Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson and his Democratic challenger, Thomas Mills, agree on trade and terrorism, but not on much else in the North Carolina District 8 race.
The incumbent and his challenger say they value fair trade over free trade. They are both wary about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which would broaden trade between the United States and a dozen countries on the Pacific Rim. Both say the pact reminds them of another trade deal, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which they blame for the loss of many Carolinas textile jobs.
“I do understand that for our employers and for our agriculture, which is our number one industry in North Carolina, we do need foreign markets, and we do need to have trade agreements, but we need to be smart about it,” Hudson said.
Mills said he also has “grave concerns.”
“We made a mess of the state with NAFTA. I can’t – I’m not anti-free trade, but it needs to be fair trade, too,” he said. “Now, I don’t believe that we can become an isolationist country, but we need to clean up the mess we made with the trade agreements in the ’90s and the early 2000s.”
Additionally, the two men want to protect U.S. citizens from the Islamic State. The extremist group is active in Iraq and Syria and has this year taken credit for major terror attacks in Belgium and Paris. Its supporters have been accused of terror plots in 13 states, including one in North Carolina. Last month, authorities arrested 35-year-old Erick Jamal Hendricks of Charlotte on charges of trying to recruit additional Islamic State supporters who would eventually launch attacks.
Outside of those issues, Hudson and Mills disagree on a variety of topics that span from gun control to immigration. Democrats increased their efforts to adopt new gun-control measures after Omar Mateen used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 49 people at an Orlando nightclub while Republicans put forward plans to update the background check system. Congress has remained deadlocked on the issue.
Hudson said the laws are already in place to protect citizens from potential terrorists. But some improvements could still be made, he said. That could include improving states’ reporting of individuals who should be denied the right to buy a firearm due to their mental condition.
“There may be some things that we can do that would all make us safer, but I don’t think we need any new laws to do that,” he said.
Mills thinks the best way to tackle the problem is to close “the gun-show loophole.”
“I think we should look at limiting high capacity clips and I think we ought to look at limiting . . . access to assault weapons,” he said. “I think there can be ways for people who are collectors and enthusiasts to have those guns, but they shouldn’t be in the hands of dangerous people.”
Regardless of all the hype, there are very few mainstream Americans who want to take people’s guns away in the sense that they’ve done in Australia and other countries, other areas.
Both men agree that immigration issues need to be addressed, but they differ on how they would tackle it. Hudson backs Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall with Mexico, while Mills wants to focus on a pathway to citizenship.
I’ve committed, since I was a candidate in 2012, to building a wall along the entire Southern border, and I do think technology can come into play.
“I’ve visited several places on the border,” Hudson said. “If you look at the section of the border between Tijuana and San Diego, we’ve secured that sector. We’ve used double fencing. We’ve used lighting. We’ve used technology that allows us to hear if someone is tunneling under the wall or the fence. We’ve secured that section. There are other sections where we’ve secured the border, but we haven’t done it from ocean to ocean and, you know that’s, to me, what we’ve got to do.”
Mills agrees that the immigration system needs improvements but would take a different approach.
“We’re not going to deport 11 million undocumented people, but what we can do is we can get rid of the bad folks,” Mills said. “And the ones who have been here playing by the rules, adding to our society, many of them have been here for – we’re getting into decades now. We need to figure out a way to give them a path to citizenship because keeping people in the shadows isn’t helping anybody.”
Updated: This story has been updated to include Thomas Mills’ most recent political experience.
Education: Bachelor’s in history and political science, UNC Charlotte.
Professional experience: Former chief of staff for Rep. John Conaway, R-Texas, Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, and Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.
Political résumé: First elected in 2012. He has been in office since 2013 and sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Family: Married to Renee Howell. The couple has an 11-month-old son.
Education: Bachelor’s in history, UNC Chapel Hill. Master’s in public administration, UNC Charlotte.
Professional experience: Former political consultant.
Political résumé: Worked on Elaine Marshall’s race for the U.S. Senate in 2010, other campaigns. Mills started the blog PoliticsNC in 2013.
Family: Married to Jenae Tharaldson. The couple has three children.