Rep. Howard Coble (R)
Elected: 1984, 13th term.
Born: March 18, 1931, Greensboro .
Education: Appalachian St. U., 1949-50, Guilford Col., B.A. 1958, U. of NC, J.D. 1962.
Military career: Coast Guard, 1952–56, 1977–78, Coast Guard Reserves, 1960–81.
Elected office: NC House of Reps., 1968–70, 1978–84.
Professional Career: Claims rep., State Farm Ins., 1961-67; Asst. Guilford Cnty. atty., 1967-69; Asst. U.S. atty., NC Middle Dist., 1969–73; Secy., NC Dept. of Revenue, 1973–77; Practicing atty., 1979–83.
The congressman from the 6th District is Howard Coble, a Republican first elected in 1984. He grew up in Guilford County and went to Guilford College. After wrecking his father’s car, he fled to the Coast Guard, where he started off collecting garbage and served for five years. He was an insurance claims representative, went to law school, and became an assistant U.S. attorney and the state revenue commissioner. He served in the state House for eight years. Coble was elected to Congress in what was then a swing district. It was the third time the 6th District had changed parties in three elections. Coble won re-election in 1986 by just 79 votes, in a contest that Democrats complained was decided by the Guilford County election board’s refusal to hold a recount. But his personal popularity and redistricting have made this a safe seat.
|Howard Coble (R)||221,018||(67%)||($688,818)|
|Teresa Sue Bratton (D)||108,873||(33%)||($105,750)|
|Howard Coble (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (71%), 2004 (73%), 2002 (90%), 2000 (91%), 1998 (89%), 1996 (73%), 1994 (100%), 1992 (71%), 1990 (67%), 1988 (62%), 1986 (50%), 1984 (51%)
Coble is a friendly man who asks visitors if they mind if he smokes his cheap cigars. He likes bluegrass music and eats pork brains and eggs for breakfast. His voting record is mostly conservative, with interesting twists. He is tightfisted, and since his first term, he has tried to pass legislation to abolish pensions or health coverage for congressional retirees, which he calls “a taxpayer rip-off.” He hasn’t found many co-sponsors, but he has refused to back down on his pledge to boycott the program himself. Like many of his constituents, he is leery of free trade. He initially opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement but voted for it in 1993. But he has opposed subsequent trade initiatives, including normalizing trade relations with China and the 2005 Central America Free Trade Agreement.
“I see my role more as one of keeping bad legislation off the books,” Coble once said. But as a subcommittee chairman he was legislatively productive. As chairman of the Courts and Intellectual Property Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, Coble argued that industries that depend on copyrights produce more GDP than does manufacturing, and he has supported greater protection for intellectual property. When the Bush administration sought budget cuts from the Patent and Trademark Office, Coble told the appropriators to “keep their grubby paws out of the PTO’s coffers.” In 2002, he shepherded the enactment of additional changes in the patent law, including the development of an electronic system for the filing and processing of patent and trademark applications. In 2004, the Judiciary Committee approved his bill to protect commercial databases from piracy. Despite his own limitations in operating a computer, the nearly 80-year-old Coble is a major cheerleader for the digital revolution and says he has come to appreciate the Internet.
In 2003, when Republicans controlled the House, Coble was chairman of the Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee of Judiciary. The House passed his bill to modernize the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives with new investigative powers against rogue dealers of firearms. He was in line to become the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee in 2007, after Democrats won control, but GOP leaders gave the post to Lamar Smith of Texas, a more prolific party fundraiser. Coble, instead, got the top Republican post on the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.
Coble voted in 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq, but by 2005 he began to distance himself from the party position and raised questions about President Bush’s war policy. In February 2007, he was one of 17 House Republicans to vote for the resolution opposing Bush’s plans for a “surge” of troop strength to try to restore order in Iraq. But he opposed Democratic measures imposing a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops. In January 2008, he was one of 35 House members who voted against tax rebates that were designed to stimulate the economy, saying the rebates were like “applying a Band-Aid to a problem that requires major surgery.” After first opposing the $700 billion bailout of the financial markets later that year, he cited warnings from local business leaders of a looming liquidity crisis and voted for the bill.
In July 2008, Coble broke James Broyhill’s record for the longest tenure in the U.S. House of a Republican from North Carolina. Broyhill served 23 years, from 1963 to 1986. When Coble faces a Democratic opponent, which isn’t very often, he typically exceeds 70% of the vote. Democrats view this seat as possibly competitive once Coble departs, but that seems a stretch. More likely, the district’s future could hinge on redistricting.