McHenry and Fortenberry faceoff at BCGOP forum; McHenry wins straw poll

Photos by Max Cooper

After facing off at a March 3 forum sponsored by the Buncombe County Republican Party, incumbent U.S. House Rep. Patrick McHenry beat challenger Ken Fortenberry in a straw poll, 41 votes to 23.

Both candidates are vying to be the party’s nominee in the 10th District, which was redrawn last year to include most of Asheville. The district stretches southeast all the way to Gaston County and seems to favor a Republican victory in the November general election, according to voter history data provided by the state Board of Elections.

At the forum, Fortenberry told the 70 or so attendees that it was time for a change in leadership. “If you love what’s happening in Washington … then continue the course, keep sending the same people up there,” he said. Alluding to the fact that McHenry is serving his fourth consecutive term after first being elected to congress at the age of 29, he added: “We don’t need a career politician who has never had a real job.”

Fortenberry has a background in journalism, and currently owns the “news@norman” publication in Denver, NC. His experience with investigative journalism would serve him well in congress, giving him the skill set needed to make sense of the “mess” in Washington, he said.

“The media helps set the agenda for the politicians in this country,” he said. “But I’m a man of conviction.”

If elected, Fortenberry said his top priorities would be big spending and regulation cuts. President Barack Obama’s health care reform needs to be repealed, he said.

“The government doesn’t have any right to mandate medical care for anyone. … No one is entitled to medical care or insurance,” he asserted. “The word entitlement makes my blood boil. I believe you should have reasonable access … but know one is entitled.”

However, asked for specifics about what he would do to improve upon Obama’s plan, he said: “What would take it’s place? I don’t have the answer.”

Fortenberry also advocated dismantling the Department of Education.

“It has to go,” he declared. “I have a real problem with public education. … The federal government has no business telling us how to run our schools.”

Fortenberry added: “In my heart, I’m a conservative, and I’ll stay true to that.”

Meanwhile, McHenry defended his record, noting that he’s been ranked as one of the most conservative members of congress by outside groups. A deputy majority whip, McHenry helps manage the legislative priorities of Republicans on the House floor. And he blamed the sluggish economy of the last few years on Obama.

“He’s created a regulatory environment … and tax regime that sends jobs overseas,” said McHenry. Noting that he voted against Obama’s health care and banking reform plans – as well as his job stimulus program – McHenry said he wants to slash spending and “reign in the EPA.”

In terms of energy policy, “this president is so beholden to very leftist groups and environmental extremists that he’s unwilling to harness our own natural resources,” he asserted. The U.S. government should allow vastly more oil drilling and other resource harvesting on public lands, he said.

On the tax front, he said he wants a “fairer, flatter tax.” The chief role of federal government is national security, and practically every other federal department, program and initiative needs to be analyzed for cuts, he said.

Another priority should be eliminating the Department of Labor, he said, because “they’re beholden to big labor.”

He added: “Any department not specified in the constitution should be eliminated.”

And any federal transportation and eduction funding should be dolled out to states in the form of block grants, rather than administered by federal agencies, he said.

In terms of health care policy, McHenry said “Obama care” needs to be replaced in “a methodical way.” Advocating a three step approach to health reform, McHenry said the priorities should be allowing insurance to be purchased across state lines; allowing small businesses to band together when shopping for insurance policies; and substantial medical malpractice reform.

“We have to have more competition among health insurers,” he said.

After the results were tallied, McHenry called the day’s straw poll win “a nice response.”

Don Peterson of Gaston County also filed last week to run in the Republican primary but didn’t attend the forum.

Meanwhile, Democrats Timothy Murphy, Patsy Keever and Terry Bellamy are facing off in their party’s primary, hoping to take McHenry’s seat.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

4 thoughts on “McHenry and Fortenberry faceoff at BCGOP forum; McHenry wins straw poll

  1. factchecker

    “However, asked for specifics about what he [Fortenberry] would do to improve upon Obama’s plan, he said: “What would take it’s place? I don’t have the answer.””

    Typical Fortenberry. An inch deep, and no answers to actual issues.

  2. Dionysis

    Same old discredited platitudes and sound bites that have not worked in the past, but sound good. Continue environmental degradation as long as a few more coins can be made, increase the already historically high divide between the top 1% and everyone else, divert attention from the fact that it was a Republican Treasury Secretary and former Merrill Lynch CEO (Don Regan) who began the flood of jobs away from our shores, take away anything that threatens the monopoly of the for-profit health care insurance companies (and the perpetuation of the 1/3 added premium cost due to ‘executive salaries, overhead and marketing’), continue the dumbing down of the populace and on and on.

    If regurgitating old and failed ideas can be considered as ‘money’, they’re bankrupt.

    • factchecker

      You say as the cost of ‘government’ health care continues to increase.

      In reality, the cost of Medicare, as an example. is grossly understated. Money is not free… unless you print more worthless money the way the Obama administration has been.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.