LUMBERTON —Mark Harris says it’s time there be a little less Washington, D.C., in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, and a little more of the 9th District in Washington, D.C.
The Charlotte Republican, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger for the GOP’s 9th District nomination in 2018, stopped by The Robesonian on Thursday as part of a two-day swing through the district, which includes all of Robeson, Scotland, Richmond and Anson counties, as well as southeastern Mecklenburg County and much of Bladen and Cumberland counties.
The GOP primary will be a rematch between Harris and Pittenger. In 2016 Pittenger defeated Harris in the district-wide, three-way race by 134 votes. In Robeson County, Harris was the top vote-getter, winning 301 of 611 votes cast. Pittenger finished third with 141 votes.
Harris, whose recent resignation as senior pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church becomes effective at the end of September, is no stranger to North Carolina’s political scene. In 2014 he was unsuccessful in a bid for the U.S. Senate, finishing third in the GOP primary. In 2012, he was the leader in the campaign to pass Amendment One, which reaffirmed North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage but has since been found to be unconstitutional.
“I think the citizens of of the district are ready for a change,” Harris said. “I think they want someone who will fight for them and bring leadership to Washington … . Robert has become more attuned to special interest groups than those he represents in the 9th District.”
Harris said it is time to replace the professional politician with the “citizen statesman.”
“It’s time people be less concerned about winning the next election and do what is best for the people of their district and the nation,” Harris said. “Elect me to Congress and I assure the people I will work day and night for them.”
According to Harris, as a member of the Congress his core values of “faith, family and community” will not change. He said he will use his “gifts and abilities” of consensus building to bring people together to work for solutions to issues confronting the nation.
Harris said that the Congress needs to bring spending under control.
“The $20 trillion debt continues to grow and we are still making it larger every year,” he said. “Both parties are to blame. Republicans just grow the debt a little slower than the Democrats.”
Harris said the system of paying taxes is too confusing.
“We need real tax reform, not just tax cuts,” he said. “We want tax reform where the tax code becomes clear and simpler.”
Harris supports President Donald Trump in his efforts to build a wall along U.S. borders.
“How many millions of illegal immigrants are in the United States?” said Harris. “Building a wall is expensive, but it’s not more expensive than us having to build schools and infrastructure to serve illegal immigrants. It’s expensive when we give them the same rights that we (citizens) have without any responsibilities.”
Harris said regardless of their personal feelings, members of Congress need to get in step with the president and work in the best interest of the people.
“Donald Trump was elected by the people and he is seeking to fulfill promises he made,” Harris said. “He is trying to work with the Congress, but its members are not helping him. They are not doing their job.”
According to Harris, the 2018 GOP primary will probably come down to a one-on-one between him and Pittenger.
“I haven’t heard at this time of anyone else entering the race,” he said.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.