Opinion

Johnson, Watt for U.S. House seats

The 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives serve short terms (two years) and are elected by far fewer people (only those in their respective districts) than the members of the U.S. Senate. Their role is to give the interests of those districts a voice as the nation's laws and policies are formulated. Voters should look for the ability to work with others to build alliances.

Daniel Johnson a fresh voice for 10th District

The 10th Congressional District covers varied ground. It extends from the foothills of the Blue Ridge to the Tennessee and South Carolina borders, taking in portions of Gaston, Iredell and Rutherford counties and all of Catawba, Cleveland, Caldwell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Avery and Burke counties.

Medium-sized cities such as Hickory struggle to transition from textile manufacturing economies. On the eastern edge, spillover urban growth from Charlotte imposes challenges. Rural communities in the far west, where national forest covers much of the territory, face problems of access and resources.

Republican Patrick McHenry, 32, of Cherryville, is being challenged by Daniel Johnson, also 32, a U.S. Navy veteran and Democrat making his first run for elected office.

We recommend Johnson. His background, his even demeanor and his open-mindedness offer residents the prospect of more effective representation.

McHenry served in the N.C. General Assembly before joining Congress in 2004. A passion for conservative policy has been a driving force in his record, yet he can point to few accomplishments. His adversarial style has drawn attention, but not the kind that has helped his district. McHenry has chosen to throw grenades, particularly on issues of social conservatism such as a ban on gay marriage, instead of working across party lines to come up with solutions for immigration and the financial crisis. Those issues directly affect his district.

His high-profile lapses in judgment (he referred to a man protecting a U.S. embassy gym in Iraq as a “two-bit security guard” and then filmed himself talking about the buildings hit by enemy fire in Baghdad) have kept him from being taken seriously even by many in his own party.

The district needs a fresh voice, one that can rise above the rancor in Washington rather than contribute to it. Johnson, an attorney who served as a felony prosecutor in Raleigh, could provide such a voice. He offers clear, thoughtful, independent-minded views on the issues he will address as a member of Congress. Just as important, he expresses a desire to remain open-minded and seek consensus.

Another consideration: Johnson's life experience has equipped him with a maturity that could serve his constituents well in Congress. While serving aboard the U.S.S. Blue Ridge, he risked his life to save a shipmate and in doing so lost both legs below the knee. His recovery has given him a firsthand understanding of what it takes to confront and overcome adversity and obstacles. It shows in his outlook.

Voters should enthusiastically make this change in leadership. We recommend Daniel Johnson for Congress in the 10th District.

Mel Watt remains best choice for 12th District

The 12th District is North Carolina's most urban corridor. It includes all or most of the city centers of Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston-Salem. Its population is racially diverse, at 47 percent white, 45 percent African American, 7 percent Latino and 2 percent Asian. Its economy is distinct, featuring the nation's second largest banking center in Charlotte, as well as corporate national headquarters.

Mel Watt, 63, a Democrat and a lawyer from Charlotte, has served 16 years. He is being challenged by Republican Ty Cobb, 68, of Salisbury, a retired U.S. Army veteran who graduated from West Point.

We recommend Watt. His background and his more urban outlook stand out in North Carolina's delegation.

Cobb is passionate about serving the nation and offers clear, reasoned plans. He is one of few candidates who publicly note the role the national debt plays in the current economic situation. He offers a simple, if impractical, approach: cut all federal departments except defense and law enforcement by 10 percent, and use the savings to pay off the government's debt.

Watt has been a fierce champion of civil rights and privacy, especially as fear drove wrong-headed efforts to curtail Americans' basic rights after 9-11. His voting record shows a thoughtful liberal who has taken unpopular positions. An example: He objected to immigration reform that created permanent guest workers in the United States without providing those residents any rights or responsibilities. We wish Watt would reach across the aisle more than he does. Yet his perspective and his senior ranking on the Financial Services Committee and Judicial Committee is valuable given his district.

We recommend Mel Watt for a ninth term in the 12th District.

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