Republican Harold Johnson pleased Republican leaders by besting primary opponent Tim D’Annunzio, a well-funded but off-message millionaire. Their odds of defeating Larry Kissell, a candidate who lost to former Rep. Robin Hayes by a tiny percentage in 2006 and who still had a close win when President Obama helped many down-state tickets during the 2008 presidential race, are mixed. This is a mid-term in a tough economy, meaning Democrats are disadvantaged in swing districts; all the same, Kissell is slightly favored to win.
Candidates for North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes all or portions of Hoke, Cabarrus, Stanly, Montgomery, Union, Mecklenburg, Anson, Richmond and Scotland counties, as well as the cities of Albemarle, Concord and Laurinburg. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Larry Kissell
Political experience: Kissell was elected to the U.S. House in North Carolina’s 8th District in 2008. He serves on the House Agriculture Committee and House Armed Services Committee.
Professional experience: Kissell had a 27-year career in textiles and was a social studies teacher for seven years before becoming a U.S House representative.
Key issues: Kissell has introduced legislation that brought more than $1 billion in funding for the district and $1 million for a USDA Human Nutrition Center at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis. He’s introduced tax deductions for teachers paying out-of-pocket costs on classroom supplies.
In discussing his accomplishments on his website, he says he’s also added amendments that call for commodity-trading boards to have greater diversity — including farmers, ranchers, and grain elevator operators.
Endorsements: Veterans’ Vision and the North Carolina AFL-CIO support Kissell.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Funding won’t decide the race alone, as Kissell’s advantage is only somewhat better than his opponent’s, according to fund-raising data on OpenSecrets.org. Both candidates have spent roughly the same amount of money so far on the race, and Kissell has a fair amount more than Johnson. Kissell has $292,993 while Johnson has $81,730. But Kissell is likely to keep his seat this election.
Candidate: Harold Johnson
Political experience: Johnson has no political experience.
Professional experience: Johnson is a Marine veteran and former TV and radio journalist. He was a four-time Emmy-winner as Mid-South’s Sportscaster of the Year.
Key issues: Johnson wants to stop illegal immigration immediately by any means necessary — a physical fence, a virtual fence, more border patrol officers or National Guard, he says. He is against amnesty and immigration reform.
Based on what he says on his website, Johnson wants to make energy independence for this country a major part of his future legislative agenda. He feels the Gulf oil spill offers lessons on energy independence, such as working on new technologies and renewable-energy sources. However, he is opposed to cap and trade legislation that he calls a job-killer.
Endorsements: Johnson has been endorsed by former North Carolina Gov. James G. Martin, NASCAR Champion Darrell Waltrip, representatives Walter Jones, Virginia Foxx, Howard Coble, Sue Myrick, Patrick McHenry and former Rep. Robin Hayes.
Chances of unseating Larry Kissell: While it will likely be a close election, Johnson got through a bruising primary with a runoff and Kissell had no real difficulty with his primary. While Kissell is a definite target for the GOP, they may choose to spend extra advertising dollars in a more certain market.
Key Differences between Harold Johnson and Larry Kissell
Jobs: Johnson suggests that since Kissell took office, the district has lost 25,000 jobs. He says the only way to improve the economy is to reduce bureaucratic red tape, cut taxes and streamline regulations. He would lower the corporate tax from 35 percent to 25 percent. Kissell defends his record by saying he introduced an act to require the sale of TARP-related assets to be applied to the national debt. He added amendments to legislation that would require national security and TSA purchases to be American-made.
Defense and the military: Kissell says he has added amendments to legislation that helped give a contract to a defense company in the district and requires evaluation of the Pope Airfield in preparation to protect against BRAC. He also backed amendments to require the Department of Defense to consider the overall cost of a weapon systems’ life-cycle. Johnson says the system of homeland defense isn’t working, and that the borders aren’t secure enough. He wants the U.S. attorney general to transfer the 9/11 conspirators and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be bomber of Northwest Flight 253 in 2009, to military custody for a military tribunal.
North Carolina‘s 8th U.S. Congressional District
Location: North Carolina’s 8th District is located in the southern part of the state along the South Carolina border. It borders Charlotte on the west and Fayetteville on the eastern tip of the district.
2008 results: Kissell received 55 percent of the vote to Republican Robin Hayes’ 45 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 57.7 percent of the district is white, 27.6 percent black, 9.2 percent Hispanic, 1.8 percent Asian, and 1.5 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the North Carolina 8th District a rating of R+2, awarding a slight edge to Republican candidates in this district.