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In 13th Congressional District race, Budd, Huffman differ on government’s role in COVID-19 help

SALISBURY — Although Rep. Ted Budd asserts that he’s still an outsider in Washington, he’s served a full term and is nearing the end of his second as District 13’s congressional representative. 

Now, Budd, a Republican, is seeking reelection against challenger Scott Huffman, a Democrat and business owner who is running for this office for the first time, just as Budd did four years ago. Their parties and platforms differ greatly, but both candidates tout plans that they believe will help constituents in the 13th District who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Budd, a native of Davie County, said that stimulating the economy is critical in helping the country recover from the economic ails brought on by coronavirus.

Now it’s about reopening the economy safely and restoring our economy and getting it back to the levels and beyond what we even had before,” Budd said. 

Budd’s desire to spur economic growth during the pandemic was reflected in a bill he recently introduced to the congress floor. Dubbed the “Make PPE in America Act,” the bipartisan legislation seeks to bolster the manufacturing of personal protective equipment in the U.S.

“I’ve already introduced over 25 different bills to deal with different aspects of the economy and particularly with the pandemic, getting Americans back to work, safeguarding Americans from epidemics, bringing the production of PPE back to the U.S.,” Budd said.  “We’re in a health crisis. We don’t need to be reaching out to China where the virus came from for them to provide us with PPE.”

Huffman, a native of Spencer who lives in Cabarrus County, also wants to stimulate business growth, but says he’s disappointed in how the federal government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic thus far. Huffman said he wants to see more help provided by the federal government to individuals as well as businesses.

“I believe our tax dollars are supposed to go to our government, invest in our government, and when there’s a rainy day like what we’re experiencing they’re supposed to hand out umbrellas to help us get through this storm,” Huffman said. “They’re not even handing out umbrellas and that’s just wrong.”

In order to help individuals personally impacted by COVID-19, Huffman started what he calls his “instant impact program,” in which campaign funds are used to finance events where meals are handed out for free, among other charitable causes.

While Huffman, 58, has worked to help people locally, he said he can do more if he’s elected to congress. If elected, one of the main problems he’d focus on is health care. He says COVID-19 has exposed cracks in the health care system that need to be fixed.

I believe that if you lose your job, you shouldn’t lose your health care,” Huffman said. “I’d like to see health care separated from having a job. We should make that more of just available to anybody to buy health care. We need to expand health care coverage in North Carolina. We need to expand Medicaid, Medicare.”

Budd, 48, sees economic growth as a solution to some health care issues.

“If you look at the expansion of Medicaid, what you’re doing is you’re defining a broad group of people as in poverty,” Budd said. “I’m for really getting to the roots of this and growing the economy so as not as many people are defined by poverty.”

Budd said that, while the medical field can be “a confusing hodgepodge,” there is a “tremendous amount of health care out there for people.”

The two candidates share common ground when it comes to expanding broadband in the 13th District. Huffman, who has spent decades in the internet business and still owns Charlotte Internet LLC, believes his knowledge of internet technology will be an asset.

“We need to make sure that we expand broadband throughout the district and especially rural areas, because when broadband is expanded, that does a couple things,” Huffman said. “It increases connectivity to mom and pop shops and farmers. It gives them the ability to connect to resources online and it makes them more productive.”

Budd agrees that broadband is more critical now than ever before.

“It’s really become a new dividing line between the haves and the have nots,” Budd said. “I am fully supportive of it. I supported the Rural Act, which is now law. It was signed by Trump, which provided funds to increase rural broadband through local telecoms.”

All voters in Rowan County will have the chance to choose either Budd or Huffman in the Nov. 3 election. Following redistricting in 2019, the 13th District’s boundaries were altered to include all of Rowan County. The 8th District, currently represented by Rep. Richard Hudson, stops at the Cabarrus and Stanly county lines. Hudson, a Republican, is facing a challenge from Patricia Timmons Goodson, a Democrat and former N.C. Supreme Court Justice.

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