City of residence: Bryson City, N.C.
Occupation: Industrial public relations; Bryson City alderman
Political experience: Lifetime Democrat; lost bid for Swain County school board; Bryson City alderman since 2013
If you advance, do you believe you have a legitimate chance to defeat two-term incumbent Mark Meadows?
RB: Absolutely. Meadows has done less than nothing for the 11th District. Remember his shut-down-the-government stunt? That cost us $23 million. He is also attempting to destroy the public school system in the District of Columbia. On his watch, Western North Carolina has lost almost $1.8 billion in growth compared to the rest of the state. On the other hand, I have a record of progress in my term as an alderman in Bryson City, advancing tourism by gaining Trout City status from the Wildlife Resources Commission, modernizing a leaky water system, and helping to blunt the General Assembly’s sales tax takeaway from N.C. cities.
If elected, you’d be a freshman congressman with little political clout. What do you realistically believe you can accomplish in your first term for the people of Western North Carolina?
RB: I will be a voice for women and veterans, a protector of Social Security and a builder of a new industrial base in our district ― a concept that does not depend on the votes of other congressmen.
How do you feel you can represent the 11th District’s various ideologies and people in a way that champions compromise and bipartisan efforts? Or do you have other beliefs on representing a varied constituency?
RB: The Book of Isaiah says it best: “Come now, let us reason together.” Our Constitution was formed through a process of listening and compromise. I try to follow that example.
Which 2016 Democratic presidential candidate (including those who have dropped out) do you most identify with?
RB: Although I do not specifically identify with either of the Democratic presidential candidates, I will support the party’s nominee. The candidate with whom I identify most is Harry Truman in 1948. They said he couldn’t win, but through a process of determination and staying on message, he did.
What’s the most important issue facing WNC residents? How would you address it?
RB: We need to listen to reason, not fear and hate, and remember that, first, we are all Americans. Those who would create problems where no problem exists ― i.e., voter fraud and restroom terror ― to demonize and take away rights of others need to be rejected.
Job creation and cost of living affect many 11th District residents. What would you do to create living wage jobs?
RB: I plan to bring the concept of the Research Triangle Park to Western North Carolina. Using existing agency funds (no new taxes) we can grow high-tech businesses with commercial potential that are waiting for startup money in all our universities. These include telecommunications, biomedical, computer science, green energy and cutting-edge agriculture. In this way, our young people who leave to be educated can come home to find work in their fields that pays better than just a scrape-by wage, raise their families here.
What makes you more qualified than the other candidate?
RB: The greatest influence on our lives comes from local officials. They fix problems with streets, water, sewer, lighting and safety. I am a Bryson City alderman and will take an alderman’s pragmatic point of view to Washington. We need to get things done in this country, not throw tantrums and shut it down.