With Richard Hudson’s victory in this week’s runoff election, the race to represent the 8th District in Congress is finally on.
As the Republican nominee, Hudson will be up against incumbent Democrat Larry Kissell and write-in candidate Antonio Blue, also a Democrat.
All three candidates head into the fall campaign with different strengths and challenges.
Hudson’s supporters say that his experience in the 8th district, which runs from Charlotte to Robeson County, is one of his greatest strengths going into campaign season.
Hudson served as district director for Kissell’s predecessor, Robin Hayes, managing the Rockingham and Concord offices for several years.
“He’s well-known throughout the district, primarily because he was director for Robin Hayes when he was the congressman here,” said Bill Owens, chairman of the Scotland County Republican Party. “I think he’s well-established, and a good candidate. He has ties here to Scotland County through some family members.”
Hudson also has ties to the Republican establishment, who endorsed him widely over dentist Scott Keadle, who lost to Hudson in Tuesday’s runoff election.
“Although he’s never held an elected office, he certainly has a lot of experience in politics,” said Owens. “We’re going to support him here in the Republican Party; we’re going to do everything we can to help him get elected.”
Hudson is based in Concord, where he own Cabarrus Marketing Group.
In addition to Hudson, Kissell has also faced opposition within his own party, stemming from a declaration that he would not endorse President Barack Obama.
Last week, the 8th District Black Leadership Caucus Political Action Committee nominated Antonio Blue, mayor of Dobbins Heights, to serve as a write-in candidate. Blue also serves as the chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party.
Walter Rogers, chairman of the N.C. Black Leadership Caucus, said that Blue has nationwide support from Democrats who oppose Kissell.
“Not only does he have support through the 8th District, he has support through the state and probably the nation,” said Rogers. “When Larry Kissell votes, his vote doesn’t just affect the 8th district, it affects the entire 50 states.”
While conceding the difficulties of running as a write-in candidate, whose name cannot legally appear on the ballot, Rogers noted that many 8th District Democrats are seeking an alternative while staying loyal to the party.
“Write-in candidacy is always a challenge, but the fact that he has so many people who are so supportive, he has a very good chance of being the winner,” Rogers said. “I did not realize that there were so many people who are looking for an alternative until now. What Antonio will do is give them an alternative. I think he’ll be very, very open-minded to the public, and I think that’s very important.”
Although some in the Democratic Party are disgruntled with their congressman, Kissell has found a measure of support among local conservatives.
Charles Brown, vice-chairman of the Scotland County Republican Party, visited with Kissell in Washington, D.C. this week after attending a Christians United for Israel conference.
“On Wednesday, all 5,000 of us stormed Capitol Hill, where I had the opportunity to visit Larry in his office,” Brown said. “He’s been to Laurinburg many times and we know each other on a first-name basis. Larry is a former schoolteacher, an excellent representative for the 8th district, and I think Larry will do well in the upcoming general election.”
Brown said that Kissell’s conservative support might well outweigh Democratic dissatisfaction with Kissell’s decision to vote against the Affordable Health Care Act and voice his non-support of Obama.
“They were upset because he spoke his mind and spoke of what he did about Obamacare and not supporting President Barack Obama, which he is entitled to as a representative,” said Brown. “But he’s done some good work - people I’ve talked to from other areas are very supportive of Congressman Larry Kissell. He has a lot of support for what he’s done. He’s done a lot of things for veterans and he’s done a lot of things for our county. I think that will carry a lot of weight for him.”
Other local Kissell supporters include former county commissioner Leon Butler and Z.V. Pate farm manager Allen McLaurin, who have both ventured their support of Kissell on the “Conservatives for Kissell” web site.