In 13th District race, Henning not trying to climb the ‘political ladder’

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 9, 2016

SALISBURY — Some run for Congress to climb the “political ladder,” said Guilford County Commissioner Hank Henning. In his bid for Congress, however, Henning said he’s only interested in serving his country.

Henning, 41, is a High Point resident who works as an account manager for Brady Services — a company based in Guilford County that produces heating, cooling and ventilation equipment. In 2012, Henning says he became unhappy with the way Guilford County was being run, and secured a spot on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. Now, he’s one of the 17 Republicans running for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District seat.

“I’ve always had the belief that you need to step up when there’s an opportunity to serve,” he said.

It’s not the first time he said he’s decided to “step up” and serve. After terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2011, Henning said he left his job and decided to enlist in the U.S. Marines. He served two tours in Iraq, and moved to Guilford County after four years of active duty.

“I felt like it was my duty and obligation to serve the country,” he said. “I saw these young men and women going to serve, and it just didn’t feel right that I was just going to be sitting back at home.”

Henning said he isn’t going to Washington, D.C. for the job and paycheck. Instead, Henning said he hopes to have a hand in fixing America’s problems. Although he’s not the only one in the 13th District field with military experience, Henning said his military service is a distinguishing factor. He said military experience helps when making decisions about national security.

“I think being a veteran of a recent conflict helps on issues like national security and veterans issues,” he said. “Sometimes I laugh when I see some of these other campaign ads where the candidate say they’re going to fight ISIS and fight terrorism … We need people with experience.”

In an interview with the Salisbury Post, he talked extensively about veterans issues and national security.

One way to improve health care for veterans, Henning said, is to ensure there’s a strong doctor-patient relationship. He supports proposals to allow veterans to see private doctors in their community. In addition to wait times, Henning says VA Hospitals often add more bureaucracy than needed into a patient’s health care.

He said people who receive Medicaid receive better access to health care than veterans to.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said.

On national security, Henning said America needs to strengthen its presence in the world. Foreign countries don’t see the U.S. as having “the resolve” it once had, he said. Foreign countries don’t believe the U.S. will follow through on its threats, he said.

“The president has drawn lines in the sand and people just step over them,” Henning said. “If we’re seen as weak, other countries are always going to test U.S.”

He listed a lack of experience as a particular problem with America’s national security. Henning said America’s military had a bounty of experience during wars in the Middle East, but its lost some of the “institutional knowledge” by forcing experienced soldiers into retirement.

Henning said it’s OK to cut contracts with private companies who help in war zones, but America’s leaders shouldn’t cut the military.

When talking about cutting government spending, Henning proposed a litmus test for determining whether a government department was necessary — “is there something they can do better than can be done at the local level?” He didn’t specifically say whether he’d like to eliminate or cut any government departments at the federal level.

Henning characterized himself as an equal opportunity critic of Republicans and Democrats. He said both parties are to blame for the disfunction that exists in Washington, D.C.

Henning will face 16 other Republicans on June 7 in the congressional primary for the 13th District.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.