Longtime TV news anchor running for Congress

Longtime Charlotte TV news reporter and anchor Vince Coakley said Tuesday he’s running for the 12th Congressional District seat left vacant by Mel Watt’s resignation to take a federal appointment.

The first Republican to announce for the race, the 48-year-old Coakley joins a number of Democrats who have said they’ll seek the office.


Coakley spoke to about 30 people, including several members of his family and campaign staff, at the Rowan County Administration Building. The announcement was scheduled to take place outside, but with temperatures in the 20s and snow beginning to fall, county commissioners Chairman Jim Sides invited the group into the board’s second-floor meeting room.

It was one of six stops Coakley planned to make Tuesday throughout the district.

The 12th is a ribbon of a district stretching from Greensboro to Charlotte along Interstate 85 — at some points just a few miles wide — and slicing through Rowan County. Drawn in 1992 as a majority-minority district, it has been a Democratic stronghold, and Watt its only representative.

With the seat now open, Coakley expressed confidence he can succeed where other Republican candidates have failed.

“I believe that I bring just a different set of skills and experiences and exposure that — with all due respect to the candidates who’ve run before — they did not have that,” he said. “... This will be a community effort. This will be a grass-roots effort, and I believe we can do this.”

He’ll certainly be the most recognizable Republican to run for the seat. For 18 years, Coakley came into Charlotte-area residents’ living rooms daily as a reporter and anchor for WSOC-TV’s news broadcasts.

Coakley, who now hosts the online conservative Revolution Radio, revealed that his time as a newsman was “always a frustrating experience for me,” because he could not express his opinions and concerns.

“That’s why I’m here today, because I believe we have an important future together,” he said, “and that future is all centered around liberty.”

Coakley called “freedom” his key issue.

“Freedom is the foundation for a strong economy,” he said. “Freedom is the foundation for job creation.”

He said a growing government with ever-expanding programs is sapping that freedom from communities, families and individuals. Coakley said he’s in favor of smaller government and wants to “disassemble a lot that’s strangling opportunity here in America.”

“The bigger government gets, the smaller we become as people,” he said.

Watt resigned from the 12th District office earlier this month when he was sworn in to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

So far, at least six Democrats have said they’ll file for the seat, including two state representatives and a state senator.

Despite protests over leaving the district without a representative for nearly a year, Gov. Pat McCrory has said he won’t schedule an early election to fill it, citing a projected cost of $1 million and voter confusion as the reasons. Instead, the elections will take place during the regularly scheduled primary in May — with a runoff in July, if necessary — and the general election in November.

Supporter Catherine Reynolds acknowledged that Coakley faces an uphill battle in a district that conventional wisdom says will choose its next representative in the Democratic primary.

Reynolds braved the cold along with her husband to hear the candidate speak, she said, because of “his reputation as ... a strong believer in the constitution. And his personal integrity, from everyone I know, is unblemished.”

“I hope everyone stays open-minded to the right ideas,” she said.

Coakley, who lives in Charlotte with his wife Debbie and their four children, said his candidacy is less about him than about those ideas and the people he hopes to represent.

“I would not go to Washington D.C. to play the games that are being played in Washington,” he said. “I feel called. That’s the only reason I’m doing this.”

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