The hotly contested race for North Carolina’s 8th congressional district seat held by U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell should finally conclude on Tuesday.
Kissell’s main challenger, Republican Richard Hudson, fought through a difficult primary process where he was eventually victorious in a run-off over Scott Keadle.
The two have faced each other in a series of candidate forums over the preceding months and slogged through a campaign that has seen substantial amounts of money spent on advertising from third party political action committees.
Kissell also faces a much different district that the one he ran in just two years ago. The newly drawn 8th District now includes thousands of additional Republican voters. Hudson and his Republican supporters have tried to take advantage of the district’s lean toward the right by painting Kissell as liberal Democrat in cohoots with Barack Obama.
But the Kissell campaign describes his stance on the issues as anything but liberal.
Kissell voted with Democrats about 72 percent of the time over the past two years, but on key votes he often sides with Republicans. He was one of just 17 Democrats who voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress. He voted with Republicans to audit the Federal Reserve system and to extend provisions of the Patriot Act. And this election season, he declined to endorse Obama and skipped his party’s political convention, which was held within 15 miles of his district’s borders.
Kissell, a Biscoe Democrat, has said that he believes the best ideas for government do not come from Washington.
“They come from the people of the district.”
For that reason, Kissell, 61, has pledged to spend as much time as possible visiting with the people of his district and getting feedback from them if re-elected.
Kissell, a former social studies teacher, has also refused to entertain talk of what he called “the gutting of Medicare,” saying that the federal government “must keep its promise to seniors.”
While criticized by his own party for failing to attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, for not voting in lockstep with his fellow Democrats on issues and for being a self-described moderate, Kissell says that Congress could actually use more people like himself.
“I am a moderate, and I believe that is where the answers are,” Kissell said, critical of party partisans that retreat to the safety of the political wings.
Hudson is familiar with the 8th District, having worked as district director for former Congressman Robin Hayes for about six years.
Chief among Hudson’s priorities is returning jobs to the district.
“We have got to make changes,” the Concord Republican said, adding that he would be in favor of reducing regulations on business, cutting taxes and retraining the workforce.
“There’s going to be a day of reckoning for the reckless monetary policy of the Obama administration,” Hudson said at a rally this week. “We need someone in Congress and in the White House who’s willing to change that.”
According to Hudson, allowing health insurance companies to compete across state lines and permitting increased consumer choice are among the measures that must be taken to save Medicare, which he says is “heading toward a cliff.”
Having been critical of what he calls the “poisonous” partisan divide in Washington, Hudson said that he would be willing to engage in a friendly dialogue with his counterparts across the isle. Hudson has worked as Washington chief of staff for several Republican congressman including, Reps. Virginia Foxx, John Carter, and Mike Conaway.
Transparency and improved communications are also among the Hudson’s priorities.
Hudson said that by scheduling open office hours and hosting town hall meetings he will seek to cultivate the relationship between the people of the 8th district and their congressman.
Hudson owns Cabarrus Marketing Group, which provides services to small businesses. He will turn 41 on Sunday.
Potentially complicating the race, is the write-in candidacy of fellow Democrat Antonio Blue.
Blue, a former mayor of Dobbins Heights and former chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party, threw his hat into the ring after being asked to run by the NC 8th District Black Leadership Caucus PAC following statements this summer by Kissell which the group found unsavory.
Citing Kissell’s refusal to endorse Democratic President Barack Obama’s candidacy, Blue has framed himself as an alternative for Democrats fed up with Kissell’s “blue dog” tendencies.
Kissell has refuted that characterization, saying that he has voted to support the President’s initiatives a majority of the time.
“But not on the issues that matter most to us,” said the 50-year-old Blue.
Blue has says that he will support President Obama completely and that he will “represent the people of the 8th District in what matters most to them,” including supporting the Affordable Health Care Act.
As a write-in candidate, Blue’s name will not appear on the ballot, and he will not get any votes by people who elect to cast straight-ticket ballots.
Blue is president of the N.C. Black Elected Municipal Officials. Dobbins Heights has about 866 residents.
McClatchy Tribune Services contributed to this article.