Richard Hudson brings grassroots to DC
On the day he was sworn into office for his first term, Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) recalled Human Events coverage of his campaign—from the primary to his big win in the run-off to his eventual defeat of Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell.
“I thought everything was fair and accurate—except when you compared me to Lyndon Johnson,” he said, while winking at wife Renee. He cited our analogy between conservative Republican Hudson and the Democratic president Johnson, both of whom went from congressional staffers to representatives from North Carolina and Texas, respectively.
While understanding the comparison, the 41-year-old Hudson, who has all four volumes of Robert Caro’s epic biography of LBJ, explained he was a bit uncomfortable with it because of Johnson’s ethics problems.
“I always felt that Lyndon Johnson was ethically challenged—very much so,” he said. “Integrity is critical to elective office, I feel. Maybe a better analogy might be to another former congressional staffer who went on to serve himself: my personal hero and role model, Jesse Helms.”
At that point, the new congressman pointed to a photograph in his new office in the Cannon House Office Building. In the photo stood Hudson between Helms—conservative icon, Republican senator from North Carolina for 30 years, and former top aide to two senators—and Lady Margaret Thatcher, who came to the Tarheel State a few years ago for an event at the Jesse Helms Center.
“For a conservative, it doesn’t get better than that,” Hudson said.
Grassroots way key
Whomever Richard Hudson is compared to, one thing is sure: as much as his opponents attacked him as an insider for his years in Washington, the new congressman from North Carolina was a lot more than that. In fact, his background in the political grassroots of his state was probably as key to his success at the polls as the acumen he acquired as top aide to three different House members.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and the school’s first alumnus to serve in Congress, Richard Hudson began his political career working on Charlotte’s Mayor Richard Vinroot losing gubernatorial campaign in 1996. Following a stint as communications director for the state Republican Party, Hudson was hired as top district aide to the new congressman from his state’s 8th District, Robin Hayes.
“I felt as though I was the mayor of the 8th District,” said Hudson. “Driving around the district and hearing the problems and needs of all constituents. It’s quite an experience—you get a whole different perspective from working in an office.”
He went on to serve as top aide to three conservatives in Congress: Republican Reps. Virginia Foxx (N.C.), John Carter (Texas) and Mike Conaway (Texas). In 2012, he was ready to take on Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell, who had won both of his terms by narrow margins.
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But Hudson had to first overcome four other Republicans. He topped the initial primary field and then squared off against second-place finisher Scott Keadle in the resulting run-off.
Keadle hit hard at his opponent, characterizing himself as a conservative “insurgent” and Hudson as a “Washington insider.” Hudson did have some powerful backers in Washington, notably the Young Guns Action Fund run by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.). He also had the endorsements of Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
Hudson had developed a loyal cadre of volunteers from his years of working in Republican campaigns and as an aide to Hayes. With their help in walking precincts, holding coffees and manning phone banks, he maintained his lead in the run-off.
Along with the American Action Network, headed by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, Young Guns ran a barrage of hard-hitting TV spots slamming Keadle for accepting President Obama’s federal stimulus funds as a Rowan County Commissioner in 2009.
This well-oiled effort helped Hudson move to the right of Keadle and win the run-off 63 percent to 36 percent. The November election was anti-climatic, with Hudson unseating incumbent Democrat Kissell with 53 percent of the vote.
With the win, he was part of the Republican tidal wave in his state that stood out in an otherwise disappointing year for the party. Not only did Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carry North Carolina’s electoral votes, but also, Pat McCrory became the state’s first Republican governor in 24 years. In addition, Republicans maintained control of both houses of the state Legislature and gained three new House members.
“I felt that the good people of our state would turn on the Democrats once they saw their convention in Charlotte last summer and especially the way they removed mention of God on three votes of the platform committee and the full convention—denying God three times, just like Peter,” Hudson said.
Death tax, debt and immigration
When Human Events spoke to Hudson, he had returned our call while in the middle of his tour of the district’s farms.
“I will have visited all 11 counties by the end of the week,” he said. “And what I found is that the two biggest issues to our farmers are the death tax and immigration.” The freshman congressman supports outright repeal of the death tax and voiced some hope for the bipartisan framework recently unveiled by eight senators on immigration.
“From what I have seen, it’s a good start,” Hudson said. “It calls for border control and the building of an infrastructure for the processing of people already here in the U.S. I sometimes think of what Newt Gingrich said when he was speaker—that every time someone comes from across the border on a work permit, we should issue them an American Express card. When you have an American Express card, they can always find you.”
But, he quickly added, “I won’t support an amnesty that gives an advantage to those who are here illegally over those who did it the legal way.”
Like most of the 33 other freshman Republicans elected last fall, Hudson would have voted against the debt ceiling extension passed by the last Congress in its waning days. Earlier this year, the congressman voted against the three-month extension of the debt ceiling because he had given his word to constituents never to support a debt ceiling increase without dollar-for-dollar spending cuts.
Hudson further explained his debt-ceiling vote, saying: “we are finally getting some responses from the White House and Democrats in the Senate about reform the biggest causes of debt—namely, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And now, we just may get the Democratic Senate to finally come up with a budget and engage in the process.”
Rep. Richard Hudson is inarguably a person with a deep connection and knowledge of how Washington works, but he’s also a lawmaker who knows the grassroots well and listens. It’s a much needed combination.