Rev. Mark Harris believes he can win the GOP Senate primary in May
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Mark Harris says he got the call two weeks before he got married, about two months before his next planned step in life.
"I went to Appalachian State University and majored in political science, and prepared for a career in law," said Harris when recollecting the series of events. "I was accepted into law school at Campbell in February, my wife and I were getting married that June, and then in August I would start law school at Campbell. But then two weeks before the wedding, two months before I was going to start law school, God called me to preach."
Had it not been for that call, Mark Harris may have been a political candidate before 2013. He went on to become the Pastor at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, and President of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. With a lifelong interest in politics, Harris says he has taken stands on issues through the years. But it wasn't until he began advocating for North Carolina's "Marriage Protection Amendment" in 2012 that he started to see a need to run for office. "I recognized the incredible vacuum of leadership that we have in our state and our nation," he said of the decision.
The Harris campaign has gained traction in the past few months. He went from 7 percent support in March among the GOP candidates for U.S. Senate, to 11 percent in April according to a survey by Public Policy Polling. That same poll shows Harris beating GOP frontrunner Thom Tillis 43-41 in a head-to-head race, and beating incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan 44-40 head-to-head.
Harris admitted to being surprised about the recent developments. " If you would have told me in October ‘Mark, when this race gets down to one week before early voting starts, 34 percent of the GOP in North Carolina would be undecided, the race would have been shrunk down to this three week period of time giving us a chance to raise the money we needed to get on the air and get our name ID up', I would have said ‘Boy, I sure pray that happens but I'm not sure I would bet the farm on it'. So, I'm excited about it."
Harris pulls no punches when he talks about his thoughts on President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Harris says he would vote to repeal the law in its entirety, on both philosophical and practical reasons. "I think when you look at the heart of that, you've got the individual mandate which ultimately is not going to fly," Harris said explaining his feelings on the controversial issue. "You also have to look at the realities of the expenses of it. The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) tells us that we are going to be spending, by 2023, three trillion dollars on healthcare in this country. Put that in perspective, last year we spent $3.7 trillion total with the federal government. In nine years, three trillion just on healthcare? That's not even sustainable."
When the Lower Cape Fear Republican Women's Club hosted a forum this week for GOP Senate candidates, Harris was one of four who attended. House Speaker Thom Tillis, who many consider the frontrunner for the nomination, was one of the candidates who did not show up. Tillis has reportedly skipped most of the candidate forums organized by local party groups across the state, which has frustrated Harris.
"I would think the greatest frustration has got to be with the voters, because they are the ones looking to compare candidates, to compare who is going to defeat Kay Hagan," Harris said. "The idea that you can take a lot of money, just buy ads and operate within a controlled environment constantly, and that is what you're expecting the people of North Carolina to buy? The North Carolina that I love and the North Carolina I grew up in, voters want to meet their candidates. They want to shake their hands. They want to hear their hearts. They want to be in their presence and get to know them. The voters of North Carolina are being robbed of that opportunity."