Three Democrats are jostling for the chance to challenge three-term Republican incumbent Mark Meadows. Meadows is the head of the Freedom Caucus, a bloc of hardline conservatives in the U.S House of Representatives that puts an emphasis on limited government and the rule of law.
As the chief of staff at Pardee Hospital and a physician with many years of experience under his belt, candidate Scott Donaldson has painted himself as the sensible choice when it comes to healthcare issues. He believes the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction, but would like to see more work done to plug gaps in coverage. He also favors more action to mitigate the effects of the opioid crisis in Western North Carolina.
Meanwhile, Phillip Price has cast himself as the working man’s choice for Congress — “a working man for the working people,” his website declares. Price is a small business owner and has worked all across Western North Carolina. Healthcare, he says, was unaffordable to him before the implementation of the ACA. He favors a single-payer healthcare system.
A retired Air Force officer, Steve Woodsmall is a member of the Transylvania County Planning Board and a professor at Brevard College. Woodsmall believes the deadlock over issues like health care, gun violence and the opioid epidemic has its roots in corporate political donations. Woodsmall favors an amendment overturning Citizens United vs. FEC, a Supreme Court ruling that struck down limits on campaign expenditures by corporations.
Meadows has knocked away two Democratic challengers since winning his first election in 2012 with 57 percent of the vote. Meadows won reelection in 2016 with 64 percent of the vote. Neither Meadows nor his Republican primary challenger, Chuck Archerd, responded to Xpress’s questions.
Click on the name of a candidate to jump down to their responses:
Experience: Chief of staff at Pardee Hospital
In light of the recent school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead, how would you keep students safe? The tragedy in Florida was awful but far too common. We should begin by raising the age to buy any firearm to 21, expand criminal background checks and close all loopholes. We should ban further sales of high-capacity clips and military-style weapons of war. We should also fully fund mental health programs, especially for youths. In the schools themselves, we need to ensure that funds are allocated for guidance counselors and resource officers. We can and will do better.
If you win the primary, what is your strategy to defeat three-term incumbent Mark Meadows? We will define Mark Meadows as part of the problem in Washington because he is. He takes extreme positions that divide us further instead of trying to unite us. We’ll work with existing organizations across the district to build name recognition and support for a platform that gets Washington and Congress back on track. We’ll emphasize focusing our communities instead of the special interests that fund Mark Meadows. And of course, we’ll raise the money to get that message out.
What’s the most important issue facing WNC residents? How would you address it? The opioid crisis is killing Western North Carolinians. Long before it was in the news, I’ve worked to reduce the number of opioids prescribed in the region. We’ll need to involve the entire community in solving this crisis. We need law enforcement, the courts, social services, mental health agencies and health care providers all working together.
What would be your chief priority if elected? My chief priority if elected is to fix a broken Washington, D.C. We need to heal the division in this country, something Mark Meadows is making worse, not better. I want to be a consensus maker and solve problems in a constructive way. As a doctor, I hear my patients every day bemoan the state of our politics and our government. We’re not going to fix what’s wrong if we keep electing the same people and expect different results.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents can’t? As a doctor and chief of staff at a hospital, I bring a unique understanding of the problems with our health care system. So much of what’s wrong with our country right now stems from the failure of that system. Our broken mental health system is laid bare by mass shootings. Our opioid crisis shows a malady of the spirit. Many of our economic woes are rooted in debt from illness or injury or exorbitant insurance rates. I understand our system, its impact on our citizens and how we need to fix it.
Experience: Small business owner
Endorsements: Selected by Moms Demand Action as a Candidate of Distinction, received an endorsement from the Hendersonville Chapter of Our Revolution, endorsed by the Sustainable Politician Project
In light of the recent school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead, how would you keep students safe? We need to have much tighter background checks for the purchase of firearms, with no loopholes allowed for gun shows or online purchases. We must add records of domestic violence, habitual animal cruelty and history of violent mental illness to the FBI database. I also believe we should raise the age at which a person can purchase a firearm and require everyone to register guns and purchase liability insurance. We need to get rid of semiautomatic assault weapons, bump stocks and high-volume magazines. These are sensible changes that the majority already supports and are our best hope to safeguard schools and public spaces. As for arming teachers? Terrible idea that only benefits gun manufacturers and the NRA while turning schools into the Wild West.
If you win the primary, what is your strategy to defeat three-term incumbent Mark Meadows?Without giving up all of the ingredients to our secret sauce, our strategy includes a grassroots campaign of face-to-face meetings with as many people in the 11th District as possible. I have been on this campaign for over a year now and have put over 15,000 miles on my truck traveling through the 16 counties of the district listening and speaking to the hardworking people of Western North Carolina. We are building a coalition of Democrats, unaffiliated voters and moderate Republicans who want to improve the quality of life in WNC. Mark Meadows has helped the rich get richer and ignored the working men and women in the 11th Congressional District. Except, of course, during election years when photo ops become his favorite WNC activity.
What’s the most important issue facing WNC residents? How would you address it? The people of this district want better jobs with bigger paychecks. Here’s how to achieve it: 1. A single-payer health care system for all, which will create substantial job growth. 2. Tuition-free education in technical schools and community college; reducing the burden of student loan debt. 3. Tourism is the largest industry in WNC, and it relies on the beauty of our environment. We must support renewable energy initiatives that protect it and create jobs. 4. Repairing our roads, bridges, water systems and power grid is urgent; we must also provide access to high-speed internet and cellular service to everyone across rural WNC. 5. People who work a 40-hour week shouldn’t need public assistance. It’s time for a living wage of $15 an hour.
What would be your chief priority if elected? My chief priority after being elected will be pushing to pass a bill such as HR 676 Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act for all of the reasons stated above.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents can’t? I know Western North Carolina. I’ve lived in six counties in the 11th District over 34 years and worked in all 16. And I understand what working people here really face every day, including the struggle for health care. As a self-employed business owner, health care was unaffordable to me before the Affordable Care Act was passed. Now that I have health care under the ACA, I know the anxiety that Mark Meadows has created for so many with his push to repeal it to appease the rich and powerful forces that support him. I think that’s part of the problem with Congress: Too many people who answer only to millionaires and billionaires. I will answer to the people of Western North Carolina.
Experience: Served in Air Force, worked as government contractor, teaches at Brevard College
Endorsements: Equality North Carolina, NC State AFL-CIO, former Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell
In light of the recent school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead, how would you keep students safe? Congress, with legal precedent established in District of Columbia v. Heller, has authority to address gun violence and not threaten Second Amendment rights. I advocate, using Scalia’s words, for “prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, … forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, … imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” This would include banning AR-style weapons. This is not a Second Amendment issue ― it’s a public safety issue.
If you win the primary, what is your strategy to defeat three-term incumbent Mark Meadows? My intent to defeat Mark Meadows is to run against his record ― during his tenure in office, he’s clearly been driven by the Freedom Caucus agenda and big donors ― not the interests of the 11th District. He supported adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit for tax breaks for his wealthy donors. He was a party to the Supreme Court case staying the correction of unconstitutional districts in North Carolina. He supported repeal of the ACA. He’s been silent on all the issues facing the administration, and silence constitutes acceptance. We need representation that actually cares about the issues in the district over those of corporations and rich donors.
What’s the most important issue facing WNC residents? How would you address it? Health care: I support legislation such as HR 676, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. This act or similar legislation would provide WNC residents as well as all residents of the U.S. and territories with free health care. Included within my concern with health care is the need for protecting women’s health and reproductive rights. I would make sure that women’s health care organization such as Planned Parenthood receive necessary funding for the services they offer to women in WNC as well as women across the nation.
What would be your chief priority if elected? We must take money out of politics. The root cause of the failure to address issues like affordable health care, gun violence and the opioid epidemic is the fact that corporate donors provide substantial financial contributions to candidates, which incentivizes their causes but not the interests of the individuals in the district. My first priority is to protect the voice of the people from the voice of large money donors. This can only be done through a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. I support the We the People constitutional amendment to prevent equating corporations with people and placing limits on and requiring disclosure of all campaign contributions. To ensure that the voices of the people are heard, I also support repealing discriminatory voter laws and establishing universal automatic voter registration.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents can’t? My military experience and my educational background. I’m a retired Air Force officer and have a master’s degree in business administration and a Ph.D. in organization and management. I have worked in government and business. I intend to bring to the U.S. Congress a commitment to service that I learned and lived by. Public servants must be held to the oath they take to support and defend the Constitution. I took a similar oath as an officer in the Air Force, and I will bring the same commitment to service to Congress that I lived by in the Air Force ― “duty, honor and country.” I will use my advanced education and diverse government, corporate and higher-education experience to discover solutions that are reasonable and in the best interests of the people I serve.