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Posts published by “Maya Miller”

What it means to support the military to Fort Bragg House candidates

Most Americans don’t think about war every day. Many don’t even personally know a service member or veteran. At Fort Bragg, the nation’s largest Army post and one of the world’s largest military bases, the word carries a different meaning. 

“War is not just three letters in the alphabet here. It’s a way of life,” said George Breece, an Army veteran, former state representative and former chairman of the North Carolina Military Affairs Commission.

With its outsized influence in the 8th Congressional District, Fort Bragg automatically has the ear of its Washington delegation. Now, voters of the 8th District — which stretches from Charlotte’s eastern suburbs eastward to Cumberland County — must decide who they want as Fort Bragg’s next House representative. 

A military town that ‘beams with pride’

More than 120,000 soldiers and military family members live on base at Fort Bragg, and roughly 140,000 more live nearby in Fayetteville and other communities, said Elvia Kelly of Fort Bragg’s public affairs office. As the largest metropolitan area in the 8th District, Fayetteville’s voters could play a large role in the outcome of the congressional election.

One could think of Fayetteville as a “monotown” with one big employer: Fort Bragg. It’s hard to understate the installation’s influence on the local economy, said Kelli Cardenas Walsh, an Army veteran and a history and military studies professor at Fayetteville State University.

“People on both sides like to remind the community that without Fort Bragg, the economy of Fayetteville would greatly suffer, and I have no doubt about that,” she said.

Unsurprisingly, the Fayetteville community “beams with pride” and strongly supports the military, Breece said. But there’s also a downside to living near a major base. The community hurts when someone from Fort Bragg gets injured or killed in combat, said Dan Dederick, a retired Marine and one of North Carolina’s civilian aides to the secretary of the Army.

“You know these people, you like them, you go to church with them, your kids go to school with them,” Dederick said. “And then when something bad happens, they get killed or wounded, it’s real close and personal.” 

The base makes that close-knit community more diverse, too. Fort Bragg attracts people from around the country, Breece said, and sometimes service members marry overseas. The city hosts an international folk festival each year with a parade of nations to celebrate the different cultures represented. 

That combination of diverse city and traditional military base makes for intriguing voter demographics in Cumberland County: 43% of voters are registered Democrats, 23% are registered Republicans and nearly 33% are registered independents, according to Sept. 19 numbers from the North Carolina State Board of Elections. 

Unlike the rest of the 8th District counties, which traditionally vote Republican, Cumberland County historically votes Democratic. It was previously split between two districts, with the city of Fayetteville divided down the middle. 

This year, though, the redrawn maps reunite the entire county in one district and concentrate the power of the Fayetteville vote.

A proven incumbent, or a hometown challenger?

The incumbent in the race, Republican Rep. Richard Hudson, proudly calls himself “Fort Bragg’s congressman.” Serving the base is his “most humbling and most important duty,”  spokesperson Greg Steele said. Hudson’s commitment to Fort Bragg is proven by recent victories, Steele said, citing increased hazardous duty pay for certain troops and the creation of a pathway for service members to seek malpractice compensation from military health care providers

But Pat Timmons-Goodson, the 8th District’s Democratic challenger and the child of a Fort Bragg military family, argues Hudson has not earned the moniker he’s adopted. Standing up for soldiers, veterans and military families involves more than passing favorable legislation, she said.

“What our veterans and service members need are folks who will stand up with them in tough times,” she said. “That’s what leadership is, and that’s what it calls for.”

She criticized Hudson for his silence after intelligence officials concluded that Russians placed bounties on the heads of American soldiers and for his absence during a vote on the latest National Defense Appropriations Act. (Steele confirmed to The 9th Street Journal that Hudson was indeed not present for the vote.)

“I do believe that my opponent puts his political fortune ahead of the people within our district, including our military families and veterans,” she said. 

Hudson declined The 9th Street Journal’s request for an interview. Breece, who knows both candidates personally and will not endorse one, praised Hudson’s accomplishments and said he deserves the “Fort Bragg’s congressman” designation.

“Without question,” Breece said. “He’s worked very hard to get funding for whatever Fort Bragg needs.”

Rep. Richard Hudson, the Republican incumbent, stands outside Fort Bragg’s headquarters with Lt. Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla of the 18th Airborne Corps (left) and U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette (middle). Photo taken on Aug. 18. Courtesy of the Hudson campaign.

If reelected, Hudson will continue prioritizing military and veterans affairs, Steele said. His top priorities are pushing for additional funding to improve on-base housing and passing a bill he introduced in January to extend healthcare benefits for veterans’ caregivers. 

‘Losers’ and ‘suckers’

A piece published by The Atlantic in early September said President Donald Trump called service members who died in combat “losers” and “suckers” for “getting killed.” He also reportedly told former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” while visiting the gravesite of Kelly’s son, who was killed in action in Afghanistan 

As more news outlets, including CNN, the Associated Press and Fox News, confirmed various pieces of the story with their own reporting, Hudson took to Twitter to bash the article as “garbage” and a “hit piece.”

“I was there the next day when he stood in the rain to honor our fallen,” Hudson tweeted in the president’s defense. 

Steele offered no further comment, but said voters should look at Hudson’s track record to see what he’s done for the military community.

Timmons-Goodson, however, was outspoken on Twitter in her criticism of the president’s reported remarks.

“My father, brothers, nephews, and neighbors are not ‘losers’ or ‘suckers,’” she tweeted. Her father, Edward Timmons, served as a sergeant first class and an 82nd Airborne Army Ranger at Fort Bragg. “We all should honor the sacrifice of those who serve, our leaders should too,” she added.

A soldier, the father of congressional candidate Pat Timmons-Goodson, Edward Timmons, served as an Army Sergeant First Class and an 82nd Airborne Ranger at Fort Bragg and stands in military gear with a gun over his shoulder and a helmet on in a faded photo. Courtesy of the Timmons-Goodson campaign.
Candidate Pat Timmons-Goodson’s father, Edward Timmons, served as an Army sergeant first class and an 82nd Airborne Ranger at Fort Bragg. Courtesy of the Timmons-Goodson campaign.

Amidst the debate, Breece sees common ground: both candidates highly value the military. He’ll feel good about the election’s winner regardless of who it is. 

“Both of these candidates are very good and decent people, and they both understand Fort Bragg,” Breece said. I am confident that Fort Bragg will be well served.”

Democratic congressional candidate Pat Timmons-Goodson, left, speaks with three Fort Bragg veterans outside. All are wearing masks.
Democratic congressional candidate Pat Timmons-Goodson, left, speaks with Fort Bragg veterans. (Courtesy of the Timmons-Goodson campaign)

New map and new challenger bring energy to Fayetteville race

For the first time in years, political experts say North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District is not a safe Republican seat.

Last year, after throwing out gerrymandered district maps that favored Republicans, three North Carolina judges forced the Republican-controlled state legislature to draw more competitive maps. That changed the dynamic in the 2nd and 6th Districts, which Sabato’s Crystal Ball and The Cook Report rate as sure flips for Democrats. 

The 8th might be in play, too. Rep. Richard Hudson, the Republican incumbent, may boast more money in the bank, but Democrat Pat Timmons-Goodson outraised him 3-1 in the most recent fundraising quarter ending June 30.

Sabato and Cook moved the 8th into the “lean Republican” column –– rather than the usual  “solid” or “likely Republican.” But they and other analysts are still skeptical that redistricting and a strong challenger will be enough to flip a district held by an eight-year incumbent.

New district, new challenger

The new 8th District stretches from Charlotte’s eastern suburbs across seven mostly rural counties to Fayetteville. 

Cumberland County, home to Fayetteville and Fort Bragg, historically votes Democratic, and the new maps move the once-split county entirely inside the 8th District. But the six other counties largely voted Republican in 2016 and 2018. 

Timmons-Goodson, the Democratic candidate, calls Cumberland County home. Born in South Carolina, she moved with her family to Fort Bragg when she was in elementary school. Her father served in the Army for 18 years. 

The 8th District stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville. Source: NC General Assembly

Timmons-Goodson’s experience comes from law and the judiciary, not the state legislature or business world. After earning undergraduate and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she served as an assistant district attorney in Cumberland County. From there she rose through various judgeships, eventually becoming the first African-American woman on the North Carolina Supreme Court. President Barack Obama then appointed her to a six-year term on the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights.

“She’s not a woman who’s sitting there looking for the partisan side,” said Timmons-Goodson’s senior advisor Thomas Mills. “She brings a temperament that I think people are looking for right now.”

On the campaign trail, she stresses the importance of supporting veterans and military families, particularly with quality healthcare. The existing Veterans Administration healthcare system fails to meet the needs of veterans, she said in a recent interview with The 9th Street Journal, due to a high number of vacancies throughout the VA.

“The military community means a great deal to me, and my father was a veteran,” she said. “I had the benefit of the health care that’s provided through the Veterans Administration, and so I know how important it is to the veterans in this area.”

Timmons-Goodson faces Hudson, who has represented the district since 2012 when he defeated Democratic incumbent Rep. Larry Kissell. Hudson sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. 

Hudson was born in Franklin, Virginia, and grew up in Charlotte. He and his family now live in Concord. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Hudson first worked as communications director for the North Carolina GOP. For the next 12 years he worked as a staffer for four former GOP House members –– including U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes (R–N.C.). His wife, Renee Hudson, served as chief of staff to President Donald Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway. 

As Fort Bragg’s congressman, Hudson also prioritizes issues affecting veterans and military families, said campaign manager Robert Andrews. In addition to improving the VA, Hudson wants to ensure veterans have adequate pensions and access to affordable housing. 

Andrews said Hudson was not available for an interview in time for publication.

Will the 8th District flip?

Timmons-Goodson won’t discuss how analysts are assessing the race. Instead, she says her priority is to introduce herself to the voters and let them know how hard she will work for them. 

“I believe that a majority of them will say that the current representative should look for another job,” she said.

Timmons-Goodson has criticized Hudson for not speaking up for his constituents and for not speaking out against the president. She noted that when Trump called for a boycott of Goodyear tires, Hudson did not stand up for the thousands of workers that Goodyear employs at its Cumberland County factory. Hudson told local media that he was not aware of the president’s tweet until a reporter pointed it out to him.

The Hudson campaign chides Timmons-Goodson for out-of-state financial support flowing to her campaign, Andrews said. Outside of North Carolina her biggest donor bases were New York and California, according to second quarter Federal Elections Commission filings. FEC records show 134 donors from both states gave approximately $116,000 of the $846,000 she raised in the second quarter.

At the end of June, Hudson had raised $2.3 million, compared to roughly $1.1 million for Timmons-Goodson, according to Open Secrets. But she outraised him by about $517,000 during the second quarter. She says she’s aiming even higher for the third quarter and is “feeling really good” about the numbers so far. 

But strong fundraising by itself is not enough to win an election, says Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College. 

Moreover, Bitzer says the redistricting process only made the 8th District slightly more favorable for Democrats by including the entirety of Cumberland County. Hudson still has the advantages of incumbency and a generally friendly district, so Democrats will need high voter turnout, he said. 

Bitzer also says that national dynamics, maybe even more than the individual candidates, will likely determine the outcome of the 8th District. There’s a strong relationship between how a district votes at the presidential level and how it votes down the ballot, Bitzer said, and that pattern might be magnified this year.

For all the hype about being the “most competitive” district in North Carolina, the 8th District has a relatively slim chance of flipping, Bitzer concluded.

“If that seat went Democratic, then there’s a tsunami that has bowled over at least North Carolina, if not the rest of the country.”

At top, incumbent Richard Hudson and Pat Timmons-Goodson are vying for the 8th Congressional District. Photos from their campaigns.

Update: This story has been corrected to note that Timmons-Goodson moved to Fort Bragg in elementary school, not when she was 2 years old, and that she was an assistant district attorney, not the DA, in Cumberland County.