Brasstown resident, Hayden Rogers, plans to use his small town roots and mountain values to guide his commitment to improving life for working families and small businesses across the region as he approaches the primary for the 11th Congressional District.
“Over the past five years I have been honored and blessed to work on behalf of the people of Western North Carolina as Congressman Shuler’s chief of staff,” said Rogers. “During that time I have had the opportunity to see how much positive impact a member of Congress can have on the course of our nation, our region, and individual lives. I decided to run for Congress because I want to continue serving the families and communities of Western North Carolina.”
Born and raised in Western North Carolina, Rogers credits his parents for instilling in him the value of hard work and education through their careers as public school teachers. Business-oriented from an early age, Rogers got his entrepreneurial start catching and selling night crawlers at Lake Santeetlah and later mowing lawns and helping his grandfather on the farm. While attending Robbinsville High School, Rogers served in various academic leadership roles including president of the student body and the National Honor Society. After graduating from Robbinsville, Rogers went on to attend Princeton University, where he majored in politics. Throughout college Rogers worked night jobs and in the school cafeteria to help pay his tuition.
After graduating college, Rogers returned to Western North Carolina where he began a successful small business career. He started a construction company and later expanded his entrepreneurial ventures to real estate management, landscaping, and a retail garden center. In each of these enterprises, Rogers experienced firsthand the challenges and joys that come with owning a small business. He created jobs, balanced a budget, negotiated health insurance costs, and saw how unnecessary regulations stifle growth. He developed strong relationships with the local community while expanding opportunities for workers in Western North Carolina.
Recognizing Rogers’ proven track record for success and his solutions-driven approach to business, Heath Shuler reached out to Rogers in 2005 to lead his first Congressional race. Rogers managed Shuler’s campaign to a landslide upset victory over an eight-term incumbent and went on to become the Congressman’s long-time Chief of Staff and top advisor.
As Chief of Staff, Rogers oversaw the operations of the entire Congressional office, ensuring Congressman Shuler was taking every action possible to help the families and small businesses of Western North Carolina. During his tenure with Congressman Shuler, Rogers worked closely with leaders in both the public and private sectors to help save and create jobs; guarantee that seniors and veterans were receiving the benefits they were due; and ensure that education opportunities were available to students from every corner of the district.
When Congressman Shuler announced he wouldn’t seek re-election to the 11th District, after careful consideration, Rogers decided to seek election to fill the seat. If elected, Rogers plans to continue working for the families of Western North Carolina.
Having worked with Shuler since his first campaign in 2005, although Rogers’ political platform is considerably similar to his potential predecessors’, he is adamantly working to make his own name and set himself apart. “It was an honor to work with Congressman Shuler and for the people of the 11th District for the past five years,” said Rogers. “There are many ways that we are similar, but I am my own person with my own priorities. As a member of Congress I will focus on rewarding companies that create jobs here at home, fighting unfair trade agreements, investing in higher education and job training programs to prepare the next generation of Western North Carolinians for the future, and will always protect the long-term stability of Social Security and Medicare.”
Rogers’ goals for Macon County
During his tenure, Congressman Shuler has worked closely with Macon County Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman to receive the reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools Act (SRSCA), a fight Rogers intends to pick up if elected to office. School districts across the country, including Macon County and 24 other rural counties in North Carolina that house a substantial amount of federal lands within their boundaries, receive vital funding through SRSCA. The Macon County school system currently receives more funding than any other county in the state through the SRSCA, and thus stands to lose a significant amount of funding. “In Congress, I will continue fighting for the reauthorization and funding of the Secure Rural Schools Act to help the local school systems in Macon and other 11th District counties,” said Rogers. “In counties with such a high percentage of federally owned land, this program is vital to the fiscal stability of our schools. We must ensure it is reauthorized so that our children have an equal chance at success.”
With devastating budget cuts across the board to programs like ‘More at Four’ and Preschool, a countless number of children have been affected. During a recent visit to Macon County, Rogers visited with the county’s Child Daycare Committee to learn more about what can be done to bridge the gap being created by budget cuts from the General Assembly. According to Rogers, one of the top
Assembly. According to Rogers, one of the top three things new businesses look for when deciding to expand to a new area, is the childcare in the community. If elected, he plans to focus on expanding their efforts for the betterment of the community. “I had the opportunity to meet with the Child Daycare Committee of Macon County and to see up close the tremendous work they are doing to increase access to high-quality childcare for working families,” said Rogers. “I look forward to working with them to expand their efforts in Macon County and throughout the 11th District. By following their example, we support our families and also improve the economic future of our region.”
Social Security, healthcare and a balanced budget
Throughout his campaign, Rogers also plans to promote his agenda of working against privatizing programs like Social Security and Medicare. “I will also work to protect the long-term stability of Social Security and Medicare and fight against dangerous schemes to privatize these vital programs so that seniors know their retirement is secure,” he said. “I will fight unfair trade agreements that ship American jobs overseas and reward companies that keep and create jobs here at home with tax incentives. And I will work to invest in future generations by supporting our community colleges and job training programs so that our young people are prepared to compete in the global economy.”
While in office, Congressman Shuler voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) because he said it cut too much from Medicare. While Rogers supports Shuler’s vote, he believes several aspects of the ACA could be positive if executed differently. “I would not have supported the ACA in its final form. While I strongly believe we must continue to do more to ensure affordable access to health care for all Americans, I do not believe this bill successfully achieved that goal,” said Rogers. “However, the ACA did have some positive components, including removing the ability to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, closing the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” for seniors, and allowing children to remain on the parent’s insurance longer. Too many people, including the other candidates in this race from both parties, have spent their time focusing on blind support for or against the specific legislation. It is clear our work is not done, and our time should be spent working to improve our health care system and provide affordable access to high-quality health care for all Americans.”
With the Bush tax cuts scheduled to sunset at the end of this year, Rogers believes the only solution would be to balance the federal budget in order to reduce the national debt. “I believe we must work to balance the federal budget and reduce the national debt in a responsible manner. As the tax policies in question will expire before the end of this year, I am hopeful this Congress can work in a bipartisan manner to begin balancing our budget without raising taxes on working Americans,” said Rogers. “I strongly support efforts to simplify the U.S. tax code, close special interest loopholes, and broaden the overall tax base so that we can reduce effective tax rates for all Americans.”
Gas Prices and redistricting
With gas prices continuing to rise a little each week, one question sure to be on voters’ minds in the upcoming election are candidates plans to attempt to alleviate the pain at the pumps. According to Rogers, the best way to do that is to increase America's domestic production and promote the nation's energy independence. “For far too long partisan ideologues in both parties have prevented our nation from developing a comprehensive and long-term energy policy,” said Rogers. “I support efforts to ensure America’s energy independence by increasing domestic production of oil and natural gas, while also investing in the sustainable energy sources that will power our nation and our economy in the years ahead. In the short-term, we should reduce the ability of Wall Street speculators to artificially inflate the price of oil and gasoline for their personal gain at the expense of American families and businesses.”
The controversial redistricting battle that is still raging in the court system has caused multiple districts throughout the state to be considered overwhelmingly partisan, and appears to favor the Republican Party. As a Democratic candidate vying for a seat in a District that will be predominately Republican, Rogers admits he is up against some challenges, but believes citizens in Western North Carolina will still allow his campaign to be successful. “While the newly drawn 11th District does present new challenges, I do not believe they will prevent our campaign from being successful. Voters in Western North Carolina are fiercely independent and want a Congressman who will work for and support them, not the interests of their political party,” he said. “I was born and raised in this district and my family has been here for generations. I will always put the interests of Western North Carolina’s families first.”
Although the fate of the redistricting lines is still being decided in the legislature, Rogers believes that the only solution would be to encourage a non-partisan committee to be charged with deciding what is in the best interest of the American people. “We have all seen the results of partisan redistricting, whether in North Carolina or any other state. It has led to the increasingly divisive and toxic political atmosphere across the country and gridlock in Congress. By politicizing the redistricting process and gerrymandering districts, politicians have made themselves less accountable to the majority of Americans,” said Rogers. “Rather than representing the mainstream middle of American politics, gerrymandered districts make politicians responsible only to the fringes of either party. They then fight for only narrow partisan agendas, not the majority of the American people. I strongly support efforts to create nonpartisan redistricting commissions that look out for the best interests of voters and communities, not politicians and political parties.”
While Rogers’ primary opponents Tom Hill and Cecil Bothwell have spent much of their campaign telling voters how they differ from Congressman Shuler and how they would approach their run at office differently, Rogers is relying on his track record as a small business owner to prove to voters that he knows the ins and outs of growing businesses in the region. “My primary opponents have chosen to focus their attention on the past. My campaign is focused on the future of Western North Carolina,” said Rogers. “Before entering public service I was a small business owner. I know what it takes to create jobs and how to balance a budget while continuing to invest in the future. I have experience in national policy issues and in helping citizens interact with the federal government. I am not concerned with partisan agendas or personal glory. I am running for Congress to continue helping the families of Western North Carolina. No other candidate, in either party, is as prepared to go to work for this district on day one as I am.”
With eight Republican candidates battling it out for the primary, it is nearly impossible to settle on a frontrunner, although Mark Meadows and Jeff Hunt continue to gain momentum. According to Rogers, regardless of who might be his potential GOP challenger, he will continue to expand his platform of looking to the future for residents in Western North Carolina. “While several candidates, in both parties, have anointed themselves as frontrunners, the people of the 11th District will make that determination. While the other candidates in this race have spent their time attacking one party or the other with the same tired rhetoric, my campaign is focused on moving us forward,” said Rogers. “The challenges before us are challenges for the entire nation. I have spent the last five years serving all the people of the 11th District and our campaign is about continuing to work for them.”