By: Jim Longworth
North Carolina’s gerrymandered Congressional boundaries are, to say the least, confusing. For example, if you stand in the middle of NC A&T University’s campus, you’ll have one foot in the 6th District, and the other foot in the 13th District. And while the Courts and our State General Assembly may alter those boundaries by next year, and while some residents of those districts may disagree with the politics of their respective Representative, the upside is that Mark Walker and Ted Budd, both Republicans, are two of the most honest, congenial, and hard-working politicians I have ever known. High praise indeed from this old liberal Independent who often disagrees with them on public policy initiatives, many of which we discussed last week when both men stopped by the studio to tape a special edition of Triad Today, which will air this Saturday at 7:30 a.m. on abc45, and Sunday at 11 a.m. on MY48. An audio edition will air on WSJS radio, Saturday at 8:30 a.m. During the half-hour program, we covered a wide range of topics, ranging from hate speech to immigration. What follows are some highlights from our conversation.
Jim: When Republican Congressman Steve King made racist remarks, you guys drafted a resolution condemning him, and even stripped him of his committee assignments. But when Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar made anti-Semitic remarks, her name was nowhere to be found on a resolution. Is that why the two of you voted against the final resolution?
Ted: It was nearly unanimous when Republicans spoke against the words of Steve King, but when it came to Omar, the Democrats came up missing. They didn’t deal with the committee assignments; they didn’t deal with the actual hate speech which she had repeated multiple times.
Mark: I was in the room when we made the decision to remove Steve King from his committees. We expected that the Democrats would offer the same decorum.
Jim: Speaking of resolutions, why not draft one that admonishes President Trump for his divisive rhetoric, which the Southern Poverty Law Center says is responsible for the historic rise in hate groups, and which the New Zealand shooter said inspired him to kill 50 Muslims?
Mark: I have no problem calling out hate and standing up for injustice anytime it happens, but I will push back a little on the Southern Poverty Law Center. Though they did great work in the beginning and should be commended for it, they list people like Ben Carson and the Family Research Council as hate groups, and I think the SPLC needs to be more responsible.
Jim: Nearly every mass shooting over the past 20 years has involved assault-style weapons and large capacity ammo clips. Do you support a ban on those weapons and clips?
Ted: Absolutely not. We have to deal with those who have terrorist intent, and those who have criminal intent. You have to deal with the people and not the device.
Mark: I’m willing to take a second look at anything that comes across our desk, but Republicans stand strong for background checks. Also, last session we worked on the “Fix/Nix” legislation which deals with the national criminal database, to make sure there were no loopholes or gaps.
Jim: I am not a fan of President Trump, but he’s right when he says we have a border crisis. In February alone over 75,000 illegal immigrants crossed our Southern border, and that number is expected to grow to one million by year’s end.
Ted: This has been a problem that is very bi-partisan. Go back to 2006, 2011, and 2013. $50 billion was appropriated, and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were behind the “Secure Fences Act.” Now, all of a sudden when Trump is in office, they’re absolutely against him. It’s become hyper-politicized, and we need to realize this is a national security issue.
Mark: I’ve looked at these numbers, and there’s been a 572 percent increase in illegal immigration since the last administration, and now it’s a humanitarian issue because we’re seeing immigrant children being abused. Even Doctors Without Borders will tell you that one out of three of these young girls are being assaulted, and one out of six young men.
Jim: How are things different now that you’re no longer in the majority?
Mark: It’s a little different place, but you know what? It’s a privilege and an honor to serve the people of North Carolina, and we’re still learning. I’m happy to have the opportunity, and we hope to do the very best job we can.
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).