The Brevard College jazz ensemble played in the lobby before two of the democratic candidates for the 11th congressional district, Cecil Bothwell and Tom Hill, tried to hit all the right notes with voters during a debate on March 22. The third democratic candidate running in this race, Hayden Rogers, was unable to attend.
Hosted by the Brevard College Debate Society and Young Politicians of America, the 90-minute debate attracted more than 100 people to hear what these candidates had to say on a Thursday evening. Though the audience featured a mix of college students and the general public, it was not a full house at Brevard College’s Porter Center.
A panel of journalists asked the questions for the evening and included Jim Buchanan, of the Asheville Citizen-Times, Mary Ann Enloe, of the Waynesville Mountaineer, and John Lanier, of the Transylvania Times. WLOS news anchor Darcel Grimes served as the moderator for the free public event.
On more than one occasion during the debate, Hill and Bothwell said they agreed with one another even though their debate styles could not have been more different. Bothwell, an Asheville City Council member and former reporter, referenced experience and used anecdotes in his opening statement — a stark contrast to Hill’s numerical listing of money earned by large corporations compared to the amount these corporations paid for in income taxes.
However, in addition to their debate styles, the biggest difference between the candidates came when asked about their stance on Amendment One, a constitutional amendment that would define marriage in North Carolina as being between one man and one woman.
When asked whether or not he supported or opposed Amendment OneBothwell answered quickly, “I am utterly opposed to Amendment One. I think it’s wrong on many levels. In fact, frankly, I’m surprised so many conservatives support it because messing with the constitution is an extremely stupid and expensive idea.”
Bothwell went on to note that Asheville provides domestic partner benefits for same-sex employees. “I think the government, honestly, should step away from love. We can’t dictate who loves whom. None of us can dictate who loves whom in our own relationships. For the government to step in there, makes absolutely no sense to me,” he said.
But it does make sense to Hill who said his values align with supporting Amendment One. His reason was children. “I think that every child is entitled have to a mother and a father and not my two mommies, not my two daddies,” Hill said. He was quick to add that homosexual couples should be allowed to live together, but, “don’t expect the state to recognize it as a legal marriage.”
He went on to reference his niece who is in a same-sex marriage. However, the anecdote turned sour when he said, “I think that many people in these cases have a genetic problem. I think that is the problem in most cases, not all cases. For those who have the genetic problem, I sympathize with them.” At this, a man in the audience shouted, “No!”
“I’m not speaking softly on this issue and that’s where I stand,” Hill responded.
Though the candidates agreed to disagree on the social issue of same-sex marriage, they echoed one another in their closing statements for why they decided to run in this election.
“We need to change the way work in Washington is done. The only way to change it is to get the money out of politics,” Bothwell said.
Hill, who has never run for office other than for class president in high school said, “I am committed to honesty and integrity in government. I will criticize Democrats. We have to be honest with where we are failing.”