LUMBERTON — Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Mark Harris believes it’s time for statesmen, and not professional politicians, to take over the leadership of government.
“We need men and women in Washington who understand the Constitution,” Harris told a small gathering of GOP faithful Wednesday during a brief campaign stop at the Republican headquarters in Lumberton. “We need men and women who will operate within that document, and if they see others in Washington not doing that, they need to call them out.”
Harris is one of eight GOP candidates, including current N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, battling to win their party’s U.S. Senate nomination in the May 6 primary. Incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, is also being challenged on May 6.
Harris, the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charlotte and past president of the Baptist State Convention, was a leader in the successful 2012 effort to amend the North Carolina state constitution to make it unconstitutional for the state to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions. He was born and raised in Winston-Salem and earned a degree in Political Science at Appalachian State University before becoming a pastor 25 years ago.
Harris said that North Carolinians now have the same concerns — a sluggish economy and an intrusive federal government — as they did 25 years ago when he entered the ministry. The people are also losing faith in their elected officials, he said.
“When a large segment of the population believe that they can’t make change and their voices aren’t heard … that’s the most dangerous tipping point this country has come to in modern times,” Harris said. “Three weeks ago this became a reality when Illinois held a primary to choose a senator and governor. The voter turnout was only 8 percent.
“This tells us people are throwing in the towel. People don’t believe their votes count. They are dropping out,” he said. “We are facing a time when we need to get on the playing field and get off the sidelines. We have to get involved in leadership.”
Harris said that he believes in the same principles as former President Ronald Reagan, that a strong America is like a three-legged stool. There has to be strong domestic and foreign policies, as well as adherence to traditional values, he said.
“Reagan always said that if you try to break off any one of those three legs, the stool will fall … . That three-legged stool will be first and foremost in my mind when I step on the floor of the Senate,” Harris said.
Harris strongly opposes the Affordable Care Act.
“I believe Obamacare can’t be tweaked. It has to be replaced,” he said. “We need to find a solution based on the free market system.”
Harris said there is a major need for job creation, but job-creation efforts are stifled because of tax laws and “regulations that strangle small businesses.”
“Every businessman I talk with and ask what would help business tell me the same thing. They say that we (government) have to deal with tax issues and regulations that are killing them,” he said.
Harris said that the key to a strong foreign policy will always be the military.
“A strong military gives us negotiating power,” he said.
Traditional values are the most necessary element for maintaining a strong America, according to Harris.
“Faith and family at the end of the day are what make America work,” he said. “If you lose these, you lose what America should be.”
Later Wednesday, Harris joined the three other leading candidates in the primary race at a Raleigh TV studio. Harris and the other candidates, Greg Brannon, Heather Grant and Thom Tillis, agreed for the most part on answers to questions on illegal immigration, repealing the health care overhaul law and climate change.
Tillis, the only elected public official among the four and the favorite on May 6, took the lead on bashing incumbent Kay Hagan, whom the winner of the GOP primary will likely take on in the fall.
A third and final debate is slated for Monday night.