Elect 2012: In 12th District, Watt, Brosch wide apart in approaches
By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY - Fewer opponents in this year's election are farther apart in their political views than U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., and his Republican adversary Jack Brosch. But Watt and Brosch agree on one thing - it would take an upset of monumental proportions for Brosch to unseat Watt, who seeks his 11th consecutive term within a 12th Congressional District whose boundaries and demographics are highly beneficial to the incumbent. Brosch, a first-time, underfinanced candidate for public office, says he hears the question all the time: "As a white male, why am I running?" he says. "Simply, it's where I live. Republicans should not shy away from black votes." The 12th District remains a "majority-minority district" in which African-Americans make up 50.54 percent of the total population and where Democrats have a 64 percent to 16 percent registration advantage over Republicans. Earlier this year, the National Journal included North Carolina's 12th District in its Top 10 list of the "most contorted" congressional districts in the country as the result of redistricting after the 2010 Census. Brosch says the 12th has always fit the textbook definition of gerrymandering. The 12th District, as of May 11, had 287,786 Democrats, 71,586 Republicans and 96,911 unaffiliated voters. Meanwhile, Democrat Watt's campaign war chest had $415,447 cash on hand as of June 30; Brosch, $464. Brosch had spent only $9,853 on his campaign this year. Since Jan. 1, 2011, Watt's campaign has received $545,364 in contributions, while spending $193,626. "People who live in the 12th deserve a chance to have their voices heard," Brosch says. "I understand it's an uphill (battle)." The 12th District, often called the "I-85 District," takes in large chunks of Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston-Salem. In all, it covers parts of Rowan, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth, Cabarrus and Davidson counties. With the 12th District's most recent redrawing, 42,641 people in Rowan County live in the 12th, or 30.8 percent of the county's population. Even with those significant numbers, Rowan represents only 5.8 percent of the 12th District's total population, while Mecklenburg and Guilford counties combine for more than 75 percent. Watt usually dominates the vote in those counties. In some respects, both Brosch and Watt are paying more attention to other races in the state. Watt says chances are greater in North Carolina, than on the federal level, that the governor's office and both chambers of the Legislature could go Republican. If that happened, Watt predicts, there would be a strong veer politically to the right, without a necessary counterweight. "It would have some consequences," he says. Brosch thinks his candidacy could be important in helping Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney garner the votes he needs to win North Carolina. President Obama's margin of victory in North Carolina in 2008 was slim, and Brosch says maybe his presence on the ballot will give conservatives additional reasons to go to the polls for the Nov. 6 election. Brosch is a Tea Party member whose prior political involvement included serving as precinct organization chairman for the Mecklenburg County GOP. He has described himself as a "trainer in online activism and grassroots organizing for American Majority." He owns his own computer consulting business. Watt was first elected in the 12th District in 1992 and has served since then on the important House Judiciary and House Financial Services committees. He now is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet. On the campaign circuit, Watt touts his experience and bemoans the lack of cooperation in Congress, blaming a Republican Party that has veered so far right that none of its members seem to have the freedom to look for bipartisan solutions. Watt says voters ask him whether he's part of the problem of a do-nothing Congress. "I still believe I'm the least partisan member of the delegation," says Watt, who votes with his Democratic colleagues 94 percent of the time, according to Washington Post research. Watt says he always has demonstrated a willingness to break with his party's leadership when he doesn't agree with its direction. "But I can't solve that problem (the lack of bipartisanship) by myself," he adds. "You have to have people to compromise with you before you can compromise." Watt says the Intellectual Property Committee was one of the few places where something bipartisan did happen, with the cooperation of Republicans and Democrats on a major patent reform bill. Watt has consistently supported universal healthcare for Americans and sees the president's healthcare legislation as an important step in that direction. He voted for the federal stimulus bill and financial services reform. Watt says ecologically sensitive lands in the United States should be protected from oil exploration. He supports a comprehensive energy policy geared at reducing global warming and is for improved fuel-efficiency standards and targeted tax incentives for renewable energy and alternative fuels.A native of California now living in Charlotte, Brosch says he relocated to North Carolina about 18 years ago to work for Telespectrum in Salisbury. Brosch favors vouchers for an education system he describes as broken. He supports the "Fair Tax" approach to funding government. He is for term limits for congressmen (eight years). On immigration, Brosch calls for the federal government to enforce existing laws and deport millions of people who are in the country illegally, while doing more to secure the borders of the country. To make the nation independent of foreign energy sources, Brosch says the country should explore its own oil and natural gas supplies, while eliminating all subsidies to energy producers. A Navy veteran, Brosch supports a strong military and sees defense as the most important function of the federal government. He says marriage, as currently defined, is between a man and a woman, and he believes life begins at conception. Brosch contends that more taxation, regulation and litigation will not create jobs. He says the country has to get its spending under control, while seriously reducing the debt and having balanced budgets. On healthcare, he would repeal and replace "Obamacare." "I think he's even farther left of the president, and I'm farther right of Romney," Brosch says of the differences between him and Watt. "... We are at the opposite ends of the spectrum." Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.