Rod Honeycutt makes immediate impact in NC-11 Republican Primary
Raised in humble circumstances in Woodfin, Rod Honeycutt could have ended up on a very different path were it not for the United States Army.
While in high school, Honeycutt worked as a grocery bagger, resulting in academic achievement he called lackluster. But four years of JROTC left him positioned for a life-changing opportunity.
“I worked graveyards at night so I wasn’t an academic genius, but five years of enlisted service got me on a path that settled me down,” he said. “I’ve got to thank some ladies at the Fort Jackson education center that really taught me to read and write at the next level, because I was weak in it.”
After enlisting in 1984, Honeycutt earned an associate’s degree while serving, and went on to qualify for an academic scholarship to the University of South Carolina (earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice) and was a George C. Marshall designee at the Virginia Military Institute. Deployed to Europe during the Cold War and specializing in logistics, Honeycutt saw firsthand the effects of American foreign policy — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
He then helped coordinate American draw-downs in Germany and South Korea and soon found himself helping to establish and maintain the two-decade American presence in Afghanistan.
On July 1, 2021, Honeycutt retired back home to Western North Carolina as a colonel. He subsequently registered to vote for the very first time, and then came out of nowhere to join the Republican Primary Election field for 2022, seeking the seat of fellow Republican, Rep. Madison Cawthorn.
Honeycutt wasn’t the first Republican to do so — Wendy Nevarez, Bruce O’Connell and Eric Batchelor were already in — but Honeycutt has perhaps made the biggest impact in the race to date by earning the endorsement of outspoken Cawthorn critic George Erwin, a retired sheriff from Henderson County who once counted himself as one of Cawthorn’s biggest backers.
Batchelor subsequently dropped out of the race. Whether that’s related to the Erwin endorsement is anyone’s guess, but now Honeycutt has to make the most of it while simultaneously reckoning with the possibility that other candidates will drop out or jump in when the filing period begins Dec. 6.
Smoky Mountain News: In this district for at least 10 if not 20 years there have been three or four issues that simply will not go away. One of the most important is reform in regards to firearms. There’s a phrase that’s thrown around, “common sense gun control.” What does that phrase mean to you?
Rod Honeycutt: I think it’s more than reform. I think it’s going back to the laws that are on the books and enforcing those laws. We’ve had failures, young men able to acquire weapons that were able to get through a loophole in these current situations. I don’t see additional red flag laws as necessary. I see it as enforcement and putting teeth to it and holding people accountable at every level of that process from getting a background check done to enforcing that background check. I’m not going to go with you on the reform business part of it. My dad had given me in 1974 semi-automatic .22 when I was 13 from Western Auto. I knew how to use it. I respected it. I respected people. That’s the same weapon we’re talking about now, as we talk about assault weapons. So to me it’s more about education and enforcement of the laws.
SMN: Another problem, especially as we went through the Coronavirus Pandemic, is rural broadband. It’s still very difficult to get in many places, even a low-speed connection for kids to do schoolwork. And then on the business side of things, companies that use large files like video production, or animation, they can’t locate here because we don’t have that capacity. What’s the real answer to getting all of Western North Carolina connected?
RH: I cannot think of the name of the piece of equipment I need to tell you right now, but in the military, we went out and set up camps that were distributed and we had to rely on broadband to pass information back and forth. So we had to hard wire to a point, and then we had, I’m going to call it a repeater for lack of a better term. If we could get one pole up in a neighborhood and in get those repeaters on the houses, they could feed it to get a temporary solution and then go more into the fixed structure. Let’s get a temporary fix and then let’s get a long-term fix and a brick-and-mortar type of solution to this. If we don’t, we’re going to end up having two sets of people, haves and have-nots, and children are left behind and businesses are left behind.
SMN: The final one of these long-term issues is health care. Obamacare didn’t deliver, Medicaid expansion has been proposed but our state has refused, instead sending our tax dollars to Washington, and they never come back. Is Medicaid expansion the solution for North Carolina, or is it something else?
RH: That’s a broad topic. You’ve got Obamacare on one guardrail, and then you’ve got Medicare for all on the other. Somewhere in the middle is the right place. I think COVID has taught us a lot about telemedicine and I think we can take telemedicine and if there is blood pressure or other stuff that we can do visually by looking at you, we can do with electronics and technology that’s standardized, with a standardized pricing. I don’t want to get government involved in it to the point where it’s a 100% government, but let’s do put some guard rails in place.
To me it’s personal. I lost my dad about 10 weeks ago. For 64 years, he paid into our health care system and the last week of his life, we were told his insurance was no longer valid — take him out of the facilities, take him home. That hit hard. We had to fight Medicare, Medicaid, Humana. We had to fight lawyer-to-lawyer to keep him there, to care for him. Families shouldn’t be put through that.
SMN: Moving on to the campaign side of things, retired Henderson County Sheriff George Erwin, a Republican, went from being one of Madison Cawthorn’s biggest supporters to being one of his biggest detractors. Recently, Erwin gave you his endorsement. How did that come about? What were your conversations like?
RH: I didn’t know George Erwin. I had no idea who George Erwin was. He actually grew up beside my parents, and I had never met George Erwin in my life. George Erwin’s name came up, I sent him a text with a link to my campaign site with a video on it and said, “I’d like to talk to you.”
And then I get a phone call, and from there we met. I told him what I was running on — maturity, education, leadership and knowledge. I think that’s what’s missing in Western North Carolina. Everybody will talk honor, integrity, service. If you don’t have that, you don’t have the baseline to begin with, you shouldn’t even be in the race. I told him my oldest son will take the oath of office [in the Army] in May, and as I go to each of the counties like your courthouse up here, there’s 57 names on those monuments up there. Go there and touch each one of those names and ask, “What kind of man do you want make a decision about your daughter or your son?” And George called me back in about 48 hours and said, “I’m all in.”
SMN: Shortly after that, we saw another Republican candidate, Haywood County Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Batchelor, very graciously step out of the race, saying he wasn’t as far along in his campaign as others, but he still wanted to support the goal of removing Cawthorn from office. I thought he was well-qualified and service-minded. Do you expect any of the other candidates to perhaps drop out?
RH: Eric is a gracious man. He’s genuine and I’ve got a lot of respect for him — law enforcement, EMT, prior service as a soldier. But I’ve told him, on the strategic level, “I think I can outperform you.” And I’ve told each one of them as we’ve run into each other throughout the district, I do think that we will split the ticket if we all stay in. And I think we’ve got to have a gut check here about the first or second week of December and that one or more should step out. But as I’ve told them, I have made a commitment to leaders all around the 17 counties.
SMN: What about fundraising? I know you haven’t been in the race long, but …
RH: We raised almost $5,000. We spent $400 and some change, right? We’re buying cards and we’re buying social media commercials and then putting them together, and you’re going to ask me here in a few minutes about how I can get after Madison Cawthorn. Money can’t buy leadership, maturity, experience and knowledge, so I’m willing to attack that every time I can. And you got on tennis shoes today — the sneaker-net, the boot-net, the fire department-net and the church-net has more precision than the internet. So these spheres of influence have given me 400 to 500 names. I’m going to see each one of them, and I’m having honest conversations.
SMN: You’re the only candidate I’ve talked to who has significant experience in foreign policy. Did you agree with President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan?
RH: My answer is no, but I’ve got to expand on it, I can’t just stop there. Bagram Air Force Base, I was there in 2009 and 2010. I helped do the expansion. That was a strategic capability that we need, and we’ve now lost. I would have never left Bagram Air Force Base. We were not in the longest war — that’s a term that we’ve blown out of proportion and it’s wrong, 18 months, no casualties as we were negotiating with the Taliban. I would have been okay with a residual force and you can you call it 2,500 or 3,500, whatever the number is to stay there.
And it’s more than just about leaving Afghanistan. Afghanistan is surrounded by six countries. Three of them are nuclear. We have now left operational space for Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban, any nefarious terrorist plots, so when we talk about our southern border, that’s very important, but our east and west coast borders right now are just as important because we have nefarious actors that could try to come in those borders.
SMN: With your specific skill set, you seem to have the credentials to evaluate President Joe Biden’s botched withdrawal. What happened?
RH: It’s not one single thing you can point to. That equipment that was there, that was not Army equipment. That was sold through the Department of State to Afghanistan using your taxpayer dollars. I could not go in and blow it up. I couldn’t touch it. I could train them on it, but it would have taken Congress to declare that equipment to be blown up. So there were leadership failures at every level over this equipment over there. For 10 years, we’ve been building this place up. What we watched was the Department of State and the Department of Defense get desynchronized based off of a date of September 11th, and it was wrong. President Biden has put us in a weak spot that we would have trouble building a coalition if we had another 9-11. I’m not sure that we have the trust around the world.
SMN: When you first entered the race, it didn’t take long for most of us to find out that you’d never registered to vote before, in your entire life. Why?
RH: You asked me in our first conversation. George C. Marshall, a great statesman, never voted because he wanted to stay apolitical and give people honest answers. Could you imagine our Joint Chiefs of Staff right now if he was tied to a party? “Oh, you’re just backing him because he’s in your party.” You have to stay apolitical. And as I’ve got to talk to the House Armed Services Committee and different delegations, I want to look in their eyes and have integrity and not have to waffle, thinking they were worried about me being in a political position. I retired on 1 July, and that same week I registered.
SMN: Last one for you here, on the 2020 election. Do you think Joe Biden was legitimately elected?
SMN: Do you think we need to re-examine voter security or election security to make sure that Americans trust this system more?
RH: If we don’t get an energized electorate involved in our politics, we’re going to lose our Republic. I don’t care what side you’re on, but if we don’t get transparency and voter integrity back, and — I’ll take it to a whole new level for you, I’m coming off the top rope here on you — when you sign up for selective service, why not sign up for voting and let’s do it with biometrics, your fingerprint, your retinas. We’re getting ready to bring women into the draft, so let’s start now and develop a system of grandfathering over time that is foolproof, that is ironclad. If we go into this 2022 election with lack of participation, it’s a sign that we’re losing our democracy. We’ve got to get people to vote.
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This man is naïve. He's right about the officer corps supposedly being apolitical, but it isn't and that came out during the MacArthur dustup with Truman. The current CJCS is as political as they come, and the rest of the officer corps is just as polluted.
With the massive fraud, about which Honeycutt is willfully ignorant of, the electorate has no reason to motivated. Why vote when your vote will neutralized by obvious fraud. Democrats have been committing fraud for years, but not the extent, and so obviously, as in 2020. Honeycutt can ignore if he wishes, but he reveals himself as unserious.
So far, there is no reason to remove Madison from office, and Honeycutt gives no reason why people should take him seriously and vote for him.
Good interview. Thank you