Abby Ahlberg

Abby Ahlberg

This summer, I sat in on an interview with Mike Clampitt, to learn more about him and his platform.

I was sorely disappointed in his character and his plans for Western North Carolina. When questioned on the issues of affordable housing, healthcare, and taking care of our natural environment, he repeatedly handed off the responsibility of dealing with these issues to any other office besides the one he is running to hold.

He deflected by saying that issues such as these were dealt with on the national level, or dealt with on the county level, or dealt with on the city level.

That being the case, he didn’t propose any possible solutions to the issues we are struggling with in this part of the state.

In one particular question about pollution and protecting our environment that we so love here, he went so far as to blame the entire state of Tennessee for our problems. In fact, in some cases he didn’t even know what we were talking about regarding these issues.

How can someone run for such a high level of office when they don’t even know the details of the issues they should be fighting for? Why are they running for office if they have no interest in fighting for anything?

After that interview, I came to the disappointing conclusion that Mike Clampitt is not running to represent or advocate for the people of Western North Carolina. He is not running to help create solutions that would answer the problems we struggle with here in Haywood County.

He is running to gain power for himself, and to stir up fear and hatred in us, so that we look at our neighbors and see the enemy.

In recent weeks, the Republican party and Mike Clampitt have released a string of vicious attack ads against representative Joe Sam Queen, accusing him of being a “slumlord” and much worse. Here’s the thing about Joe Sam: he is passionate about serving the people of Western North Carolina.

He loves this place, and it is evident in the issues he fights for in Congress. The highlight reel includes expanding Medicaid, providing affordable housing, and procuring broadband internet access for the rural communities of Western NC.

His value system of taking care of rural North Carolinians reaches beyond his Congressional record though. In his personal life, he has made a career of providing low income housing for the folks in Haywood County who need it most. He accepts more Section 8 vouchers than almost any other landlord in the area.

When Mike Clampitt accuses Joe Sam of being a slumlord, does he mean that Joe Sam offers housing to the folks in our community who are struggling to make ends meet? Does he mean that Joe Sam’s passion for extending housing to working class families is somehow corrupt and vile?

To me, Joe Sam walks the talk. He fights for affordable housing in the NC General Assembly because he knows that in Haywood County, finding an affordable place to live has become all but impossible.

He fights for broadband access because he knows that rural communities like ours are falling behind, without the technological tools that could help us keep up with the modern world.

He fights for Medicaid expansion because he knows that, while Haywood county residents are paying into that expansion, we never see the benefits of that system ourselves.

Due to the willful resistance of NC Republican lawmakers, North Carolinians’ taxes support Medicaid expansion in other states, while we suffer from lack of healthcare here. While Republican politicians, including Mike Clampitt, speak to supporting mountain values, they disrespect the human life and dignity of the people who call these mountains home.

I know that this election cycle has created a political and personal divide in our country, including right here in Haywood County. Whether you are Democrat or Republican, if you can put aside your anger for just a second, think about this: we have never seen a recent time in which we have felt so disconnected from one another, based on our political views.

Whoever you are, whatever you believe, I think you know this is true. It’s a shame, it’s painful, and it’s completely un-American. As a country, we are strong when we are united. We are strong when we trust one another enough to move forward to creating solutions for one another. I admit that it is very difficult to break from party lines, especially when the political climate has separated us as much as it has in this moment. In this election though, I want to ask you to consider voting for the candidate that has a record of working hard to support the residents of Haywood County. I want to remind you that you can vote a split ticket. You don’t have to stick to one party when you can see that a candidate from another party is willing to fight for the solutions you need. Joe Sam Queen is the candidate that has our best interests at heart. He is not running for personal power. He is running for us.

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