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Foxx, Brannon square off in 5th Congressional District

The challenger in the race for North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District is running to spread his message that money is corrupting politics.

Democrat Josh Brannon, a software developer from Watauga County, said he decided to run for office after years of frustration with how the nation’s wealthiest people influence the country’s political landscape without any accountability.

The Republican-leaning 5th District covers the northern part of Rowan County.

Brannon, who is 37 and grew up in Raleigh, said the rich buy politicians, ignore the laws and aren’t prosecuted when they break them.

“Money has corrupted the American government,” Brannon said, adding that he wants to pass a constitutional amendment that will get money out of politics.

Brannon’s platform is “to take our democracy back from the 1 percent.”

America was founded on the premise of equal representation, he said, but that’s not happening right now.

Brannon faces Republican incumbent Virginia Foxx, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2004 after years as a state senator.

Foxx, who is 71 and a former educator, disagrees with Brannon about money’s influence on Washington. She said trying to control or limit people’s ability to donate money to political campaigns is a violation of free speech and goes against the First Amendment.

“I believe in the First Amendment,” Foxx said.

The two candidates don’t just have differing philosophies on the subject, their campaign funds show a drastic divide.

According to the latest campaign finance reports, Brannon had $5,300 in his campaign coffers. But Foxx had over $2.1 million to spend.

Brannon said Foxx is a great example of a politician who has been bought by lobbyists and private interests. But Foxx said if someone contributes to her campaign, then they are subscribing to her agenda, not the other way around, adding that most of her campaign money is spent on voter outreach and education.

• • •

Speaking of education. Brannon said, “We need to start treating teachers like we treat any other white-collar profession.”

He said a teacher’s starting salary should be higher than $35,000 a year, and that they shouldn’t have to pay for their supplies. He said salary plays a big role when people are choosing a career, and paying teachers more will bring the best talent to the industry.

Brannon said he is against the for-profit education system, calling it a “scam.”

Foxx said the federal government has no role in education. “I believe local school boards and commissioners and the state are the best decision makers for what happens in education,” she said.

Foxx said she alone can’t get the federal government out of the classroom, but that she works to minimize its role. She supports private schools and charter schools.

“I believe that parents should have lots of choices about education,” she said.

• • •

When it comes to national security, specifically the current situation in the Middle East with ISIS, Brannon said ISIS — Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — is a threat to America. But, he said, the country can’t make the same mistakes it did in the Iraq War — throwing unlimited resources at a problem with no plan to get out.

“I think we need to let other nations in the area take the lead; if others ask for help, we can do that,” he said.

Brannon said dropping bombs on the region is not a solution and that it just builds more resentment toward America.

Foxx said ISIS is beyond a threat, but that President Obama missed the best chance to solve the problem.

“Three years ago, we could have nipped them in the bud, but the President failed to see the severity of the situation in Iraq and Syria,” she said. She called the current strategy of airstrikes “half-measures.”

• • •

Brannon maintains that until money stops corrupting the government, the other problems the country faces can’t be solved.

Foxx said if Republicans win control of the Senate, then the Republican-controlled Congress can pass legislation that will reduce regulations on businesses, lower taxes and create better oversight of federal programs.

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