ROCKINGHAM — In an effort to get to know the communities he will represent if elected in November, U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger kicked off a tour of the new 9th Congressional district Wednesday with stops in Richmond County.
The Congressman met with the Richmond County Farm Bureau, Dr. Dale McInnis at Richmond Community College and Rockingham’s Mayor Steve Morris and City Manager Monty Crump.
“(I’m) trying to really gain as much information as I can so I can represent this region as best as possible,” he said following his final meeting at Rockingham City Hall.
Pittenger, R-Charlotte, said education is a real need in the region.
“We need to continue to support expanding community college programs, and particularly internships with the businesses,” he said. “Of course, Pell Grants are a big part of our community college system here.”
In speaking with the Farm Bureau, Pittenger said he had a lot of discussion regarding the impact that regulations are having on them.
“We have a very tense regulatory burden in our financial system that doesn’t allow small businesses (including farms) to grow and expand because there’s not access to capital,” he said. “Banks don’t have the ability to loan the money because of the compliance and regulatory requirements.”
In meeting with Rockingham’s leaders, Pittenger said he wanted to let them know that, if elected, they will have his full support.
Touting his record of having strong constituent services, Pittenger said the whole county will see that he will be “very accessible.”
He said not only will the mayors of the small towns in the new district be able to reach him, but also the constituents.
With several of the counties being some of the most economically depressed in the state, Pittenger said he want’s to support economic incentives and opportunites for companies that want to relocate in the region.
He said CEOs of several large Indian companies told him they moved “significantly large operations to North Carolina because of our community college system.”
“And we need to make sure that the systems here have every possible resource available and tools to equip and train for not just academic, but also trade-related training,” he said.
Following a change in district maps this past February by state lawmakers, the new 9th District comprises all of Richmond, Anson, Union, Scotland and Robeson counties, as well as parts of Mecklenburg, Cumberland and Bladen counties.
The redrawing was in response to a federal court’s ruling by a three-judge panel earlier this year that two North Carolina congressional districts, the 1st and 12th, were gerrymandered based on race.
While he makes his way around the new territory, Democratic challenger Christan Cano is criticizing him for it.
“Within hours of our Federal Court rulings that racially based gerrymandering was occurring in North Carolina, Pittenger literally pick everything up and left much of our neighborhoods that he was elected to represent,” Cano said in an Aug. 4 statement. “We rarely see him in Mooresville, Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Pineville, Statesville, Charlotte’s Dilworth and Steel Creek areas. Surely he understands he still represents all of us until we elect a new Congressperson in November.
“I don’t know any job in America that allows you to stop doing your job completely while you are job hunting,” he continued. “Does he not understand he still represents his current Congressional District map and this is a serious real job?”
Pittenger is scheduled to be in Cumberland County on Thursday and Bladen and Robeson counties on Friday.
Any future constituents wanting to reach out to the Congressman, because of ethics rules, must go through his campaign.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.