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Two more seek 11th District GOP nomination

By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

Spence Campbell, chair of the Henderson County Republican Club, declared his intentions two weeks ago to run for the 11th Congressional District seat against Rep. Heath Shuler.

“I happen to believe that Republicans can win in 2008 if we have a candidate that has ideas that will connect to voters. As far as I’m concerned, that would be me,” Campbell said of his decision to declare.

Campbell served in the military for many years before retiring. That experience has given him a unique perspective on the war in Iraq and the changing world after September 11, he said.

“I have a pretty good understanding of international circumstances. I would bring that to the table as a qualification that not too many people in Congress have,” said Campbell.

Campbell said his campaign will be run in the context of basic Republican principals: “individual responsibility, fiscal conservancy, strong national defense, and limited but smart government.” However, he thinks the Republican Party needs to reshape themselves to be better adapted to a changing world.

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“I think there needs to be recognition that this is post 9-11 America and all bets are off. It’s obvious we really don’t know how to deal with that.”

“I would think that the Republican Party’s traditional principals should be modernized and rethought to make sure they provide the kind of solution today that they provided in the past.”

Here’s what Campbell had to say about some of the most relevant issues to voters today.


The war in Iraq

Campbell thinks there is a lot of misconception about the origins of the Iraq war. He points to an East-West conflict that has existed for nearly 1,000 years. He says a major part of that conflict is “the failure of states to care for their people,” and that other countries have become dependent on the West and blame it as a source of their problems.

“They want to lash out at the West instead of dealing with issues in their own countries,” Campbell said.

However, Campbell isn’t for a specific pullout date for American troops.

“I think there needs to be a realistic and honest dialogue about what’s going on in Iraq. If we don’t deal with the overarching questions and leave Iraq without doing that, we’re just inviting a conflict that will continue and likely crater.”


Illegal immigration

Campbell says the government needs to enforce laws already on the books when it comes to immigration.

“The government has never spent money to really enforce laws that have been on the books for years. The focus on this issue has come since the security situation has become so important,” he said.

He admits the issue is a tough one, primarily because of the labor contributions made by immigrants, especially those from Mexico.

“People who came in from Mexico are contributing in ways that we could only imagine. It’s a dilemma because those people provide labor at a cost that makes it possible for farmers to survive. I don’t think there’s an easy answer.”


Health care

“I really see some sort of a group that represents all aspects of the system get together and hammers out a way to deal with that issue without breaking the bank more than we already have.”


Government spending

Campbell says government spending is out of control.

“In order to fund all these programs that aren’t even reflected in the budget, we spend, spend, spend, and we’re in debt beyond belief.”

Campbell thinks overspending is tied to a national security issue.

“All that debt is being held in other countries, which I think is another threat to our security,” he says.

“I think the government needs to get real about our national budget before it gets to be so far down the road that the only way we’ll pay for that is (with) six following generations.”


Charles Taylor

Campbell’s respect for Taylor is obvious. He credits his involvement with the group of Republicans who led the 1994 rise of the party and created the Contract with America. Campbell says, though, that Taylor and others didn’t follow through with the Contract and subsequently lost the 2006 election. Campbell seems to view Taylor as slightly out of touch with his constituents.

“The reason congressmen are supposed to run (every two years) is to maintain a connection with the people. When you don’t do that very well, you don’t win elections,” he said.


Heath Shuler

“I think Mr. Shuler votes 80 percent of the time with the liberal Democratic leadership, then comes down here and talks about the wonderful things he’s doing as a conservative Blue Dog Democrat. I think he’s supporting decisions in Congress that reflect the Democratic party ethos. I don’t see that as consistent with what American values really are, and certainly not the values of people in Western North Carolina.”


The economy of WNC

Campbell says the current laws on the book in North Carolina make bringing business to the state difficult. He described the state as “a restrictive environment when it comes to being business friendly.”

“The taxes are too high, and the state ends up giving incentive packages for companies to stay here,” he said.

Campbell says electing a Republican governor and Republican representative in the 11th Congressional District would ensure that the state would be more inviting for businesses that wish to locate here.

“I believe you would find within a short period of time that this would be a business-friendly state,” he said.


The North Shore Road

“It’s one of those issues where I don’t have a good answer,” says Campbell of the controversy over whether to uphold a 64-year-old government promise to build a 30-mile road through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“I can see both sides. It’s one of those things where somebody’s not going to get what they want.”

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