The Post - Kissell Wants to Keep the American Dream Alive
By David Evans
Congressional Candidate Larry Kissell is a man on a mission. In an exclusive interview with The Post, Kissell said his number one priority, if elected to represent North Carolina's 8th District in Congress would be to keep the American Dream alive for his constituents.
"I want to try and keep the American Dream from dying for all our working families," said Kissell. "I want to try and keep the idea that we can prosper here so that our children and our grand children will stay here in the 8th District and have a better life."
"This election is very simple," said Kissell. "It is about raising the working class above the special interest groups that control Washington, DC. The most important aspect of accomplishing that is jobs. The unemployment rate has more than doubled. The rate was 3.1 percent in the 8th District when Robin Hayes went into office and now it is 6.3 percent. There are currently 50,000 people drawing unemployment checks in the 8th District and that doesn't include the people whose benefits have run out."
Kissell said he didn't like give figures though.
"I'm hesitant to talk about number because to me, they are people," he added. "These are people I used to work with and people whose children I teach. These are not just numbers. These are people, families and lives."
Kissell grew up in the town of Biscoe. His father worked in the Post Office for many years and his mother was a teacher. When he graduated from East Montgomery High School, he attended Wake Forest University. Upon graduation, he returned to Montgomery County.
"I chose to come back to Montgomery County," said Kissell. "I worked in textiles for 27 years before it eventually became obvious that jobs were leaving North Carolina. I chose to go into teaching because life is too short and I wanted to make a difference."
"I knew how much influence my high school teachers had over me so I decided that was what I wanted to do," said Kissell. "I was hoping to have the same opportunity to influence today's youth."
Kissell switched his career to teaching in the fall of 2001. Two years ago, Kissell said he reached a point where he couldn't stand around and watch things get any worse and do nothing.
"The first time I ran for office, it was because I became concerned that the issues important to the people of the 8th District like the loss of jobs and the lack of plans to break our dependency on foreign oil weren't being addressed," said Kissell. "We have had eight years of runaway spending and the deficit is continuing to grow. I knew if someone wanted to offer a different opinion, they would have to run for office."
"I was sitting in church in the fall of 2005 and the preacher was talking about Jesus on the Sea of Galilee when he walked on water," said Kissell. "The preacher said, 'if you want a miracle, sometimes you got to be willing to get out of the boat. I care enough about this nation and our kids, who are our future that I got out of the boat."
Kissell said he was happy to get to within 330 votes of beating Hayes in that first election because it proved it could be done.
One major issue that has been in the news lately has been recent spikes in gas prices due to the passage of Hurricane "Ike" in the Gulf of Mexico. Kissell said it was further evidence of our deepening need to get free of foreign oil.
"It just shows how much we have become dependent on foreign oil," said Kissell. "We have had years to do something about it and we haven't done anything. We have got to find alternative energy sources to create competition and more than one source of energy."
"My opponent has called for an investigation into price gouging," said Kissell. "It is interesting since he has voted against investigating price gouging in the past on three different occasions."
"One striking difference where I am concerned versus Robin Hayes is that in 2006, I put a great emphasis on my concern about rising energy prices and my opponent called that a gimmick," he added. "I have thought of being concerned for helping the average person a gimmick. My opponent has missed opportunity after opportunity to help the people and has a ten year record of voting for big oil and hurting the regular people. They are the ones who have to pay the price at the pumps."
Kissell said the United States should become more proactive about finding new sources of oil.
"I'm for drilling," said Kissell. "The oil companies have leased 68 million acres of public land with 33 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico. There is another 200 million acres out there up for lease."
Kissell was emphatic about one current practice of American oil companies.
"There is one thing we definitely should not be doing," said Kissell. "The oil companies are taking oil and exporting that precious commodity to other places. In May, when prices skyrocketed, oil companies set a new record for exporting oil. Almost 1.6 million barrels was exported per day and included in that was gasoline at a million barrels a day. This was during a time when prices were skyrocketing."
"This was the most we have exported since World War II," he added. "We can't do that anymore. We need to drill now, drill here and keep the product here."
Kissell said in the meantime, the country should continue to aggressively pursue alternative energy sources.
"The future is going to belong to the country that incorporates those alternative technologies the quickest," said Kissell. "That will create 'green-collar' jobs and keep much of the $700 billion dollars a year we are sending to oil-producing countries back here in the United States."
Kissell said he was dedicated to helping the people of the 8th District.
"These people are too good and we've got to help them," said Kissell. "We need 'green-collar' jobs and we need to stop trade deals like the ones Hayes has voted for in the past. CAFTA has taken jobs away from the 8th District. We need to say, 'no free trade deals' until we get our good jobs back into the 8th District."
"We need to stop rewarding companies for sending jobs out of the country and reward the ones that stay here," said Kissell. "We need to help small businesses and create an atmosphere where they can thrive. Jobs have been coming to North Carolina but they haven't been coming to the 8th District and we need to change that as well."
"One of the great opportunities is the BRAC initiative at Ft. Bragg," said Kissell. "We need to take advantage of that opportunity."
So far, Kissell has been happy with the current campaign.
"Things are going good," said Kissell. "There has been a lot of excitement in our district from the people because after the last time, they know it can be won. This is a grass-roots campaign."
"We need to make sure people understand that having even a freshman congressman from Montgomery County would be a great advantage for all the people of Montgomery County," he added. "A freshman democrat from a western district has brought twice as many jobs into his district as Hayes has brought into the 8th District."
"One of the key aspects of losing manufacturing jobs is all the other support businesses that sprang up around those manufacturing businesses have disappeared," said Kissell. "The whole system has collapsed. A major part of the leadership of any small town is the business leaders. When a time of need came about, it was the local businesses that stepped up to help out."
"Now those businesses are just not here," said Kissell. "To lose so much, so quickly has been a big loss for our district."
When asked what Kissell thought people in the 8th District felt about their government, he was quick to respond.
"I think there is a feeling that people don't think there is anything the government can do to help them in their current situation," said Kissell. "They believe the government does not know how much they have been hurt by trade deals and other decisions. They believe there is a disconnect between the government and the people. That is the reason I ran and am running again."
"I believe very strongly that we can do better," said Kissell. "These are the issues affecting our people. It would be a great advantage to have a representative from Montgomery County in Washington."
When asked about gun-control, Kissell said he was given an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association in 2006.
"I am a member of the NRA," he added. "I support the Second Amendment. This is a right of all law-abiding citizens."
One area that Kissell felt strongly about was improvement of the educational system.
"I am a great supporter of the educational system," said Kissell. "We have to take care of our kids and their health care. We have got to strengthen the educational system. One of the greatest Federal takeovers ever was the takeover of the educational system with the initiation of the "No Child Left Behind" Program. It was a great name but a terrible system."
"We have got to help our schools," said Kissell. "I am a great believer that our communities know themselves best and we need to listen to them for solutions and as far as operating schools is concerned, they could do more and be more effective if Washington would just listen to what they have to say and help them where they say they need help."
Kissell said he believed recent calls for reform in programs which help children with behavioral or emotional problems was founded.
"We have got to support programs for children because they can be effective but they have got to be ran with accountability," said Kissell. "We have seen too many times what happens when there is no accountability or oversight."
Kissell said there should be more programs that assist military veterans and their families.
"We need to take care of our veterans and their military families," said Kissell. "When the soldiers are deployed, we need to take care of their families that remain here."
"We need to protect our Medicare and Social Security programs," he added. "We need to stop the robbing of the Social Security Trust Fund. We have got to get this spending under control. The national debt has gone up 73% in the last ten years."
Kissell said he believed choosing who to vote for in the upcoming election would be very simple for most people.
"It is very simple," said Kissell. "When voters get ready to choose who to vote for, they should ask themselves, 'am I happy with what is happening?' If so, Robin [Hayes] is your man. If you think it is time for a change to help our working families, I think I have the right answers."
"I'm very proud to be from Montgomery County and I know the people of Montgomery County very well," said Kissell. "I have chosen to live my life here and I think it would be neat to have a congressman from Montgomery County in Washington."