Rep. Virginia Foxx (R)
North Carolina 5th District
From the Atlantic Ocean, the terrain of North Carolina rises slowly through the Piedmont, a transitional land of modest hills that lies between the coastal plain and the Blue Ridge mountains. The Blue Ridge, named for the mysterious blue haze that blankets it, provides the headwaters of the New River, which cuts majestic crevasses—alternately lush and mined-out—as it flows north to West Virginia. The lower Piedmont lands of North Carolina were first settled by independent-minded Scots-Irish farmers and by followers of British and German sects like the Moravians. This was hardscrabble farm country before the Civil War, with few slaves. By the late 19th century, it was becoming industrialized, with textile mills alongside streams, furniture factories not far from hardwood forests, and R.J. Reynolds’ cigarette factories in Winston-Salem. The Piedmont economy was hailed as the basis of a progressive New South, although textile mills paid low wages and tobacco employed fewer workers.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Today, the region’s pharmaceutical companies, banking institutions, and high-skill Piedmont factories have contributed to the state’s overall affluence. Lowe’s, the $31 billion home-improvement giant, is based in Wilkesboro, population 3,200. The merger of banking giants Wachovia and First Union proved bittersweet for Winston-Salem, Wachovia’s home base since 1879. First Union let the new company keep Wachovia’s name but shifted its headquarters to Charlotte. In 2005, Dell opened a plant in Winston-Salem that produced 2 million computers and 1,100 jobs in its first year. However, Dell’s future in the region was clouded by its attempt in 2008 to sell its factories nationwide. New wineries are gaining recognition in the Yadkin Valley. Yet large swaths of the region remain rural, from chicken-raising Wilkes County to Appalachian State University in Boone (named for Daniel), a center for resurgent pride in the culture of Appalachia, a region so often the target of either pity or condescension. In September 2007, the university’s football team pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college football history when it defeated the University of Michigan in a game at Ann Arbor.
All of these places lie within the boundaries of the 5th Congressional District. The 5th begins in the heart of the Piedmont: the suburbs of Winston-Salem (though not the city, which is in the 12th District). From there, it drops south just short of the outer fringes of metropolitan Charlotte. It heads west and north to the Tennessee line, taking in mountain communities like Boone. The core of its population base is the Winston-Salem suburbs in Forsyth County, plus small industrial cities in Stokes and Surry counties, including Mount Airy, the model for Mayberry in The Andy Griffith Show. The district is solidly Republican.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R)
Elected: 2004, 3rd term.
Born: June 29, 1943, Bronx, NY .
Home: Banner Elk.
Education: U. of NC, A.B. 1968, M.A.C.T. 1972, U. of NC-Greensboro, Ed.D. 1985.
Family: Married (Thomas); 1 child.
Elected office: Watauga Bd. of Ed., 1976-88; NC Senate, 1994-2004.
Professional Career: Owner, Grandfather Mountain Nursery, 1976-present; Asst. Dean of General College, Appalachian St. U., 1976-1984; Pres. Mayland CC, 1987-1994.
The congresswoman from the 5th District is Virginia Foxx, a Republican first elected in 2004 after emerging from a fiercely contested Republican primary. She graduated from the University of North Carolina and had a diverse professional and political background before winning election to Congress at age 61. She owned a nursery and landscape company, and taught sociology and was assistant dean of the General College at Appalachian State University. Later, she was president of Mayland Community College. She served 12 years on the Board of Education of Watauga County, on the western edge of the district (nearly as close to Knoxville, Tenn., as to Winston-Salem). In 1994, Foxx was elected to the state Senate. In the Legislature she sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and a bill to deny Social Security benefits to illegal aliens. She actively supported gun rights and home schooling, and she opposed abortion rights.
|Virginia Foxx (R)||190,820||(58%)||($852,649)|
|Roy Carter (D)||136,103||(42%)||($238,153)|
|Virginia Foxx (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (57%), 2004 (59%)
In 2004, Foxx was one of five serious candidates in the Republican primary for the U.S. House seat. Collectively, they spent more than $6 million. Ed Broyhill, the son of former Republican Sen. James Broyhill, started off as the early front-runner. Broyhill was endorsed by his father’s onetime colleague Sen. Jesse Helms. Also in the race was Winston-Salem Councilman Vernon Robinson, a retired Air Force officer who campaigned as a staunch conservative, “the black Jesse Helms,” as he put it. Robinson finished first in the primary, with 24% of the vote. Foxx unexpectedly finished second, with 22%, just 511 votes ahead of Broyhill.
The four-week campaign for the runoff was heatedly contested. Robinson said that Foxx was “fighting the cultural war on the wrong side,” and he aired several controversial ads targeting his tougher position on illegal immigrants. Foxx warned voters that Robinson’s aggressive style would make him a weak general election candidate who could lose, although that seemed unlikely in a district that twice voted 66% for George W. Bush. Foxx won 55%-45%, with between 73% and 82% in her home area in the three mountain counties. Robinson carried Forsyth County, which cast 40% of the vote, but by only 38 votes. In the general election, Foxx won 59%-41%.
In the House, Foxx has a solidly conservative voting record and an outspoken style. She reinforced her reputation as a tightfisted spender when she was one of 11 members voting against House passage of the $52 billion relief package following Hurricane Katrina. “The real issue for me was accountability,” Foxx said. She was more generous for local projects, taking credit for $500,000 for a teapot museum in Sparta, which President Bush later criticized as wasteful spending. After such earmarked spending became controversial, Foxx said in December 2007 that she no longer would seek earmarks, but she also criticized Democrats for “hypocrisy” when they attacked the lack of “transparency” in her requested projects. Foxx opposed federal support for embryonic-stem cell research, which uses frozen embryos from in vitro fertilization. “Killing human life does not have to be accomplished to create efficacious treatment,” she said. In November 2008, Foxx sponsored legislation to prevent unspent portions of the $700 billion in bailout funds for the financial industry from being distributed, complaining there had been no meaningful oversight of the way the first $290 billion was were used by private companies.
Foxx has been re-elected by unimpressive margins against low-profile opponents.