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Reps. Budd, Hudson prefer local dialogue about future of Confederate monuments

SPENCER — As the nation debates whether to remove Confederate monuments, Rowan County’s congressmen say a thoughtful, local dialogue is the best way to make decisions.

Reps. Ted Budd, R-13, and Richard Hudson, R-8, visited the N.C. Transportation Museum on Wednesday to tour the facility and talk to local officials about economic development. They also answered a number of questions, including weighing in on the monuments debate.

That debate gained prominence after a rally protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, left one person dead and several others injured. Two law enforcement officers were also killed in a helicopter crash as they helped provide security during the protests.

People protesting the removal of the statue included white supremacists, neo-Nazis and white nationalists. A number of counterprotesters also took to the streets.

On Wednesday, Hudson and Budd condemned white supremacy and said the removal of Confederate monuments needs to involve a “thoughtful dialogue.”

“I think it has to start with the recognition that on one side, you’ve got people who see these symbols and it really does bring senses of fear and anger about past occurrences in our history,” Hudson said. “It really does create a reaction for some people.”

On the other side of the debate, Hudson said, are people like him — “students of history who are proud of their Southern heritage.”

“I’m very uncomfortable when you start yanking down monuments and start trying to rewrite history and trying to whitewash things that have happened in the past,” he said.

Budd said America is different from the rest of the world because it’s a “nation of process.” It’s important the process plays out in the communities and towns affected by the removal of monuments, he said.

“If it hurts a community and causes a community not to be able to heal, then let them go through the process of removing it, but let’s not have mob rule,” Budd said. “Let’s go through what makes our country great, regardless of color, and let’s go through the process and take those down or keep them up according to the community.”

Some Salisbury residents began a conversation about the “Fame” monument on West Innes Street after the 2015 murders of nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. People filled the City Council chambers to discuss the statue’s future.

The city also hosted a forum at Hood Theological Seminary. The conversation fizzled out and has not re-emerged in a public forum to the same extent.

During their visit Wednesday, Hudson and Budd also answered questions about matters in Congress and spoke about how they could help the town of Spencer grow.

Both men said it is important for Republicans to follow through on repealing Obamacare. Budd said it’s part of what voters sent him to Washington to accomplish. Hudson and Budd voted for Obamacare repeal when it passed the U.S. House. They said it’s now up to U.S. senators to follow through on their promise.

The best way for Congress to help with local economic development, Hudson said, is to cut taxes.

“Tax reform is going to get this economy rolling and get more opportunities for people here in Spencer and Rowan County,” Hudson said. “So, frankly, going back to Washington in September and getting our job done is the best thing we can do.”

Spencer Mayor Jim Gobbel spoke briefly during the question-and-answer period. He turned to the congressmen and made a relatively simple appeal for money to help the town.

“Everybody needs money, and we need money. So money is the key to anything,” Gobbel said. “It’s what makes it happen.”

Responding, Hudson said Gobbel can count on him and Budd to tell others about the N.C. Transportation Museum.

Both congressmen said it was their first visit to the museum. Budd said he likes history and enjoyed the tour. Hudson, whose grandfather worked on the railroad, said it was thrilling to walk through old railroad cars, talk to museum employees and learn about the museum’s impact on the local economy.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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