By Luke Weir
With less than a month until primary elections in North Carolina, candidates for various federal, state and local offices are ramping up their campaigns.
Jenny Marshall and DD Adams, the two Democratic Party candidates vying for a seat in the United States House of Representatives, are determined to knock Virginia Foxx, longtime incumbent for North Carolina’s 5th District, out of office.
Foxx, a Banner Elk resident, was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2004, and has been the 5th district’s representative ever since. As the incumbent’s sixth term in congress comes to an end, Marshall and Adams, both residents of Winston-Salem, are on campaigns to replace Foxx in the nation’s capital by winning the general election in November. But only one of the two will make it out of primary elections May 8.
During a visit to Boone in March, DD Adams told High Country Press she is a Winston-Salem native in her third term on city council. Meanwhile, Jenny Marshall, an Indiana-born public school teacher who has lived in the 5th district since 2012, said in a phone interview that she has been an active member of the Democratic National Committee since the late 1980s.
Although Marshall and Adams are facing off against each other for Democrat’s votes in the primary elections, both agree more can be done for the 5th district.
“Foxx has been in office for a long time, but she’s failed the people of the 5th district,” Adams said.
“Virginia Foxx has done very little in regards to things that have actually had an impact to help people here in the 5th district,” Marshall said.
“She has no body of work,” Adams said. “It doesn’t have anything that you can ask a person in this district what she has done to affect their quality of life—it’s not there.”
“She has voted against every single pro-environmental bill that has come before her,” Marshall said. “She actually has a zero rating from the League of Conservation Voters.”
“She has not done anything as chair of education,” Adams said. “We have students in North Carolina in the 5th district struggling to pay these student debts, and she didn’t come up with any corrective action or preventative action.”
“She has been a supporter of for-profit colleges, even though North Carolina has some of the best colleges in the country and a wonderful university system,” Marshall said. “She helped to loosen some regulations for for-profit universities, mainly because they were just big donors to her campaign.”
“She voted no to raising the minimum wage when it was stuck at $5.85 an hour,” Marshall said. “I have to say, Virginia Foxx has not been standing on the side of the people.”
“She’s been standing on the side of big multi-national corporations, and lobbyists who fund her campaigns,” Marshall said.
“My belief is that the people will declare the winner of this campaign, and I think the people are now tired of representatives being bought and sold with money, and they don’t represent us anymore,” Adams said.
“I think our elected officials oftentimes kowtow down to their corporate donors and the big-money interests that donate to their campaigns,” Marshall said. “I think that’s a pretty sad reality that the Citizens United ruling kind of exploded into our political system.”
“We have politicians like our incumbent right now raising two and a half, three million dollars,” Adams said. “I’ll never be able to raise that money, nor will the person that’s running against me.”
“We need people that are not afraid to come home, not afraid to meet you on the street or anywhere else and let you talk to me and tell me what you want, because if I’m not making your life better, I’m working on the wrong thing,” Adams said. “In Corporate America, that’s how you get fired.”
Whether Foxx is fired by the people of the 5th congressional district or elected to a seventh term as representative remains uncertain, at least until primaries next month. While Democrats vote between Adams and Marshall on their primary ballots, Republicans will choose between the incumbent Foxx, Dillon Gentry or Cortland J. Meader at the polls May 8.
Neither Foxx nor Meader responded to High Country Press requests for interview.
Dillon Gentry, a 25-year-old former infantry squad leader in the United States Marine Corps, is running in his first race for political office. In a phone interview, Gentry declined to comment on his opponents, focusing instead on systemic issues that motivated him to run for congress.
“I think the issues are broader than individual reps,” Gentry said. “I don’t think one congressman is going to change anything.”
“Our representatives were intended to be more of a civic service, more like jury duty,” Gentry said. “Right now, with our congressmen, the people that have the money to spend are who’s going to win the election, and that’s just absurd to me.”
At this point in the primary race, Gentry, who funded his campaign on his own dime, has little hope of winning the primary vote over Foxx.
“I don’t think I’m going to win because she has $3 million, and she’s already spent almost a million,” Gentry said. “There’s just no way to combat that.”
Despite his low sense of efficacy in this election, Gentry said one of the main reasons he ran for federal office is to inspire other young people to do the same.
“Right now, you’ve got a lot of very intelligent people that stay out of politics,” Gentry said. “We would have a much different world if those same people felt like there was actually some utility in it.”
Once primary elections are decided May 8, the two remaining candidates for U.S. House Representative will have nearly six months to continue their campaigning in North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District before the general election in early November. For any politician, it’s a long road to the District of Columbia, and it’s true the citizens ultimately decide who will represent them on Capitol Hill; however, only the votes cast will count.