A local man has opposition in his bid to lead the Democratic Party’s charge against Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx.
On Tuesday, Democrat voters in the state’s newly drawn 5th Congressional District will have a local choice on the primary ballot — Jim Roberts, of Pilot Mountain.
Roberts, 71, is in a three-way race for his party’s nomination against two candidates from Boone — Charlie Wallin and Josh Brannon.
Roberts, originally from Mount Airy, retired from the U.S. Army after serving the country for 26 years on six continents. Once retired, he started a pest control business, which was successful enough it was eventually bought by a Fortune 500 Company, according to Roberts.
He places his business experience at the top of the reasons folks ought to cast ballots in his favor on Tuesday.
“Quite frankly, I am,” said Roberts when asked who was the candidate best qualified to knock off Foxx in November’s general election.
“I have 26 years of military service,” noted Roberts. “Neither of my opponents served a day.”
Roberts also said his experience in building a successful business ought to be something folks keep in mind.
“I’m the only one in the field who has hired somebody I had to pay.”
He also said he has much in the way of civic experience, having been on the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce board of directors, having led the Elks Lodge and having been a member of the Mount Airy Rotary Club.
Roberts also served in various roles with pest management associations, which he says forced him to work closely with legislators.
“I served as president of the state pest management association and on the board of directors of the national organization,” explained Roberts. “I lobbied and wrote legislation in those positions.”
Roberts is paralyzed as a result of a medical procedure gone awry, a condition on which he has partially built his campaign platform.
He stated preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States.
“Tort Reform is an example of laws that are working against the interests and rights of the average American while protecting huge medical corporations and doctors from accountability for the harm they have inflicted on their patients. The rhetoric that was used to enact Tort Reform was to eliminate ‘frivolous lawsuits’ and reduce medical malpractice insurance premiums,” wrote Roberts. “That was an outright lie.”
Roberts advocates for the creation of a National Patient Safety Board to investigate claims such as his own, for which he states he has received no explanation.
Roberts points to the food industry as another example of lawmakers putting the interests of corporations ahead of those of average Americans, taking issue with Foxx’s voting record.
He noted legislation which removed a requirement for meat packaging companies to declare from what country meat originates and a bill which blocks states from labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as such. Foxx voted for both bills.
“It’s my belief large corporations are buying our legislators at both the state and federal levels,” said Roberts in an interview in March. “They’ve bought our government, and it’s changed it from a democracy to an oligarchy.”
Roberts said the biggest issue of the campaign for the average resident of the district is jobs.
“The entire 5th (Congressional) District has been beaten down by the loss of jobs,” said Roberts, noting retraining the workforce must be of priority.
“We have lost 10,000 jobs (since the recession),” said Roberts. “Those were American people, from Surry County, Forsyth County, Virgina and other North Carolina counties.”
“We must get those jobs back.”
Charlie Wallin, 44, is a father of one and works as assistant director of food services at Appalachian State University.
Wallin has been active in the Democratic Party for more than 16 years, currently serving as the party’s district chair and having served as the Watauga County Democratic Party’s first vice chairman and on the state executive committee. He also noted service on the county’s planning board.
“People will vote for somebody they know and trust,” said Wallin. “I’ve built a lot of relationships through the time I’ve spent traveling the district.”
Wallin said he wants a chance to run against Foxx in November, raising concerns about Foxx’s record on environmental issues.
“She gets an absolute zero in the area of environment,” said Wallin. “She’s done nothing to regulate asphalt plants up here in the mountains, coal ash ponds in the district or fracking in our state.”
Like Roberts, however, Wallin deems economics to be the real issue at hand when voters go to the polls this election cycle.
“She (Foxx) can’t see the poverty in her own district,” said Wallin, before noting Winston-Salem was recently named the most impoverished city in the state.
“Children go to bed hungry here. She’s out of touch with this district.”
He said much has changed since Foxx paid her way through college, stating tuition was $81 per year when the congresswoman was in school.
“Average folks are those who ought to be in Congress,” said Wallin.
“I’m the most electable, and I have the best shot to beat Foxx.”
Josh Brannon, who earned his party’s nod to take on Foxx in 2014, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
After earning the party’s nomination in a run-off election two years ago, Foxx defeated Brannon by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent.
Other publications have called Brannon the candidate in the Democratic primary who is furthest left ideologically, comparing his campaign rhetoric to that of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Foxx also faces opposition in the Republican primary Tuesday. Patty Curran, of Kernersville is challenging her.
The winners of each primary will square off against each other in November.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.