• Rep. Hudson visits Hamlet roots ahead of run for District 9 seat

    Gavin Stone, Richmond County Daily Journal

    HAMLET — Congressman Richard Hudson made a stop in Hamlet on Thursday to visit his family’s former stomping grounds and share some of his focuses going into the campaign season.

    Hudson, a Republican, previously represented Richmond County from 2013 to 2015 prior to a redrawing of the maps in 2016. The latest version of North Carolina’s congressional map has Richmond County split between districts 8 and 9, which is apparently the first time in the county’s history that it has had two representatives, according to a historical record of U.S. Congressional District shapes maintained by UCLA.

    Richmond County’s current U.S. Congressman, Rep. Dan Bishop, opted to run for the newly drawn District 8, which includes all of Union, Anson, Montgomery, Stanly, Rowan and Davidson counties, with the eastern portion of Cabarrus County and the western two-thirds of Richmond County. Hudson currently represents District 8 which — until November — stretches from Cumberland to Cabarrus, just above Richmond, and is running for the newly drawn District 9, which includes Hamlet, Dobbins Heights and Hoffman in Richmond County, as well as Moore, Scotland, Hoke, Lee, Chatham, Randolph, and parts of Harnett and Cumberland counties.

    Hudson will face three other Republicans in the upcoming primary — Mike Andriani, Jennyfer Bucardo, and Francisco Rios — and the winner will face Democrat Ben Clark in November.

    Though it’s been a few years since Hudson has been on the ballot in Richmond County, his connections go much deeper. His grandfather, J.F. Watson, worked for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad — with an office on the second floor of the Hamlet Depot — for 32 years before retiring as the roadmaster in Roanoke Rapids. His mother lived in Hamlet as a young child, and his uncle, R.L. “Riley” Watson was born in the city.

    Hudson was born in Franklin, VA but grew up in Charlotte, and currently resides in Concord (congressional representatives are not constitutionally required to live in the district they represent, just the same state). He worked on Rep. Robin Hayes’s staff for six years, and during that time was involved in local projects including securing grants to turn the Imperial Foods ruins into a memorial park, and in the early 2000s was involved in getting the Hamlet Depot moved 240 feet across the railroad tracks to where it currently sits.

    His visit on Thursday was his first time back in Hamlet since 2015; Hudson said it was “personally painful” when the maps were redrawn in 2016 to cut Richmond County out of his jurisdiction.

    “This is home to me, my roots run so deep in this community — I love this community,” he said. “I’m just thrilled that I have the opportunity to earn the votes of this community again and represent this community.”

    “I feel like to do my job I’ve got to be here in the community, the community needs to know me and I need to know them,” he added. “That doesn’t mean I will always vote the same way they would have done it but they know that I’m always accessible and always listening and trying to make decisions on their behalf … so that means coming here a lot, or having my staff here when I can’t be.”

    On the issues

    Hudson has been an advocate for parents to be allowed to make the decision about whether their child wears masks in school, not the government. The Fayetteville Observer reported that on Feb. 11, Hudson sent a letter to Cumberland County Health Director Jennifer Green “respectfully urging” her to end the county’s mask mandate, which had outlasted the Board of Education’s vote the prior week to end the school system’s mask mandate.

    He said that we should “follow the science” which he argues shows that the harm of masks on the development of kids outweighs the risks of them getting COVID-19, and that masks aren’t as effective at slowing the spread as improving ventilation and changing the arrangement of seats in the classroom.

    “If you’re learning English and you can’t see the lips of your teacher, it hurts your ability to learn English. It also has harmed the emotional development of our kids because they can’t see each other, so I think the science tells us that the damage done by masks in schools is much worse than [the risks of not wearing them],” Hudson said in an interview. “[COVID-19] is not as harmful to kids, so if that changed, if a future variant was very deadly for children then I would want to follow the science and maybe we’d change something we were doing but right now the science tells us the kids don’t need that mask. My position is let the parents decide: if they want their kids wearing a mask that’s their decision.”

    With rising gas prices and new questions about the country’s use of Russian oil, Hudson has advocated for President Joe Biden to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which he canceled on his first day in office, in order to help “unleash American energy.” Hudson is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and said that Biden’s decisions to continue to limit permits for drilling since his first day have limited the country’s energy supply, contributing to the situation we find ourselves in now.

    “If the President were to approve [the Keystone XL pipeline] today, it’ll take at least a year to bring that oil online but it sends the signal today, to the futures market, and I think you’ll see prices go down if he’ll start making some of these smart policy decisions,” Hudson said.

    Asked about the planned $63 million investment in Richmond County to build a new solar farm, Hudson said he supports “all of the above” in terms of energy, but believes that markets should be allowed to determine what is best. While solar is a positive development and creates jobs, Hudson said the issue is consistent storage of the energy produced, which isn’t as much of an issue with natural gas and nuclear energy.

    “I think adding solar is good but my approach has been: let’s push technology, let’s push innovation, because once we figure out that storage problem wind and solar are going to be much better,” Hudson said.

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