Foxx, Motsinger battle for 5th District
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Rowan County voters who live in the redrawn 5th Congressional District will have a stark choice at the polls Nov. 6. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican, and challenger Elisabeth Motsinger, a Democrat, agree on almost nothing except how much they love America. For the first time, Rowan County is part of the 5th District, which now encompasses about a third of Rowan north of Salisbury. Registered Republicans in still outnumber Democrats about 203,000 to 169,000 after the 5th District was redrawn last year by the N.C. General Assembly. But the 5th no longer includes GOP strongholds of Rockingham, Stokes and Surry counties, and new areas include more and often liberal-leaning sections of Forsyth County, where Motsinger is well known as a school board member. The influx of new Democratic voters to the 5th still doesn't match Foxx's margin of victory since she was first elected in 2004. She has never won by less than 24,000 votes. Foxx also has much larger war chest, outraising Motsinger by nearly nine to one. As of June 30, Foxx had raised about $722,000, including $493,800 from 683 individuals and $222,500 from 164 political action committees, according to the Federal Elections Commission. About 68 percent of Foxx's donations came from individuals, with 31 percent coming from PACs. She had no contributions from the party, according to information filed with the Federal Election Commission. Foxx had spent $400,500 and had $1.5 million cash on hand, according to the most recent campaign finance reports available. By contract, Motsinger had $19,275 cash on hand and had spent $45,100. Motsinger has characterized the race as "David versus Goliath" because of the funding disparity. Motsinger had raised $64,374, including $60,854 from 108 individuals, or 94 percent of her funds. Motsinger accepted $125 from a political action committee and $1,000 from the Democratic Women of N.C. The candidates agree the U.S. should wait before taking military action in Iran, where American-led international sanctions have not stopped a nuclear program. Motsinger supports President Obama's sanctions and diplomacy and said the U.S. must avoid another war like the one in Iraq, based on false information. "We are not in a crisis at this minute. Nobody is attacking America," she said. "The tendency to jump in as if there were a crisis has certainly led us down some paths that in retrospect, we didn't want to go down." Foxx, however, said Obama's Iran policies have made the U.S. look weak. "The president has had the wrong approach to Iran," she said. "He is involved in appeasement, and we should have learned from World War I and World War II that appeasement never works." Obama has "dilly dallied about Iran," Foxx said, and the U.S. should put in place stronger sanctions and avoid sweeping defense budget cuts that would weaken the military. Foxx continued her criticism of Obama when talking about the economy, saying the president inherited a strong economy that his policies have failed to maintain. Foxx opposes allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire on Jan. 1 and said Democrat majorities in Congress since 2006 have run up the deficit. She supports comprehensive tax reform that includes lowering tax rates, closing loopholes and replacing regulations on banks and Wall Street with "sensible regulations" that don't stifle job creation or drive up the cost of doing business. Motsinger said tax breaks for the wealthy do not lead to job creation. "Tax breaks on high earners have never led to anything but increasing income inequality," she said. "Tax breaks for the top incomes earners will not stimulate our economy." Motsinger said she supports marginal tax increases starting at households earning at least $250,000 a year. While many argue government is not a job creator, Motsinger said she disagrees and pointed to teachers, firefighters and police officers. She said she supports a modern version of Works Project Administration with jobs repairing infrastructure and creating green-energy systems. Motsinger also wants to regulate the 40-hour workweek so people do not work overtime without pay. The government should have cut the deficit during the Bush administration "when we were flush," she said. Instead, "we went into two wars and gave tax cuts to the wealthy." Motsinger said she believes the federal government plays a critical role in education and should determine education standards for all states, with reasonable benchmarks set by "people whose experience is on the ground," including teachers and administrators. She favors a portfolio system over a testing system to determine whether children are learning crucial skills like critical thinking, reading comprehension, numerical literacy and the scientific process. By contrast, Foxx said education is not the responsibility of the federal government and should be left up to local and state leaders. "If we would get federal government out of trying to control what goes on in Rowan County, things would be a lot better," she said. "The state is perfectly capable of doing that." Education dollars should remain at the state level, Foxx said, because there is no evidence to show a correlation between federal spending and good schools. Motsinger said the redrawn 5th District gives her an advantage over Foxx's previous Democratic challengers but acknowledges she still has an uphill battle. "However, I wouldn't be in this race if I didn't think I could win," Motsinger said.She said she's running because she loves North Carolina and wants to end partisan bickering in Washington and restore people's faith in Congress. The vision of America as the city on a shining hill has become twisted into a belief about material wealth instead of moral leadership for the world, Motsinger said. "I think we lost our way," she said. "We have to get back to the point where we are back to a moral vision." Motsinger said after the death of her first husband, her experience as a poor, single mother shaped her commitment to economic justice and government's role in strengthening families. Foxx said she is delighted to have new areas in the 5th District and has worked to get to know her new constituents, attending between two and eight events every weekend and reading the local newspapers to familiarize herself with issues in counties like Rowan. "Yes my district has become less Republican, but that was necessary to give a balance throughout the state," she said. While confident, Foxx said she never assumes victory. "I don't take a single vote for granted," she said. Foxx, who grew up in a house with no electricity and no running water, said her parents had little education and the family was "dirt poor." "This is greatest country in the world to provide an opportunity for someone from an impoverished background like mine to work hard and have the opportunity to serve my fellow citizens," she said. Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.