Abraham Mahshie – Contributing Writer
Differing views on how to best promote healthcare, education and economic development define the Congressional District 11 race between incumbent Republican Mark Meadows and Democratic challenger Phillip Price. Meadows brings three terms of experience in the House, while Price rests on his “working man” Western North Carolinian gumption, and support for a variety of core Democratic principles.
As of June 30, 2018, donors heavily favored Meadows with receipts of $877,218 compared to Price’s $56,623, which the challenger attributes to his rejection of corporate contributions in favor of small individual donors. Early voting began Oct. 17.
Experience and values
“I was a small business guy for 30 years before running for Congress,” said Meadows. “And I believe I have an understanding for what moms and dads on Main Street experience every day trying to make ends meet.”
Meadows touts his “extensive record in Congress of being a voice for those people,” having served since 2013, and standing up to “heavy political pressure from my own party.”
Meadows’s core political stances include fiscal conservatism, lower taxes and deregulation.
“I’m an environmentalist,” said Price, 52, in submitted answers, affirming repeatedly his support for green energy investment. He also said he “hiked these mountains and fished the streams” of Western North Carolina for 34 years. In television ads, Price highlights his “working man” character, hammering, cutting wood and shooting a rifle with a Republican friend.
Neither political experience nor a college degree are listed on Price’s résumé.
“I’m a husband, father, Episcopalian, carpenter, small businessman, musician and sportsman.” Price and his wife live in the foothills of McDowell County where they operate a small business, Antique Reclaimed Lumber, deconstructing old barns and repurposing the wood.
In his response, Price emphatically sought to differentiate himself from Meadows by touting his alignment with core Democratic values including universal healthcare, green energy, public education, a living wage, sympathy for asylum seekers, and investment in infrastructure upgrades.
“Did you know there are almost twice as many jobs related to solar energy as there are to fossil fuel energy in North Carolina today?” asked Price rhetorically, calling for more investment in green energy, while protecting the environment and tourism economy. Price also seeks increased infrastructure spending, including broadband Internet for District 11 to incentivize startup businesses.
“We have growing poverty in some of the rural areas of this district,” he said. Price added that investments in public education should include vocational training to give young people the tools they need without “saddling them with endless debt.”
Meadows predicted Carolinians would be better off if Congress focused on cutting “the red tape that holds American workers back.”
The representative said he has “long supported” policies like tax cuts for families and small businesses and rolling back regulations to allow more “economic flexibility.” He said these policies have been a “major factor” in the “record number” of job openings and a 50-year-low unemployment rate.
Meadows opposes the Affordable Care Act (ACA), calling the legislation otherwise known as Obamacare, “one of the most costly pieces of big government legislation ever rammed through the Congress,” and noting on his website, “we must repeal it immediately.”
Meadows said he was in favor of reducing government involvement and implementing “free market principles” in our healthcare system in order to lower healthcare costs, increase the number of the insured, and maintain Medicare.
Meadows also called the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) buyout of Mission hospitals “an independent business decision,” that could have been prevented if better incentives were in place “for taking care of those with critical needs.”
He added, “I believe it’s important that we create an environment that better allows providers like Mission to be financially viable.”
Meadows provided examples of association healthcare plans and expansion of short-term limited duration plans to tackle pre-existing condition coverage and lowering premiums.
“These are some things that would help accomplish what Obamacare could not: controlling rising healthcare costs and reducing burdens for families,” he said.
Price said that Medicaid expansion in North Carolina is “absolutely necessary to cover as many people as possible.” Price also said he favors H.R.676, Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, a bill introduced in January 2017 that would provide Medicare for all Americans, which he said would take the profit motive out of healthcare.
“I went without healthcare for years until the Affordable Care Act was passed,” he said. “Like a lot of folks in Western North Carolina, I don’t know what I will do if the GOP succeeds in gutting the ACA.”
Price also said he was “deeply concerned” that the proposed HCA buyout will “raise costs and result in closures for rural hospitals in North Carolina that aren’t as profitable.”
The Opioid Crisis
Price called the opioid crisis a drain on the potential of citizens and resources.
“From policing to treatment needs to foster care because so many children lose parents to overdoses or prison.”
Price praised the state’s and the nation’s recognition of the problem, and the North Carolina legislature’s moves to restrict prescriptions for first-time patients and make available the opioid overdose medication, naloxone.
“It is not nearly enough, though,” he said. “We need more beds for treatment, more support for grants that find solutions and more access to naloxone.”
Meadows called the opioid academic a “grave problem,” but said he was “very encouraged” by the bipartisan fashion in which Congress is addressing the issue.
Meadows praised September legislation to enhance treatment programs and give law enforcement more tools to stop the spread of illegal drugs. He also said during this Congress, he has spent several months meeting with local law enforcement, industry groups, and treatment organizations to find solutions.
“What we landed on was the Opioid Abuse Deterrence, Research and Recovery Act,” a bill he introduced in November 2017. In January, the bill was referred to subcommittee, where it remains.
“I’ve always believed that a localized approach to education is best,” said Meadows, whose website said he supports allowing parents to choose private, charter or homeschooling for their children. “Parents, teachers, and local communities should be able to decide how to best educate their kids—not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”
Price said he raised his children in the public school system, and he would “invest in publicly funded higher education so that our students are trained for the green jobs of tomorrow without having crushing debt.”
He added that investment in infrastructure, including broadband Internet, would help students and rural districts have access to better education.
“If we stop giving handouts to the rich and corporations, we can fund these priorities,” he said.
Price was a professional musician who toured the East Coast and Midwest with his band, D.S.F. Earth Corps. In addition to playing on the footsteps of the Georgia capital in favor of marijuana legalization, Price has written nearly 70 original songs and still plays gigs, he said.
Asked for something personal, Meadows said he’d love for people to know how vigorous his House Freedom Caucus debates are.
The Caucus chairman added: “We have the best, most vigorous debates and policy discussions that happen in Congress. It’s really a microcosm of how Congress should work—we debate, share ideas, and build consensus on how to solve problems facing our constituents and the country.”