A self-proclaimed working stiff who sees a serious job ahead
Just two weeks ago, Weddington Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Barry announced his campaign for the eighth congressional district, hoping to challenge incumbent Larry Kissell in November, 2012. The 46-year-old Barry, an insurance executive and father of three, is one of three candidates so far to announce for the Republican nomination. Former Iredell County Commissioner Scott Keadle and former Winston Salem City Council member Vernon Robinson also filed.
The Eighth Congressional District was recently redrawn, reflecting the 2010 census and approved by the North Carolina legislature in July. The new district now encompasses 12 counties, almost 5,000 square miles, 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 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.
We sat down with Dan recently to discuss his campaign and political views.
UCW: You’ve been a life-time Republican. How would one classify your Republican philosophy?
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?
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 it’s 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 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, recently you were the only board member who supported a 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 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.
Editor’s note: Check next week’s edition for the final part of our interview