Most Republicans would be daunted by the prospect of running in a congressional district where only 16 percent of voters are Republican.
Not Vince Coakley.
The former TV news anchor believes he can beat the odds in the heavily Democratic 12th District.
Coakley, 48, believes he has a message that can appeal to Democrats and independents as well as Republicans, a message that informs his spiritual as well as political life, one honed over three years as a talk radio host.
He calls it a message of freedom and individual liberty.
“It’s a message of liberation, it’s a message of empowerment,” he told delegates to the Mecklenburg GOP convention Saturday. “The problem is, we haven’t done a very good job communicating that.”
After graduating with a broadcasting degree from Eastern Kentucky University, Coakley worked for radio and TV stations in Lexington, Ky., before moving to Charlotte in 1992 to start what would be an 18-year career at WSOC TV.
He moved from reporter to weekend anchor to prime anchor, when he succeeded Bill Walker in 2005. But five years later, he left the station. Why?
“Just a desire for something more, a desire to speak about things that are on my heart,” he says.
He turned to radio, working for a time as a fill-in for former presidential candidate Herman Cain in Atlanta. In 2011, he took over the afternoon drive on WBT-AM (1110). After leaving WBT, he started an online radio program and now hosts a weekly talk show on a station in Greenville, S.C.
It was through talk radio, he says, that he found his voice.
Coakley, who grew up a traditional Baptist, was always religious. When he was in high school, his family moved to Kentucky. A new kid in a new school, he started a prayer and devotional group.
Five years ago, he says, he had “a crisis of faith” that led him to look at a more personal view of faith and Scripture.
“The lesson I learned in 2009 was the importance of relationships,” he says. “Everything I do now is based on relationships.”
As a self-described “minister of the Gospel,” Coakley mentors others on developing their own relationships with God.
“My relationship with God is a foundation for all that I am and all that I do,” he told an interviewer in 2011.
There’s a parallel between Coakley’s spiritual beliefs and political views.
“As I would look to the Bible for my spiritual direction, I would look to the Constitution for my political beliefs and values.”
To him, the foundation of government is individual liberty. That means getting rid of the “regulatory state,” ensuring free markets and getting the federal government out of issues such as education.
“People need to be more empowered, not Washington,” he says. “Why don’t we figure out how to unravel this monstrosity in Washington, D.C., and return money and power to people in the 12th District?”
Coakley doesn’t like labels. He blames Republicans as well as Democrats for problems in Washington.
“I consider myself an American who loves liberty first,” Coakley said.