The Rev. Mark Harris told supporters at rallies in Matthews and Monroe on Thursday that he’d be a much-needed “new voice” of character and consistent conservatism in Washington if elected to represent North Carolina’s newly redrawn 9th Congressional District.
The pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger for the Republican nomination, called for an end to “the gamesmanship of D.C. insiders.” And he said he’d press the fight harder than Pittenger on balancing the federal budget, repealing the Affordable Care Act and de-funding Planned Parenthood.
Harris, who spoke to about 60 people in the park by Matthews Town Hall, also picked up a big-name endorsement from another pastor-turned-politician: former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee, who is popular with the evangelical Christian voters that Harris and Pittenger are heavily courting, appeared with Harris at both rallies and headlined a later Harris fundraiser at a country club in Waxhaw.
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He told Harris supporters in Matthews that most politicians in Washington only look out for themselves. But Harris’ “lifetime of serving people,” Huckabee said, was a sign that he would be different, a leader who would not anger conservative constituents by compromising his principles when it came time to vote on legislation.
Harris “doesn’t need a job,” Huckabee said. “The job needs him.”
Pittenger, also of Charlotte, is running for a third term in a district whose lines were dramatically altered two months ago by the N.C. General Assembly in a response to a federal court order.
The newly redrawn district stretches from southeast Mecklenburg County east to Cumberland County, including a few rural counties bordering South Carolina. All told, six of the eight counties in the new 9th were not part of the district when Pittenger last ran two years ago.
Also vying for the GOP nomination in the special election June 7 is former Union County commissioner Todd Johnson.
Harris did not mention Pittenger by name, but said “our sitting congressman” had voted twice to raise the federal debt limit and had backed an omnibus budget bill last December that did not remove federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive services, including abortions.
“We need to a new voice to stand up for our family values,” Harris said.
Pittenger’s answer is that he has voted seven times to de-fund Planned Parenthood. He also points to his endorsements from National Right to Life, North Carolina Right to Life and the Family Research Council Action PAC – all anti-abortion groups.
At the Matthews rally, Huckabee urged Harris supporters to lobby their friends, family and co-workers to go to the polls in what many expect to be a low-turnout election.
Harris’ anti-Washington message resonated with Charlotte retiree Jim Hayes, who teaches Sunday school for fellow seniors at First Baptist Church of Matthews.
Hayes said he’s for Harris “because I’m for new people. I’m not for anybody currently in office.” The GOP-controlled House and Senate, he added, “haven’t done anything” to halt Democratic President Barack Obama’s agenda.