U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell dismissed media reports criticizing his absence at the Democratic National Convention this week, saying that he has simply spent the time fulfilling his duties as a representative.
“I am a representative of the people of the 8th district, not of the (Democratic) Party… and I have been out doing my job,” Kissell told The Laurinburg Exchange following a series of door-to-door visits by the congressman Friday afternoon.
Kissell has been pilloried by Republicans and some journalists for not attending the four-day DNC event in Charlotte, which is about 20 miles from his campaign office.
Earlier this week, it was suggested by McClatchy reporter Franco Ordonez that Kissell had become “the most elusive Democrat in North Carolina” following Ordonez’s failed efforts to meet with the congressman.
Kissell says that he is right where he always has been.
“The people in my district always know where I am. I am out and about seeing folks every chance I get,” Kissell said. “That is my job.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee also took a swipe at Kissell by parking a limousine outside his Concord office Wednesday morning offering to bring him to the convention.
“We made sure there was plenty of room in the trunk for all Kissell’s baggage since we know he’s voted with President Obama up to 96 percent of the time while in Congress, ” NRCC Deputy Communications Director Andrea Bozek said in a press release to reporters.
Kissell has not responded to the taunts by the GOP. He said he had better things do — things that also did not include this year’s DNC. The two-term incumbent said that he “does not need the national spotlight” that the convention would have provided.
“I went about doing my business (this week) … I truly believe that the job title and definition (of ‘representative’) are one and the same. “
Kissell is facing Republican Richard Hudson on Nov. 6 as well as the insurgent candidacy of former Richmond County Democratic Party Chairman and Dobbins Heights Mayor, Antonio Blue.
Kissell spent the past week touring industries, visiting small businesses and meeting people in their homes.
“We decided that was the best use of our time,” said Kissell, who acknowledged that recent redistricting has added to his responsibilities as a representative. Redistricting added heavily Republican areas of Rowan, Davidson and Randolph counties to the newly mapped 8th District. The redrawn district also eliminated thousands of Democratic voters.
“With redistricting we got new folks, and I want them to know who I am and, more importantly, I want to know who they are,” Kissell said. “They are the folks I work for and the people I respond to. Not Washington insiders and politicians.”
Democratic 8th District Chair June Mabry said Friday that she felt the issue of Kissell’s absence at the convention was overblown.
“All of us can make mountains out of mole hills and this might be one of those times,” said Mabry, who also chose not to attend the DNC.
“The congressman was not the only person in the district working during the convention,” Mabry said. “My job was to run the district convention and to help the elected delegates succeed within the party. I support President Obama, and knowing that we did all the things we needed to do, I was comfortable in not going (to the DNC).”
Mabry said that while Kissell “does have a responsibility to the party, he also has a responsibility to the people of his district.”
Setting up Kissell in contrast to his Republican predecessor Robin Hayes, Mabry said that Kissell is sensitive to the needs of his constituents.
“We have been through having a Republican representative that we couldn’t talk to at all, and (Kissell) took that seriously.”
Mabry also defended Kissell’s legislative choices, including his decisions to cast several votes in opposition to the party’s position and the positions of the President.
“He firmly stands with the party,” Mabry said. “If we are going to start splitting hairs about votes, we are an education party. His votes show that he supports educators and education.
“We are a large tent party … (with) a lot of conservatives, progressives and liberals, and ultimately his views should align most with the party … but when you look at our district, we are not a far left district. We are mostly rural.”
With jobs being the top concern of most people in the district, Mabry said that jobs are understandably Kissell’s top issue right now as well.
“His responsibility is to spend his time where he feels it will get the best benefit for the people that elected him.”
In spite of the negative media attention his recent session on the road has received, Kissell said that he will continue spending as much time as possible meeting people where they are in the eighth district.
“Every chance I get. I am of this district, I spent 27 years in textile and taught in schools, and I never ran for office before my election, but I got fed up with Washington. I am still fed up with Washington,” Kissell said.