The Macon County Democratic Women hosted a forum for Democratic candidates vying for the party’s nomination to run for the 11th Congressional District, a seat currently held by Congressman Heath Shuler.
Candidates Hayden Rogers, Tom Hill and Cecil Bothwell attended the forum to meet with voters and hopefully gain support for the May 8 primary election.
Hayden Rogers, 41, Brasstown
Hayden Rogers, a native of Robbinsville, received a degree in political science from Princeton University after graduating from Robbinsville High School. Rogers, who lives near the Clay County line in Brasstown with his wife and daughters, has served as Shuler’s Chief of Staff for the last five years. Prior to becoming Shuler’s right hand in office, Rogers owned and operated his own wholesale nursery and landscaping business, and managed several rental properties.
“I do have about a decade’s worth of background in not only trying to make a living for myself and my family, but also with having the responsibility of taking care of my employees and making sure they had a paycheck to take care of them and their families.”
While working with Shuler in Congress, Rogers said he gained a profound understanding of how the political system works and has been able to acquire a fundamental understanding of the ins and out of Washington. “Through my experience in Washington, I have learned a lot about politics. I have learned about the politics you don't read, and the politics that you can only learn about from experience — like how to communicate with people and motivate voters and how to reach them.”
Rogers informed voters that he is the only candidate who has the experience and knowledge of the 11th Congressional District and the legislative process. “I have learned first hand how the legislative process works and how ideas go from creation through that process and hopefully to a positive outcome,” said Rogers. “I have learned from a lot of the mistakes that we have made, and from the mistakes that others have made through that process. I think it has been an invaluable experience that has helped me to understand how to make an impact and to be successful if I should be lucky enough to get your vote of confidence to be your Congressman.”
Rogers told voters that he wanted to be sent to Washington in order to restore the confidence and respect in government officials that he believes has been lost over the years. “Few things excite me more than the opportunity to restore confidence back in the most fantastic government in the world. It is an honor for anyone to have the chance to be sent there and represent you,” said Rogers.
The Blue Dog Democrat, who raised $300,000 in just six weeks on the campaign trail, with more than half of his total monies raised coming from people in Western North Carolina, reached out to voters to inform them about his stance on political issues and how he differs from Congressman Shuler.
“If you believe that education is the key to our children's futures and that is the key to opportunity not only for current generations, but for all future generations; if you believe that unfair trade agreements that have shipped hundreds of thousands of North Carolina jobs and millions of American jobs overseas have crippled this economy and set America back; if you believe in the very foundation of a strong, robust middle class that could empower any economic recovery better than any tax cut we could give the upper one percent or any other stimulus package; if you believe that protecting social security and medicare are not only obligations for this generation, but ensuring the sovereignties of those programs is also an obligation we have for future generations; if you believe that drinking clean water and breathing clean air and enjoying these mountains whether you like to look at them, hike in them or hunt in them is a birthright, not a luxury, not a discretionary expense for the federal government; if you believe those things, I believe those things too,” said Rogers. “ I believe them with every fiber of my being. Those are core Democratic issues and are issues that motivate me. Those are the issues that will turn this country from a staggering giant back into the robust world figure that we used to be and can and will be again.”
Rogers also addressed his concern with the political agendas of the Republican challengers vying for the vacant seat. According to Rogers, he believes that the only way to progress the American government is to work across the aisle in a bipartisan fashion to promote the growth of policies and programs that will benefit every American regardless of their political affiliation.
“In one of our last forums, there were a couple of GOP challengers that when asked how they would approach the gridlock in Congress and would you compromise, there were two of them that said yes they would negotiate but I won't compromise,” explained Rogers. “If you have been married, if you have been in business, or if you have ever had a job in your life and you approached it that way, it did not turn out well for you. That is the very core of the problems we are facing.”
Cecil Bothwell, 61, Asheville
Cecil Bothwell has lived in Buncombe County for more than 30 years and is the former managing editor for the Mountain Xpress, an alternative weekly newspaper in Asheville. He began his professional career in the building trades as a masonry contractor. Since 2000, Bothwell has owned the small publishing company, Brave Ulysses Books. Bothwell currently serves on the Asheville City Council.
Bothwell said that the campaign experience he gained during an unsuccessful run for Buncombe County Commissioner and his later successful run for Asheville City Council has helped in his attempt for the 11th District seat. “I know about running grassroots campaigns. We had the largest grassroots campaign that Asheville had ever seen. The board of elections had never seen the size of donor list that we turned in. We had over 500 donors and we really got the people out in Asheville.”
According to Bothwell, he based his decision to run for Congress on being unhappy with Shuler’s votes “against women.” Bothwell explained that he did not believe that the current representative mirrored his views and wanted to run against him to change that. Even after Shuler announced he would not seek reelection, Bothwell continued on the campaign trail.
The Asheville City councilman stated that if he was afforded the opportunity to serve in Congress, he would vote in support of the president on issues such as universal health care. “Representative Shuler voted against the Affordable Care Act and I believe that is going to lead us to a single care system, medicare for all in the country,” said Bothwell. It is not a great plan ... but we are on our way now and will be able to fix it going forward.”
Bothwell, a Yellow Dog Democrat, stated that he opposed the Blue Dog Democrats’ plan to cut government and cut taxes. “I take the Democratic view, I really represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party,” he said. “Government works for the people and does things for all of us together that we can’t do alone. Taxes are the dues we pay to live in a civilized society and it’s patriotic to pay taxes.”
With the threat of medicare and social security disappearing or becoming privatized, Bothwell believes the solution to preserving the programs is to raise the cap on social security. “Right now, above 110 thousand [dollars], you stop paying social security. There isn’t anything magic about that number, $110,000. You raise the cap, and well, we just solved that problem.”
Bothwell also informed voters that he believes there needs to be stronger regulations in the stock market to avoid Wall Street being used as a “gambling parlor.”
“We need to have better federal regulations of the stock market and the bond markets,” said Bothwell. “And we can do that, we have done it in the past. When we started deregulation following the Reagan Revolution, we tore the finances of this country apart, we can do better. You deserve better.”
Tom Hill, 74, Zirconia
Tom Hill grew up in East Flat Rock in Hendersonville and attended Hendersonville High School. He grew up on his family’s apple farm and continues to farm on his property today. He went to Wake Forest University before continuing on to receive his Ph.D. in physics from UNC-Chapel Hill. Although Hill has no political experience, he is adamant that through his work in the aerospace field at the U.S. Department of Defense he would be the best representative for the 11th District.
“I am not a politician, I am a scientist,” said Hill in his opening statement. “I believe the situation our government is in now calls for an analytical mind, not a politician.”
One of the main goals Hill has going into the primary, is to work to end the wars if elected to Congress. “What I really want to do, if I should be so fortunate to be your nominee, I want to stop these wars,” he said. “I want to cut off the funding, that is the only way it is going to get stopped.”
According to Hill, he differs from both Rogers and Bothwell when it comes to the Affordable Care Act because he believes that it should “just be thrown out.”
“We needed one thing and one thing alone, and that was the option for anyone who didn't have healthcare to be able to buy into medicare,” said Hill. “I have medicare, it takes good care of me, I am happy with it, and it is one reason I have been able to survive financially.”
Hill also informed voters that another important issue that makes him differ from the other candidates is his stance on Amendment One. “We have right now coming up a referendum on Amendment One,” said Hill. “Will we support gay marriage? That is the bottom line. If you believe that we ought to support gay marriage, vote for Cecil. If you believe that you shouldn’t, vote for me.”
As a Democrat, Hill said he has received backlash for supporting the referendum and vows to stand by it, and compares himself to having similar views to Ron Paul. “If the Republicans come up with something that I believe in, then I am going to support it,” said Hill.
Hill also said that although voters say the referendum is not a federal issue and should be left up to individual states, he claims it becomes a federal issue because when the state ruling is challenged, it is passed up to federal courts. “It is a federal issue because a gay, federal judge named Vaughn Walker overturned a law passed by the majority of the people in California, so it is an issue.”
After Hill concluded his speech, Bothwell addressed the guests with a rebuttal to Hill’s comment that Bothwell would vote in support of gay marriage. “He characterized me as being progay marriage and I am not,” said Bothwell.
Bothwell stated that Amendment One was redundant legislature because it is already against the law in North Carolina for same-sex couples to marry.
After all of the Democratic candidates addressed voters, the Democratic Women’s Club broke for refreshments and allowed guests to have the opportunity to speak to each candidate one on one to ask additional questions of the Congress hopefuls.