An interview with Dan Barry, candidate for the Eighth Congressional District
A self-proclaimed working stiff who sees a serious job ahead
Just two weeks ago, Daniel Barry, a 46 -year-old insurance executive, father of three and the current Mayor pro tem of the Weddington Town Council announced his campaign for the eighth congressional district, hoping to challenge incumbent Larry Kissell in November, 2012.
The eighth congressional district was recently redrawn, reflecting the 2010 decennial census and approved by the North Carolina legislature in July. The new district now encompasses 12 counties, almost 5000 square miles and representing 733,499 people. From Weddington it takes more than one hour and 45 minutes to drive to the opposite ends of the district.
Union County has 99,207 residents living in the eighth district, a little less than half of the county’s total population, but more than two thirds of the county’s land mass.
Besides Barry, Scott Keadle a former Iredell County Commissioner and Vernon Robinson have announced that they are seeking the Republican nomination to date.
We sat down with Dan recently to discuss his campaign and political views
UCW: You’ve been a life-long Republican. How would one classify your Republican philosophy?
I am kind of a Reagan Republican, we need a much smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation on business
DB: That’s a tough question, I am very conservative. I believe that there are fundamental rights that are God-given and that’s the pure essence of who we are. At the end of the day, the Democratic Party and the American people have allowed the federal government to encroach more and more and more into their lives — without pushing them back. I am kind of a Reagan Republican, we need a much smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation on business; we need to promote the free enterprise system, get people back to work and get the government out of the way. I’ll use the education department for example, how many thousands of people do we have working for the Department of Education, but they don’t educate anybody — education is a state issue.
UCW: As a Congressman, will you be more reflective of your constituents or your personal philosophy?
DB: We are a representative government. We have to remember that the house was designed to represent the feelings of the constituency, through the filter of the member. I will tell you, that we want to be responsible and responsive to the constituents that we serve, but you also have a higher calling to look across the United States and across the state of North Carolina to represent the broader constituency. Yes, you’re locally elected and you represent a district, but I think some tough decisions have to be made, but you have to look across the entire nation.
UCW: Are there any issues in your view that are unique to the eighth Congressional district of North Carolina?
DB: I think that you have two or three issues that the folks in the eighth district talk to me about regularly and are consistent with what we hear everywhere else. It’s the economy and jobs, the third one being, but not necessarily in this order; what Barack Obama and the Democrats have done to this country. We’ve got to unleash the entrepreneurial power that exists in all of our communities, reducing regulations, creating capital and inspiring risk, so that we’re getting people back to work. Whether it’s the agricultural section, the manufacturing section, the finance section, wherever it is – it’s about getting people back to work. Because when people get back to work, they get back to spending money, they get back to building houses and frankly, housing is ultimately a driver in our economy. We’ve got to do everything we can do to inspire that.
UCW: Your opponents in the eighth district are likely to criticize you for not living in the district, how do you respond to those criticisms?
I live about 2 miles from the district line, I pay property taxes inside the district and educate my children inside the district.
DB: I am going to be authentic about it. I didn’t buy a house in Monroe; I didn’t buy a condominium in Monroe or in Union County, like people in years past have done. I live about 2 miles from the district line, I pay property taxes inside the district and educate my children inside the district. When you look at Union County as a percentage of the district its 13 or 14 percent, but almost 70 percent of the geography of Union County is in the eighth district, I just happen to be on the wrong side of the line that somebody else drew.
UCW: Do you see any parallels between serving as a council-member in the Weddington Town Council and that of a Congressman?
DB: I think there are as many comparisons there, as there is in our business life; we work with complex ideas and try to build consensus to push the agenda of the town forward. In Congress, you’re trying to build consensus around a specific issue, whether its taxes, entitlement reform, defense, terrorism, international relations and then trying to push that message forward.
The biggest challenge we have in Congress right now, in my opinion, is that you have polarization of the folks that are there, with an unwillingness to come together, but you can build consensus without compromising on your principles. I made this comment last week; you can’t stand on the wall and throw rocks at each other, sooner or later somebody has to get in the ditch and go at it, and we need to get people to go at it in the ditch to move the agenda forward, for the American people and our children.
UCW: Your experience on the Weddington Town Council has placed you in the center of many controversial issues, for example, you were the only board member who supported a downtown rezoning for commercial development – how do you see yourself dealing with controversial national issues?
DB: My objective when I ran for Town Council and my objective now is to be authentic, transparent and available. There is not one person that I know of who can say that they reached out to me about an issue, where they took a different position than I did and I was unwilling to meet with them or talk to them or debate with them. I did that on the water tower issue and the land-use issue. I intend to do the exact same thing as a member of the House of Representatives. Everything is not going to be easy, as a matter of fact we have very difficult decisions to make and there is going to be pain when these decisions have to be made. So I want to continue to make myself available to people that have a different point of view, because I may not always be right.
UCW: On your website you support the Cut-Cap-Balance, what is your view of the recent debt ceiling agreement between the Republican House and the Democrat Senate and President Obama?
DB: I don’t think it does anything — to defer all this on to a super committee, anybody that’s a student of politics knows this thing is going to blow up. All they did was push it a little further down the road. It’s going to be the “issue” in the election of 2012.
We’ve got to have real cuts in spending, not cuts in growth like they spoke about in the 1980s, when they said they were cutting the growth factor – no, we need real cuts. We need to have a very serious discussion across party lines in both houses. It is not just Social Security. What Social Security needs is to move the retirement age up, which for me is 70 to 72. It is an easy fix and it will fix Social Security for years.
Medicare and Medicaid are an enormous burden on the government, the economy and the taxpayer. We’ve got to have a serious discussion about what we are willing to pay for and what we’re not willing to pay for. And I’ll use some examples, there are people that I know, in their eighties that have had a double hip replacement — like they’re going to go climb Mount Everest and the government pays $150,000 for it. Why are we doing this? I understand that if you’re in that great of pain – sure, but if it is just two Tylenol and a walker at age 80? My grandfather lived for 15 years with a walker and two Tylenol and a double scotch. Why are we replacing hips? We have got to have a real serious conversation, I’m not talking about killing old people and that’s what the Democrats come back with, no — that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about maintaining the quality of life in your senior years — but a quality of life that is reasonable. If without Medicare and you didn’t have $150,000 in the bank, you wouldn’t be getting that double hip replacement, but now all of a sudden, the American people are paying for your hip replacement and its okay. We need to get to a better understanding about what the expectations of government is and providing this nonsense.
UCW: Many Republicans believe that the compromise on debt and taxes was the wrong policy to follow. As a Congressman how will you navigate through issues that bring out such strident opposition from your constituents?
DB: Let’s talk about taxes. You know I have a fundamental belief that our tax rates are too high, let’s talk about individual tax rates. The second piece is that only 51 or 52 percent of the American people that earn wages enough to pay taxes, so if I argue that I want to bring taxes down and expand the base, there’s somebody out there whose taxes are actually going up, because I want them to participate in the system. So I want to expand the tax base, because I want everybody to participate. We all made this mistake, we all have this problem and we all — need to participate in coming up with a solution. But how are we sharing that burden, spreading that burden around? So, if you are in the lower tax rate or not paying taxes at all, you may be upset with my position or you may be benevolent and say “you know what, it’s time for me to participate in coming up with a solution”, but I want to be able to have those conversations. If that’s divergent from different members of Congress, so be it, but we’ll get in and duke it out until we come up with a good solution.
UCW: The eighth district geographically is quite large, how will that affect the logistics of your campaign and your campaign organization?
DB: We are going to go through the process of building a county by county organization. Every vote is important. Every voter is important and we want to make sure we are touching everybody that we can touch in a positive fashion, so they are there on primary day to vote for Dan Barry and then do that again in the general election.
UCW: Since 1994 when Republicans first gained the majority of the House of Representatives, confrontation with the opposition, regardless which party had the majority has been the rule rather than the exception. How do you view the state of politics on the national level?
DB: Wow, I would agree with that. It’s a blood-sport; it’s absolutely a blood-sport. That, there are no holes barred and it is very confrontational, it’s a battle. The days of the gentleman legislator are gone, hopefully the tenor of that is going to change, and I think I’ve demonstrated in my leadership in Weddington that you can disagree with each other without being disagreeable. You can vote differently and get up the next morning and go have breakfast together and have demonstrated that it is not personal, it’s about politics. Hopefully with good leadership everybody comes to that realization and we can disagree on issues and we can move our political agenda forward. We’re not doing anybody any good battling it out on Fox News or CNN or CNBC or the newspapers. It’s doing good, when we can get into a room and shape agreement that solves problems for the American people.
UCW: How do you view the Tea Party?
DB: You know I told the mayor (Nancy Anderson, Weddington) don’t discount the tea party, to pay attention to what is going on. I think they have provided a great infusion of energy into the debate and a willingness to say, “I don’t care if I get reelected, I ran on a fundamental issue of spending reduction, deficit reduction and I’m willing to put a stake in the ground.” We watched them hold the government responsible until a deal was cut. Now I don’t like the deal that was cut, I think a lot of people didn’t like that deal. I think they will be a major player [Tea Party], if they organize, if they continue to be individual satellite organizations, we’ll see where this runs.
UCW: Do you consider yourself a Tea Party Republican?
DB: I can identify with a lot of the tea party principles.
* Published in the Union County Weekly – Sept. 2, 2011