The primary election is less than a month away on May 8th. Western North Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Meadows is running for his fourth term. He's seen great success in previous elections. But five other candidates will compete against him this time around.
Over the past six years, Congressman Meadows has grown to become a powerful voice in Washington – not just for Republicans in his Western North Carolina District, but also for conservatives across the country who see the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus as the standard-bearer of the conservative cause. He’s won those three terms in Congress by an average of 23 percentage points, with support hovering near 75 percent in the state’s westernmost counties of Cherokee, Clay and Graham. He’s well financed, and a familiar face on the 24 hour news networks.
All that hasn’t stopped five other candidates from trying to unseat him, including Asheville Republican Chuck Archerd, who insists he’s only on the ballot in the event that Meadows takes a job with the Trump Administration. The others, though, three Democrats and a Libertarian, are dead set on defeating Meadows, who they say has given them plenty of reasons to do so.
“I’m running because, as I tell people, I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore,” said Democrat Steve Woodsmall, a career Air Force officer who retired at the rank of major. “I learned in the military that if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem. It’s time for people to step up and be part of the solution.”
Woodsmall currently serves on the Transylvania County Planning Board, and as an assistant professor and program coordinator of business and organizational leadership at Brevard College. “When he was in Brevard last year at a Chamber of Commerce event and he took some Q&A and every question, the answer was, ‘We need to find conservative solutions to these problems,’” said Woodsmall. “Where I come from, we don’t look at problems as ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal.’ We try to look at the evidence and we try to come up with the best solutions.”
Woodsmall, of Pisgah Forest, has a master’s degree in business administration, and a doctorate in organization and management. Hendersonville Democrat Scott Donaldson is a medical doctor, something he says helps inform his perspective. He’s currently the Chief of Staff at Pardee Hospital, serves on the board of directors and chairs the Medical Executive Committee, all after a 12-year stint as an assistant professor of urology at Duke. “I’m running for Congress because I believe health care is the principal problem we’re seeing in this nation,” said Donaldson. “It’s certainly something I hear every day, and we just need to create, in our nation, something similar to what every other nation has, and that’s a single-payer system. This election is about health, it’s about health care. It’s affecting more and more of us on a daily basis. It’s affecting me right as I stand here, with my daughter who just had surgery. “
McDowell County Democrat Phillip Price has lived all over the district, and operates a small wood recycling business that reclaims and reuses old growth lumber from deteriorating structures. “I’m running for Congress because I’m sick of being lied to by the current congressman and our current Congress,” said Price. “He’s been trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act which has provided health insurance for over 44,000 people in the 11th District — including myself, who otherwise didn’t have health insurance.”
These three Democrats know they face an uphill battle against Meadows, but the man with the biggest fight has entered the race from the town of Sylva. Auburn grad and general contractor Clifton Ingram’s status as a registered Libertarian puts one on the ballot for the first time in a decade in the western part of the state. “I believe that the people really need another choice between just the Republican and Democrats,” said Ingram. “Libertarians are nationally recognized. This was an opportunity to get on the ballot for the mountain folks here in North Carolina.”
The Libertarian Party has grown in popularity since 2008, especially in the western portion of the state, despite only representing half a percent of registered voters. “Mark Meadows is known to be fiscally conservative and so are Libertarians and I believe the same thing as him in that regard,” he said. “We’re also socially liberal which means we don’t believe the government has any business in who you marry and what you do with your body.”
Ingram won’t face an opponent in the May 8 primary election and will instead face Meadows in the General Election in November.