Mel Watt is the only person ever elected to represent North Carolina’s 12th District in Congress. That changes next week when voters tap Democrat Alma Adams or Republican Vince Coakley to replace Watt, who left the seat after 21 years to join the Obama administration.
It’s one of 13 U.S. House seats from North Carolina on the ballot this fall, and one of only three without an incumbent running for re-election. Thanks to significant gerrymandering, the outcomes in most of the races are all but determined.
Mecklenburg County is comprised of three congressional districts: the 8th, the 9th and the 12th. In the 9th, Republican Robert Pittenger is running unopposed. Here’s how we see the races in the 8th and 12th.
Republican Rep. Richard Hudson seeks a second term. He is challenged by little-known Democrat Antonio Blue. The district snakes into part of eastern Mecklenburg County and runs south and east to Lumberton. It takes up all or part of 12 counties, including much of Cabarrus and Union.
Hudson was district director for former congressman Robin Hayes and chief of staff for other congressmen before being elected in 2012. The National Journal ranked him the 12th most conservative member of the House in 2013. Hudson says he stands for conservative principles – such as repealing the Affordable Care Act and vigorously protecting gun rights – while also trying to work with Democrats where possible. He chairs the Homeland Security Committee’s Transportation Security Subcommittee.
Blue retired from the military after 24 years and is now mayor of Dobbin Heights, a small area of about 850 residents next to the town of Hamlet. He said he is running because he is dedicated to public service, wants to be accessible and wants to help “the least of these.” He says he can get along with everyone, “rich-poor, white-black, Republican-Democrat, straight-gays.”
We recommend Hudson. While we disagree with him on the majority of policy issues, he is a better fit for the solid conservative majority of the 8th District than is Blue. Blue has little experience that suggests he’s ready to serve in Congress, while Hudson has some standing within the Republican majority. Hudson has refrained from bomb-throwing and says he wants to work in a bipartisan way. Voters should make sure he does.
Adams faces Coakley in one of the most gerrymandered districts in America. The 12th snakes from Charlotte up I-85 to Winston-Salem and Greensboro. It is majority black and even bigger majority Democratic.
Adams, of Greensboro, has been a state legislator for 20 years after serving on the Greensboro City Council and school board. She has amassed a liberal record in that time and emphasizes education, health care and helping women and the poor.
She and Coakley disagree on just about every public policy question. Coakley was an anchor on WSOC for years before becoming a radio talk show host. This is his first run for public office.
He says government has little or no role in most problems affecting the 12th District. The solutions rest, he says, in the community coming together to solve them. He says he would use the seat as a bully pulpit to urge the business and faith communities to partner to solve problems.
We recommend Adams. Legislators drew the 12th District specifically to elect a black Democrat to Congress. Adams’ views fit the majority of this district far better than Coakley’s.