Three run with hopes to flip the 8th Congressional District
Published 12:01 am Thursday, April 12, 2018
On the ballot in the 8th Congressional District Democratic primary this year are three men with diverse backgrounds.
The candidates are Scott Huffman, Frank McNeill and Marc Tiegel: a self-employed veteran, a small-business owner and a former business owner, respectively.
Each is making his first run for Congress, with a goal to unseat Republican incumbent Richard Hudson.
Hudson is running for his third term in office. Here’s what we know about his potential challengers:
Huffman comes to the congressional race with experience on the Democratic Party board of directors in Mecklenburg County. In that time, he said, he served as second vice chairman and got experience canvassing and with phone banks. He assisted with Matt Newton’s campaign for Charlotte City Council.
Before Newton’s campaign, Huffman said, his true inspiration to get more involved in politics and policy came after the 2016 election.
“The morning of the election results, my daughter was very upset,” he said. “She was concerned about her friends in school who may face racism, bigotry, hate, deportation. … I told her, as a dad, not to worry about it, everything would be OK.”
Huffman went on to form Charlotte Indivisible, the group responsible for a billboard heralding U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., as a missing person.
Why? Because Tillis would not hold a town-hall meeting, said Huffman.
“To me, a town hall is an American tradition where your representative comes back and meets with constituents to learn how they could better serve them,” he said. “We weren’t seeing that from anyone.”
That includes Hudson, said Huffman. After reaching out repeatedly with concerns and getting no response from the congressman, Huffman said, he decided to enter the race.
Huffman, a Navy veteran, identified a number of problems affecting the 8th District: health care, unemployment, struggling public schools and veterans services, to name a few.
Nationally, Huffman said he is disappointed by the lack of leadership in Washington. Instead of positive change from the capital, Huffman said he’s seeing more and more policies that are hurting rural communities.
“These tariffs that have been imposed because of the ego of one man have hurt the working class,” said Huffman. “The 30 percent tariff on solar panels has interfered with solar projects planned for the state.”
If elected, Huffman said his first steps would be to reinstitute town-hall meetings and meet with all his constituents.
“I want to understand the issues they face,” he said.
And he said unlike other candidates, he has a true understanding of what these issues are. He is the son of a single mother who worked as a waitress to support her family. He couldn’t afford college after high school and entered the military instead.
The military gave him the experience to start his own information technology business, a grassroots, ground-up experience that left him unencumbered by ties to special interest groups or super PACs, he said.
“I’ve been connected to community all my life,” he said. ” … I feel like because I am the working class that I’m a middle-class, blue-collar guy.”
McNeill enters the congressional race with 10 years of experience on the Aberdeen town board, serving two terms as mayor of the Moore County municipality.
He’s also served on the Moore County school board but said he decided to run for Congress after seeing a need for change.
“Washington is broken,” he said. “… The only way to change Washington is to get new faces up there. I feel like I can do a great job representing our district.”
This includes holding similar values of those across the 8th District, he said: values of decency and kindness, hard work, respect and taking care of one another. Another issue, seen in both Cumberland and Rowan counties, is a need for clean drinking water, he said.
McNeill, the third-generation president of his family-owned business, said he heard similar concerns from others throughout the district.
“(P)eople are really concerned with the dysfunction in Washington and the fact nothing is getting accomplished,” he said.
There needs to be more action on creating jobs, decreasing health care costs and getting veterans the care they need in a timely manner, he said.
If elected, McNeill said his first steps would be to change the attitudes and standards of operation in Congress.
“We need to be working together for citizens in Congress,” he said. “We need to bring down the budget deficits, because Social Security and Medicare are at risk if we don’t have the money to fund them.”
He said he’d also like to work to bring down the costs of prescription drugs and recommit funding and investments in the public school system.
The small business owner said his experience with his family’s company makes him stand out from other candidates. He said he’s seen up close how to grow small businesses and create jobs.
“In my company, employees are treated like family,” he said. “… This is not about ideology or to grandstand. It’s about doing my job to get things done. It’s about solving problems and working with others.”
McNeill said his lifelong residency in the 8th District not only helps him know it well but it motivates him to keep the needs of its constituents forefront to those of special interest groups.
“I genuinely care about my district and my state and my nation,” he said. “… I have experience working to solve problems, and I have served our community.”
Excluding a stint on the school board in high school, Tiegel is a newcomer to public office. Since that time, he’s done and seen a little bit of it all.
“I’m really lucky. I got to live the American dream,” he said.
Tiegel started his professional career at his family’s factory before moving on to become a firefighter. He attended school in the evenings, later working as a medic before finishing his undergraduate degrees in business administration and finance.
From there, he got his master’s in secondary education, working as a fifth-grade teacher of U.S. history and English.
“Just like a factory, I retooled myself,” he said, discussing further life changes as the recession hit and jobs became scarce.
Most recently, he worked in a bank and was promoted five times in five years, he said. He turned down another promotion last year in order to run for Congress.
“I had to stand up because of the lack of respect that’s going on between politicians and the people, politicians and the people, all of the division,” Tiegel said. “I taught U.S. history. We’re a country based on working together, helping each other out and standing up for each other.”
Accordingly, he said it is time break down walls and work on building bridges instead.
He said across the district, municipalities are looking at how to attract businesses, bring more jobs and build infrastructure.
“Because with jobs comes a tax base,” he said. “With a tax base comes the ability to invest in education.”
This investment is a priority for Tiegel, as are a collection of other causes and issues, he said.
He said he is a champion for gender equality, veterans services and immigration reform.
“At the core of the American dream is equality,” he said. “… Women have consistently overcome roadblocks of discrimination on their way to breaking glass ceilings. … Men must have courage to raise up their voices and speak out against locker-room talk and boys will be boys.”
Tiegel also said there should also be more support for veterans as they transition from active duty. Investing in support services during that year of transition meets a broad array of challenges, he said.
Finally, he said there should be pathways to legal citizenship for so-called Dreamers but that illegal immigration should no longer be rewarded.