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Incumbent, teacher face off for 8th District U.S. House seat

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
On one side, a veteran of Congress. On the other, a North Carolina teacher promising change.
Republican Congressman Robin Hayes faced a tough fight for his 8th District U.S. House seat in 2006, winning his fifth term in office by only 329 votes.
This year’s rematch has drawn national attention from pundits and pollsters: A SurveyUSA poll of 750 N.C. voters released Oct. 8 showed Kissell with a 6-point lead over Hayes.
But Hayes has been on the attack, accusing Kissell of avoiding unemployment and payroll taxes for campaign employees in a series of negative ads.
Kissell’s campaign has said that those previous employees ó workers on the 2006 campaign ó were independent contractors or did not meet requirements for those taxes.
Kissell’s opposition to offshore oil drilling has also been a target of Hayes’ criticism.
“I support using more of the resources available in our country to lessen our dependence on foreign oil,” Hayes said in an e-mail interview.
“Mr. Kissell does not support new drilling and has taken a stand on this issue that is more liberal than any of the North Carolina Democrats in Congress and even more liberal than Nancy Pelosi.”
But Kissell said, via e-mail, he supports “regaining control of our energy destiny.”
“Green collar jobs, the exportation of new technologies and the savings of trillions of dollars now being shipped to hostile nations for oil will bolster our economy and help keep us free and in our rightful place in a leadership role in the world throughout the new century,” Kissell said.
Both candidates are steeped in North Carolina’s blue-collar traditions, though from different perspectives. Kissell worked in the business side of a textile mill, Russell Hosiery in Star. Hayes is grandson of Charles Cannon, the longtime head of Cannon Mills Company.
Kissell changed careers as textiles lost ground, becoming a teacher prior to deciding to run for Congress.
Hayes entered the field of public service and has represented the 8th District since 1999.
Both men say they want to bring change to Washington.
Kissell says the U.S. must take a leading role in diplomacy. “We must remain strong and vigilant in our economy, our armed forces and our principles and values,” he said.
“We must remain ever at the ready to defend our nation from terrorist attacks and should continue to fund, in a wise fashion, the armed forces and intelligence services that endeavor every day to keep our great nation safe.”
Hayes also says he supports diplomatic efforts to increase “educational and cultural exchanges” with other countries, supporting pro-Democracy groups.
“I look forward to working with the next president on this important issue,” Hayes said.
As a member of the House Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, Hayes said national security and the economy are vital.
“Our strategy for job growth is two-pronged: working to protect jobs in our traditional industries such as agriculture and manufacturing, while creating new opportunities in emerging industries like the military and biotech,” Hayes said.
Kissell said he will work to aid economic development in North Carolina.
“My top priority in Congress will be to bring jobs back to our district,” Kissell said. “Since Robin Hayes took office in 1999, unemployment in our district has more than doubled and, in fact, has tripled in three counties,” he said.
In commercials, he also has hammered Hayes for providing the last vote Bush needed to pass the CAFTA agreement, which critics say has shipped thousands of American jobs overseas.
Kissell said he will support “research, development and production of alternative energy sources and work to bring those jobs into our district” as part of an energy policy.
Both candidates support leaving many of George W. Bush’s tax cuts in place.
Hayes said he is against the “marriage penalty” and the estate tax, but supports the higher child tax credit and lower taxes on savings and investment.
Kissell said the only part of the Bush tax plan he would allow to expire would be “the tax break for the top 1 percent of the wealthiest Americans.”
“I support tax cuts,” Kissell said. “The government does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.”

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