Thanks to this year’s legislative exercise in gerrymandering, the newly formed 13th congressional district now stretches across all or part of 10 counties, including Alamance, Caswell, Chatham, Davidson, Davie, Iredell, Lee, Person, Randolph, and Rowan. What hasn’t changed is the political make-up of the district, which, like its predecessor, remains strongly Republican. That’s why incumbent Congressman Ted Budd elected to stick with the new district, and this time around, he is being challenged by Democrat Scott Huffman. Budd is a businessman from Davie County, and Huffman is a Navy veteran and small business owner from Rowan. Earlier this month, the two men appeared together for a taping of Triad Today.
What follows are highlights of that discussion:
JL: Experts predict a huge surge in COVID-19 cases this Fall. Should Congress enact a nationwide mask mandate?
TB: Absolutely not. Individuals are smart. We know a lot more than we did since February. People can be sensitive to their situation. If they have someone sick at home, someone with a co-morbidity, then certainly there’s a sensitivity for a mask, but there are other situations where it’s not necessary, and I want to leave it up to individuals’ intelligence.
SH: Absolutely, because if the death of 214,000 Americans are not enough to convince this President and Ted Budd that we need to wear a mask, then obviously, science and the experts should. Almost 400 people in this district have already died from this pandemic.
JL: Speaking of health care, do you support Medicare for All?
SH: Absolutely, because if anything, this pandemic has shown that so many people have lost their health care due to no fault of their own because we don’t have leadership in Washington telling people to respect science, listen to the evidence and wear a mask. So yes, we need to make sure everybody has health care; that way, they can go to the doctor, get the services that they need, and not worry about going in debt if they don’t have health care.
TB: Absolutely not. I don’t think it’s actually merciful. Look, the bottom line is, we want more people to have access to really high-quality health care at an affordable price. I don’t think that defining people below the poverty line is a very merciful way, which is what Medicare/Medicaid does. Also, a lot of great doctors that everyone needs access to don’t take Medicaid.
JL: Senators Warren and Schumer have proposed that we forgive college student loan debt up to $50,000. Do you support that proposal?
TB: I think we need to be very intelligent when people take on debt. I think they need to understand how they’re going to repay it; for example, is the degree they’re actually taking on debt for going to be able to repay itself? I think there are ways out, but I do not believe in all debt forgiveness because it leads to a lot of bad incentives.
SH: If we can give tax breaks to the top two percent, then we can help out those at the bottom who are struggling to pay for their education. I believe we need to forgive some of that because we’ve forgiven so much at the top. People are out of work right now, they can’t pay their health care bill, they can’t pay off their education, so we need to help them. And right now, we’re not doing enough.
JL: What one thing did you learn from your parents that will help you be an effective Congressman?
SH: I think the fact that my mother was a single mom raising three kids, working as a truck stop waitress in Salisbury, helped define my working-class values and how I want to help folks in the district. And that’s why I’m running. I’m running to be that public servant listening to the voice who are screaming out loud in our district that needs help.
TB: I had a granddad who was born in 1890, died in 1953, and I never got to know him. He had a saying, which is, “Just do what you say you’re going to do.” That was his motto, my Dad’s motto, and my motto. I’ve done what I said I was going to do, and I look forward to continuing that.
(Watch the full discussion on Triad Today, this Saturday at 7:30 a.m. on abc45, and Sunday at 11 a.m. on MY48)