Two conservative Republicans are fighting to keep their seats in Charlotte-area races

A pair of incumbent congressmen based near Charlotte are looking to fend off Democratic challengers and hold on to their seats, in races most analysts predict will go to the Republicans.

Rep. Patrick McHenry is the Republicans’ chief deputy whip, a high-ranking member of the majority leadership team in the U.S. House who represents the 10th District, stretching from Asheville to Gaston County. Rep. Richard Hudson, a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, represents the 8th District, running from Concord to Fayetteville.

Both incumbents handily beat Democratic challengers in 2016, and have a big fundraising advantage over their opponents this year. Their opponents, both of whom said they were motivated to run after the 2016 election, say they believe they can find enough voters who are hungry for change to give them a chance.

Another pair of high-profile races around Charlotte have attracted more interest and money: The 9th and 13th districts, where Democrats think they have a chance to flip two Republican-held seats. In the 9th, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Democrat Dan McCready is challenging Republican pastor Mark Harris. In the 13th, U.S. Rep. Tedd Budd is defending his seat against a well-funded challenge from Democrat Kathy Manning, an attorney. Both of those races are classified as toss-ups by national observers, and polling has indicated they will be tight.

In the 12th District, which covers most of Mecklenburg County and Charlotte, Rep. Alma Adams is running for reelection. A Democrat, she’s represented the district since 2014, and defeated her most recent Republican challenger with 67 percent of the vote. This year, she’s raised almost $500,000, according to federal filings. Her opponent, Republican Paul Wright, hasn’t reported any fundraising so far.

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Here’s a look at the 10th and 8th district races:

10th District: McHenry vs. Brown

Republican Patrick McHenry is seeking his eighth term in the 10th District. He faces Democrat David Wilson Brown, an IT consultant.

McHenry is the Republicans’ Chief Deputy Whip, and filled in as Majority Whip while Rep. Steve Scalise was recovering from injuries he suffered in a mass shooting last year. The post can be a launching pad for even higher spots in the congressional leadership. He’s also vice chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

In 2016, McHenry defeated his Democratic opponent with 63 percent of the vote.

This year, he’s far out-raised his opponent, Brown. The most recently available campaign records as of Friday show that McHenry has taken in almost $3 million, compared to just over $106,000 for Brown.

Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10) U.S. House of Representatives Charlotte

David W. Brown Courtesy Brown Campaign

Asked why voters should give him another term, McHenry touted economic growth, lower unemployment and tax cuts.

“Proven results,” he said. “I’ll put our record up against anyone’s.”

Brown is a Charlotte native, whose positions are a sharp contrast to McHenry’s conservative stances. Brown favors universal, single-payer healthcare, “red flag” gun laws to allow temporary removal of firearms from people who could harm themselves or others, stronger regulations on Wall Street and a modern version of the Depression-era programs that put unemployed people to work building infrastructure.

Trump’s victory pushed him to run, Brown said.

“The day after the last election I couldn’t look my kids in the face, because they knew what Donald Trump stood for,” said Brown. Of his opponent, Brown says, “He’s about how can he help big corporations.”

McHenry said raising a lot of money doesn’t mean he’s not paying attention to his district or beholden to business interests.

“Because somebody contributes to me doesn’t mean I buy into their agenda, it means they buy into mine,” he said. “I’ve always been responsive to my constituents.”

McHenry said that Brown’s ideas, like universal healthcare, are too expensive and would give the government too much control.

“Socialism is not the answer,” he said. “Obamacare’s been a disaster. The answer to that disaster is not more of it.”

McHenry said he’s proud of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate for people to have health coverage, and that next steps should include letting insurers compete across state lines and bringing more transparency to pricing in healthcare.

Brown criticized the tax cuts enacted by Republicans last year as benefiting big business and the wealthy more than the middle class.

“The middle class is carrying the burden,” said Brown. He called for eliminating tax loopholes for businesses and taxing passive income, like capital gains, more heavily.

McHenry pointed to aspects of the tax cut bill such as raising the standard deduction for a married couple to $24,000 that he said benefit middle-class taxpayers.

“Anyone advocating for repealing it is advocating for a massive tax increase,” he said.

Brown said looking at past results, he knows the numbers seem stacked against him, and acknowledged that to many, he’s a “no-name candidate.” To counter McHenry’s name recognition and fundraising advantage, Brown said he’s put 50,000 miles on his car, crisscrossing the district.

“People are ready for change,” said Brown.

McHenry said he believes Republicans can keep control of the House, but expects Democrats to put up a fight.

“It’s going to be close,” he said. “It’s just a question of whether or not Republicans come out.”

8th District: Hudson vs. McNeill

Richard Hudson is running for his fourth term. The Concord Republican won reelection in 2016 with 59 percent of the vote. This year, he’s running against Democrat Frank McNeill, a former mayor of Aberdeen and president of his family’s oil distribution company.

Through June, Hudson has raised $1.8 million, federal filings show. McNeil has raised almost $596,000 for his campaign, according to federal filings Friday.

McNeill said he knows he faces tough odds. But the Appalachian State graduate compared his campaign to the team’s unexpected victory over the University of Michigan’s football team in 2007.

“There was no way we could win that game, but we did,” said McNeill.

Richard Hudson U.S. House Office of Photography

Frank McNeill Frank McNeill for Congress

Hudson is rated among the most conservative members of the House Republicans, a fact that he touts, and has been a vocal supporter of the Trump administration. In 2017, his wife was hired as chief of staff by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

McNeill accused him of being out of touch with the district and spending his adult life in the nation’s capital.

“I’m looking at it as someone from Moore County,” said McNeill. “His point of reference is Washington, D.C.”

Hudson said he’s spent the large majority of his years living in the district, and that opponents have tried that attack before. Hudson said he’s active in the community when he’s not required to be in Washington, and pointed to local involvement with groups like the YMCA in Concord. He was on the board of that group when they opened the new YMCA, and also served on the board of trustees for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College before running for the House.

“It’s the same attack that was tried on me in 2012, 2014, 2016,” said Hudson. “It doesn’t resonate, because people know me...I’m from this community.”

McNeill differs from Hudson on many key issues. He says too much of the tax cut went to the wealthy, and that tax cuts weren’t needed when the economy was already growing. He also wants to see expanded background checks for gun purchases, though McNeill emphasizes he’s a gun owner as well.

Hudson said that economic growth shows the tax cuts have been successful.

“This tax bill put real money in real people’s pockets,” said Hudson. He also said more mental health training and resources in schools is the best way to deal with mass shootings, not more regulations on guns.

McNeill said his biggest appeal to voters will be his small business background and a desire to see less bitter partisanship in Washington. He said the government should be run more like a business, matching expenditures and revenue.

“We’re blowing up the deficit too much,” he said. “We can’t keep doing that.”

In a year when some Democrats are counting on disenchantment with the president to drive their voters to the polls, Hudson isn’t afraid to associate himself with Trump. He thinks voters in the 8th District still support the president’s policies.

“People in this area appreciate the success the president’s had,” he said. The most criticism Hudson said he hears from voters has to do with Trump’s social media usage.

“I wish the president hadn’t sent that tweet,” Hudson said he hears, “But we like what he’s doing.”

See more of each candidate’s positions online at their websites

David Wilson Brown: https://dwb4congress.com/

Patrick McHenry: https://mchenryforcongress.com/

Richard Hudson: https://richardhudson.org/

Frank McNeill: https://mcneill4congress.com/

Portillo: 704-358-5041