of 2016. Of course, all the media outlets were shocked by the fact Mr. Trump was to be our next president. And still, many media outlets try every way to undercut the legitimacy of his presidency. They cannot believe that millions of Americans still want conservative values in Washington, D.C. It would be an honor to work alongside our president by serving the people of the 10th District in Congress. We would be able to relinquish the power from D.C. and give it to the rightful owners, the American people.

What’s the most important issue facing WNC residents? How would you address it? We have many issues facing WNC today. We, unfortunately, know all too well the difficulty of drug addiction here in WNC. We must address this issue and make sure that law enforcement has the proper tools they need to help fight back. Our communities know how to best address these situations, not bureaucrats in D.C. We need community involvement and local government to help law enforcement keep illegal drugs from circulating. Also, we must continue to cut spending and lower taxes for the people in North Carolina. We want you to keep your hard-earned money instead of sending it to D.C. Again, you know best how to spend/save your money.

What do you bring to the table that your opponents can’t? I had the opportunity to serve in Washington, D.C., after graduating from Appalachian State University. It was at that time that I began to truly understand what the roles of the federal government are and, perhaps most importantly, what the roles of the federal government are NOT. I learned how our government was framed during that hot summer of 1787 in Philadelphia as the delegates created the United States Constitution. It is important for any elected official to truly understand these principles. Every elected official takes an oath (or affirmation) to the United States Constitution before they are able to perform any of their official duties. We have gone astray from this document for too long. Together we can rebuild our foundation.

Gina Collias

Experience: Lawyer and real estate broker

Website: www.ginacolliasforcongress.com

Gina Collias

In light of the recent school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead, how would you keep students safe? I am a gun owner. It is time to listen to the real fears of our citizens, not about losing our guns, but about getting news our child was shot at school. Politicians have a duty to find the best ways to stop this rampant violence on our defenseless children and to ensure school safety. I am guided by my moral compass, and I will not accept any funding from the NRA.  We need to consider common-sense gun laws such as higher age requirements for purchase, robust mental health and universal background checks that are coordinated records checks between federal and state agencies, and funding for CDC research into the causes of gun violence.

(For challengers) Why are you running against Patrick McHenry? What are you hoping to improve? I am running to restore leadership, accountability and rational thinking in our legislative branch and to listen and to communicate with N.C. District 10. McHenry refuses to hear our voices. Countless constituents have expressed in many public forums and to me their frustration over McHenry’s lack of transparency. I am standing up for those whose voices are being ignored. McHenry is bought and paid for by the NRA, so he is biased in considering school safety measures. Despite the fact he represents a rural farming district, he serves on the Financial Services Committee rather than the Committee on Agriculture. He is a career politician who supports Wall Street instead of Main Street. McHenry is disconnected from us.

(For challengers) Pick two votes by Patrick McHenry in his most recent term that you disagree with. Why do you disagree with them? McHenry does so little that has direct and measurable impact. First, I disagree with his support of payday predatory lending where interest rates can be up to 100 percent of the loan; second, his lack of transparency in denying the 6,156 farmers in N.C. District 10 the right to simply run their own farms knowing what chemicals are in their pesticides. Why can we have labeling in the grocery store, but not on the farm? Predatory lending can put our military service members at risk because these payday lenders often target military bases, where they offer to help tide over service people until their next payday, trapping them in a debt cycle. These actions result in negative impacts here in North Carolina.

How would you rate President Donald Trump’s performance? Is he doing a good job? A bad job? Why? Kim Jong-un is likely at the negotiating table for the first time. Other than that, I do not support bad behavior. We should not be holding our children to a higher standard than our leaders. President Trump’s erratic actions undermine the credibility of the USA. He has failed to unite the American people and in fact promotes divisiveness. Republicans in Congress, including Patrick McHenry, follow in lockstep with Trump’s policies. McHenry aligns himself to be a cheerleader for Trump regardless of issues, a man with no moral compass, no integrity, very little credibility and a history of multiple bankruptcies. His one significant claim to legislative victory is the tax bill, which leaves behind 99 percent of N.C. District 10 and further decimates the middle class.

What’s the most important issue facing WNC residents? How would you address it? Infrastructure and affordable housing are at the top of local WNC issues. Integrating our region’s environmental and economic needs must be carefully managed and everything balanced in considering opportunities for growth. In building the 21st-century economy to include our N.C. District 10, new manufacturing opportunities must be rooted in technology, clean energy and infrastructure development. Our district is widely rural with farms and a center of invaluable natural treasures ― our beautiful mountains, lakes, waterfalls and rivers. These land and water resources are the heart of WNC’s long-term prosperity, and they must be protected.

What do you bring to the table that your opponents can’t? I am the only Republican woman, attorney, small-business owner and mother challenging Congressman McHenry. Whenever I make a decision, I consider first and foremost the effects on our families and children in N.C. District 10. I am very proud of my lifelong commitment to service and volunteerism. Service is a part of my moral fabric and compass. My documented record of service, from volunteer positions in community and professional organizations, and going so far as hands-on building projects in parks and playgrounds, speaks for itself.  I have similarly taught my children to understand the value of service, which they are carrying out. Being the only woman in this race running for Congress, it is a natural extension of my commitment to serve.

Jeff Gregory

Experience: Former member of U.S. Air Force, retired postmaster

Website: www.facebook.com/Jeff-Gregory-For-Congress

Congressional Headshot 9

In light of the recent school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead, how would you keep students safe? Put armed police in all schools as well as bulletproof barriers in each classroom.

(For challengers) Why are you running against Patrick McHenry? What are you hoping to improve? McHenry has a 47 failing conservative review score (conservativereview.com). He has not attempted to repeal NAFTA. It is an unfair trade agreement, and President Trump agrees. McHenry is part of the swamp, and President Trump asked it to be drained. I will represent District 10 and the U.S. fight against illegal immigrants, unfair trade practices and abortion. McHenry said one should be able to have an abortion up to the first heartbeat. That is murder. Life begins at conception.

(For challengers) Pick two votes by Patrick McHenry in his most recent term that you disagree with. Why do you disagree with them? Voting to increase the debt, which includes funding for Planned Parenthood and illegal immigration. The debt increase puts the U.S. more in debt. Planned Parenthood murders the unborn.

How would you rate President Donald Trump’s performance? Is he doing a good job? A bad job? Why? Donald Trump is doing a great job. He is trying to fulfill his campaign promises and make America great again without McHenry’s help. I will work with Trump to bring back jobs to America, defend our borders and fight the left-wing socialist communist agenda.

What’s the most important issue facing WNC residents? How would you address it? Jobs, lack of jobs. Repeal NAFTA. It’s the worse trade agreement ever and destroys jobs for our district.

What do you bring to the table that your opponents can’t? Experience in life, business, decorated military, certificate for first space shuttle flight recovery team, federal accident investigator, retired postmaster. All my career, I have been a part of roundtable problem-solving — finding solutions, as Trump is.

Patrick McHenry

Experience: Seven-term incumbent

Website: www.mchenryforcongress.com

Patrick McHenry 2

In light of the recent school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead, how would you keep students safe? The recent school shootings in Florida and Maryland are horrific tragedies, and my heart breaks for all the students and faculty impacted. In recent weeks, the House has taken action on two important measures which will help prevent these tragedies in the future. First, the House passed the STOP School Violence Act, which will give local law enforcement, schools and faculty the resources they need to recognize threats and stop them before anyone gets hurt. Second, Congress passed legislation to fix our national background check system to ensure convicted felons and domestic abusers don’t have the ability to purchase firearms illegally.

(For incumbent) What have you done during your last term in office to improve the lives of constituents in your district? Over the last two years, I worked to pass the most significant tax cut in a generation. This tax cut means the average, middle-class family of four in Western North Carolina will save almost $2,000 annually. In addition, this tax cut package has led to hundreds of American businesses announcing bonuses, wage increases and other benefits for their employees. These are real tax cuts proving real savings that will benefit all those here in Western N.C. I am also proud to have supported passage of legislation in Congress that has devoted billions to combat the opioid crisis. These horrific drugs have touched communities and families throughout Western North Carolina. I’m proud to work with President Trump to treat addiction and fight the spread of these drugs.

(For incumbent) Pick two votes you’ve made in your previous term that you are most proud of. Why did you pick those two? First, I’d say the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. As I’ve explained before, this legislation is the most significant tax reform in a generation and has led to immediate tax savings for individuals and families here in Western North Carolina. Next, I’d highlight my vote for the American Health Care Act, which fully repealed Obamacare. While regrettably this bill did not become law due to the failure of the Senate, I’m proud to have supported its passage and would vote for it again if given the opportunity. Obamacare is a broken law that has failed at its most basic promises. It has driven up health care costs for people here in Western North Carolina and left them with inferior care. Obamacare is a failed law, and we must continue to work to replace it.

How would you rate President Donald Trump’s performance? Is he doing a good job? A bad job? Why? I think President Trump is doing a very good job. Over the first year and a half of his administration, we’ve seen the most significant tax cuts in a generation, we’ve seen unemployment fall and our economy continue to grow. We’ve seen numerous conservative judges approved to lifetime appointments to our federal courts, billions of dollars committed to combating our nation’s opioid crisis, our troops have received one of their biggest pay raises in years, and President Trump is working hard to rebuild our military. You’d be hard-pressed to argue that his time in the White House has been anything but a success.

What’s the most important issue facing WNC residents? How would you address it? Two specific issues come to mind, and in many ways, they are related. The first is the opioid crisis, which I’ve addressed previously. It has had a significant impact, hurting our communities. I’m proud to have supported funding to begin combating this crisis, but our work is far from done. The second issue is workforce development. There are far too many working-age males not in our workforce and even more employers who struggle to hire because of the lack of qualified candidates. Many of these working-age males have suffered from addiction. We must act to get them treatment for this illness and develop the skills they need to get back to work.

What do you bring to the table that your opponents can’t? I’ve been a hard-working, responsive representative to the people of North Carolina’s 10th District. My values and positions on the issues best reflect those I represent. What separates me from my opponents is that over the past two years, I’ve worked closely with President Trump and his administration. I have relationships with leaders throughout the executive branch ― relationships my opponents lack ― which enable me to ensure Western North Carolina’s interests are cared for and protected.

Ira Roberts

Experience: Former member of North Carolina Army National Guard, facility operations manager in Catawba County

Website: www.irarobertsforcongress.com

Did not respond to questions

Albert Wiley, Jr.

Experience: Former nuclear engineer, physician

Website: none

Albert Wiley

In light of the recent school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead, how would you keep students safe? There is no one perfect solution, but creating a more robust “TSA-type detection system” in all schools and permitting a few voluntary, well-trained, vetted school staff to be armed are some initial, prompt measures that would help. Increasing mental health capabilities in the school nurses office would also help.

(For challengers) Why are you running against Patrick McHenry? What are you hoping to improve? I believe my broad life experience better prepares me to work on the current, technical and urgent public health and environmental problems in the 10th District and in our country. Specifically, I have worked initially as a nuclear engineer, then as a cancer specialist physician for 30 years at University of Wisconsin, and as the first director of ECU Cancer Center; and, after 9/11, I became director of a Department of Energy (NNSA), nuclear emergency, 24/7, medical response team (with deployments to Iraq, Israel, Russia, Venezuela, China, Chernobyl, Fukushima area and in 25 countries, working extensively with almost every federal government agency, and in U.S. Navy (Vietnam era) and with the IAEA and the WHO).

(For challengers) Pick two votes by Patrick McHenry in his most recent term that you disagree with. Why do you disagree with them? Rep. McHenry voted for the Omnibus Spending Bill, which irresponsibly increased the national debt and the deficit to over $20 trillion and $1.5 trillion, respectively. His voting for such bills simply passes these devastating debts on to our children and grandchildren and will affect their freedom and quality of life, as well as threaten our national sovereignty and security. In addition, he is weak in his support of building the Mexican border wall, which is the most important single thing that the federal government can now do to preserve our national security and our national sovereignty. I think “good fences make good neighbors” and that it would help if Rep. McHenry and Congress would make English our official language.

How would you rate President Donald Trump’s performance? Is he doing a good job? A bad job? Why? When I first applied to serve in U.S. Congress, I was firmly endorsed by President Reagan and have been a “Reagan conservative “since then. When President Trump first announced his candidacy, I immediately supported and worked for him because his agenda reminded me of President Reagan more than any of the other candidates, and I think he is now doing a good job.

What’s the most important issue facing WNC residents? How would you address it? I consider lack of jobs for family breadwinners to be devastating on family morale and a serious public health issue― so, a congressman from the 10th District should work hard to bring to the district high-paying jobs in biotechnology and robotic and AI industries, in particular, as well as provide special help with rehabilitation of people (with history of drug addiction from the “opioid crisis”) to again become job eligible.

What do you bring to the table that your opponents can’t? I am well-qualified and am applying again for the job to serve (for only two-three terms) in Congress because of my broad life experience ― first, as a nuclear industry worker and later as an administrator of some major, multimillion dollar programs in the U.S. Navy, at the University of Wisconsin and at East Carolina University Cancer Center programs, and recently, as director of a major U.S. Department of Energy (National Nuclear Security Administration) nuclear emergency, 24/7 response program. My experience working in these different federal and state government jobs, and accordingly my understanding of government “silos and waste,” would enable me to add value to congressional oversight committees in deliberations on government waste and in dealing with “fake science” in various government agencies (especially concerning environment, health and nuclear nonproliferation issues).

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About David Floyd
David Floyd is the Buncombe County reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press. Email him at dfloyd@mountainx.com.

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