Hudson’s challenger wants to make America balanced again

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 25, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — One of the most well-known slogans in politics is “make America great again,” but Thomas Mills says he aims to make the nation balanced again.

With the GOP primary over, North Carolina’s 8th District Congressional race has entered a general election that pits two-term, Republican incumbent Richard Hudson against Mills, a Democrat who lives in Carborro. Despite a court-ordered redistricting,  Mills and Hudson have been opponents since December. Mills filed for the 8th District in December during an initial filing period. When redistricting shifted the 8th District, Mills again filed for the seat.

In his bid for Congress, Mills says he’s focused on trying to restore a balance to the political and economic system.

“The triumph of the 20th century was a partnership between the free market and public institutions to make sure that we created wealth and that everybody shared in it,” Mills said in an interview with the Salisbury Post this week. “And, we created the most powerful middle class in the history of the world. We’ve gotten away from that.”

In an interview with the Post, Mills talked about the need for a national infrastructure project that would connect towns in rural areas with high-speed internet. It could spur economic growth and help America “grow its way out of debt,” he said.

Mills, 53, owns a public relations company in Raleigh and runs on online blog called Politics NC. Previously, he helped run political campaigns. Mills has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina—Charlotte and a bachelor’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill.

When asked about public education, Mills said he won’t support free college education, but may be willing to support two years of free community college. He mentioned free college in exchange for public service as an idea to reduce the cost of higher education. He called it “an aggressive GI Bill.”

“I think we would be a better society if we had public service,” he said. “It would be either sharply reduced or completely paid for.”

For example, a person could serve four years in the Peace Corps and then benefit from the “aggressive GI Bill” idea.

One deciding factor for voters in the 8th District may be where Mills lives — in Carrboro, which is located in the 4th Congressional District.

Mills countered questions about where he lives by noting a family history in areas within the 8th District. Mills said he understands the economic challenges facing the District. He noted that Hudson worked in Washington, D.C. for a number of years before deciding to run for Congress.

On a number of political issues, he falls slightly left or to the right of center. Mills said he doesn’t support a recent rule announced by the Department of Labor that gives millions of American workers access to overtime pay. The rule allows salaried workers making less than $47,476 per year to earn overtime pay.

“I’m a pragmatic politician, period,” he said. “I’m a Democrat. I think there are things that make sense and things that don’t, and I believe government has a strong role in helping people and offering a hand up … at the same time, I’m a small businessman and I get frustrated sometimes with regulations.”

He said the overtime rule could lead businesses to hire multiple part-time workers instead of full time workers.

When asked about the minimum wage, Mills said $11 per hour may be a good start for the minimum wage. He supports a minimum wage increase that’s tied to the cost of living.

On issues such as gun control and stemming gun violence, Mills sits left of center. He listed a number of specific policy proposals he supports, including: ending the ban on the Centers for Disease Control studying gun violence, “ending the gun show loophole,” and banning high-capacity clips.

“I would argue that if you’re saying we shouldn’t track where guns are being sold, then you’re doing a big favor for Al Qaeda,” Mills said. “We’re not exactly at war, but we’re at war and we need to be conscious about how we can keep people safe and allowing dangerous people to have guns, particularly military style assault weapons, is not good for the people of this country.”

Mills said he’s realistic about his chances in the 8th Congressional District race against Hudson, but the race will be competitive.

“I realize that any time you’re running against an incumbent, you’re at a disadvantage for a whole lot of reasons,” Mills said. “There’s name recognition, access to money, infrastructure that he’s got and I don’t because of being a congressman … but I know that I know that eastern part of the district better than he does.”

Mills noted that Hudson lost three of seven counties in the 2016 GOP primary. The three counties Hudson lost were recent additions to the 8th because of redistricting.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.