In the Information Age, we’ve gotten so used to the slick media blitz, online activism and 24 hour news cycles that it is easy to overlook the most simple, old fashioned and effective of all campaign efforts: The Door Knock. Good thing Larry Kissell hasn’t.
While our 8th district incumbent is writing fat campaign checks to produce high priced, glossy television spots, Democratic Challenger Larry Kissell is out knocking on doors all across the district, meeting his future constituents and talking about the issues that matter most to their families.
If I had the time, I'd talk to every person in this district, Republican and Democrat,” Kissell said in a recent interview. “In this age of expensive media campaigns and wholesale politics, average working people have lost their voice. No one listens to them anymore, and my campaign is all about changing that.
So what are the average working people in the 8th District saying?
There are so many jobs that have left our county," says Terry, 59. "There are a lot of people just hurting."
According to the Charlotte Observer, the 8th district is one of North Carolina’s most economically distressed. Scotland and Richmond Counties lead the state in unemployment and Anson County ranks 4th. Since 2000, the district has lost more than 10,000 manufacturing jobs.
A new CNN poll shows nearly eight out of 10 Americans "very" or "extremely" concerned about the economy. Interviews with three-dozen 8th District voters found many in the hardest-hit counties just as worried.
James Kershaw of Raeford works at WestPoint Home, a textile plant in nearby Scotland County. This month it laid off 370 workers, about a quarter of its work force.
"We don't think about wages now," says Kershaw, 58. "We just think about keeping our jobs."
As a former textile mill worker, Larry understands exactly what these folks are saying.
For much of my adult life I made my living in the old economy of the Eighth District, textiles,” he said. “Unlike so many others however, I did not lose my job. I left when I just couldn't keep watching good, hardworking people get fired as their jobs were shipped overseas. Their sweat and heart built the economy and prosperity others enjoyed, and then they were cast off for cheaper, not better, labor. What happened to them wasn't fair. And things haven't gotten any better for them.
The question on everyone’s mind is what happens when Larry gets elected? How will the 8th district be positioned to address this economic situation?
According to Larry, a comprehensive national economic strategy focusing on education, retraining the labor force for cutting edge industries, and sound energy and immigration policies will get the 8th district back on the right path.
Everything that goes on in Washington is done piecemeal,” he said. “The energy lobby and the corporate and special interest groups all get their say. But then nobody listens to or cares about the folks who have to live with and pay for those decisions.
Outsourcing has robbed millions of jobs from this country. The people who do have jobs must compete with millions of illegal laborers for artificially deflated wages, all the while watching resources siphoned out of public education, denying their children hope of a better future. These factors are linked. But government doesn't attack them as if they are linked.
Larry’s approach may seem simplistic, and that’s just fine with him. Anyone who has met him understands that the teacher and former textile worker isn’t about “playing politics”, he’s about serving the needs of his friends and neighbors. And if that means knocking on doors and listening to constituents so he can bring their message to DC, then that’s what he’ll do.