Opinion

Kissell, Myrick for U.S. House seats

The role of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives is to give the interests of their respective districts a voice as the nation's laws and policies are formulated. These lawmakers serve shorter terms (two years) than U.S. senators and are elected by far fewer people (only those in the district). The ability to build relationships is an especially important qualification.

A close choice, but Larry Kissell in 8th District

The 8th District is in south-central North Carolina, and is among the most varied in the state. It includes Anson, Richmond, Scotland, Hoke, Montgomery and Stanly counties as well as portions of Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Union and Cumberland counties. It takes in affluent areas near Charlotte, where growth remains robust, as well as battered textile communities the U.S. Census lists as the hardest hit by manufacturing job losses of the past decade. The district includes strong military interests in Fayetteville, where Fort Bragg's growth is poised to draw tens of thousands. Yet much of the district is rural, encompassing communities such as Seagrove, the heart of North Carolina's pottery industry, which remains agricultural and craft-based. Many of the rural counties have elevated rates of unemployment and poverty.

Republican Robin Hayes of Concord has represented this district for five terms. He's being challenged by Democrat Larry Kissell, a teacher from Biscoe, who lost a bid to oust Hayes by 330 votes in 2006.

This is not an easy choice. These two candidates hold similar views on many issues facing Congress. Both oppose the government financial bailout. Both oppose citizenship for illegal immigrants. Yet they differ in key ways, too. We recommend Larry Kissell. We believe he's more attuned to the needs of the people in the district and will push for policies that can help them economically.

Hayes has served four years in the state legislature and a decade in Congress. No one commits that kind of time unless they're serious about public service, and his passion is apparent. As a senior member of the Armed Services Committee he has helped improve veterans' benefits and support for military communities. He also has helped secure federal support for Charlotte's mass transit needs.

Yet the 8th District shed some 200,000 jobs, by the U.S. Census count, in the past decade. Many of those are textile jobs. It's not fair to blame the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which Hayes supported, for all those losses. It is fair to say he should support broad measures such as an increased federal minimum wage and expansion of SCHIP, the health insurance for children, that are lifelines for economically stressed communities. He has not.

Kissell is a former textile worker who moved to the public school classroom after the plant he worked at closed. He is a serious, smart, down-to-earth man who knows the district and its concerns. He is conservative in many respects: too conservative, we believe, on immigration. Yet he pledges to work for stronger protections for U.S. workers in international free trade, raising the federal minimum wage and expanding SCHIP. He also promises to be independent-minded and work across the aisle.

Hayes is not an incumbent who should be hastily tossed. Yet we recommend Larry Kissell as the better voice to represent the 8th District.

Myrick remains better choice for 9th District

The 9th District includes parts of Gaston, Mecklenburg and Union counties. The district is densely populated and takes in areas that have led the state in growth for the past decade. Some of those areas, particularly ones adjacent to Charlotte, have experienced double-digit annual growth. The economy includes banking, manufacturing and headquarters for eight Fortune 500 companies. Congestion, public schools, and paying for the resources to serve an increasingly urban and diverse region are top concerns. So is poverty. Despite its wealth, the number and percentage of poor and working poor in Charlotte is higher than its peers in North Carolina, and continues to rise.

Sue Myrick, a Republican from Charlotte, has represented the district for 14 years. She's being challenged by Democrat Harry Taylor, a commercial real estate broker of Charlotte. Libertarian Andy Grum is also seeking the seat.

We recommend Myrick. But we urge Taylor, who is making his first bid for elected office, to turn his obvious passion for change closer to home. We would like to see him pursue a local elected office.

Myrick is an experienced, conservative lawmaker. Two terms on Charlotte's City Council and four years as its mayor grounded her, and that has shown in Washington. We disagree with her on many issues, from energy policy to immigration. We especially deplore her grandstanding on illegal immigrants in a way that plays to fears and inflames emotions. Yet she has been effective at helping to secure federal support for urban needs such as Charlotte's mass transit.

Taylor is best known as the person who called out President George W. Bush on the Iraq war during a Charlotte visit. He is enthusiastic, sincere and principled, the kind of person who ought to step up to serve in elected office. He knows issues and offers well-thought-out, open-minded positions, particularly on health care reform and energy policy. He expresses a strong desire for compromise that will move government and the nation beyond petty divisions. Yet he has held no office, and there's no record from which to judge how he would perform in Washington. That's not enough to oust an able incumbent who is well-suited for the district.

We recommend Sue Myrick in the 9th District.

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