North Carolina, first in the South for its share of jobs in manufacturing, long benefited from a form of outsourcing. Decades ago Northern manufacturers shifted jobs to low-wage, Southern states with severe restrictions on organized labor. Now the "old economy" parts of all these states are reeling from the post-NAFTA version of outsourcing. Since 1993 North Carolina has bled more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs, according to state government estimates--one-fourth of its total. The pace of closures isn't slacking, either. Last year 10 percent of the state's textile jobs were lost, with at least 10,000 more manufacturing workers out of luck. In Biscoe after Biscoe, unemployment keeps climbing. Even in relatively prosperous Cumberland County, with its two expanding military bases, Wal-Mart is the number-one private employer. "Good jobs are coming to North Carolina," says Kissell. "They're just not coming here."Mill Hill Populism, The Nation, 24 April 2008
Now a high school social studies teacher, Larry Kissell previously worked twenty-seven years in an even larger (and now closed) textile plant in neighboring Star. Kissell hinged his dark-horse campaign in 2006 on his intimate understanding not only of how people have been kicked in the pocketbook but in the gut as well. "We didn't have time to transition," he says, ambling down Mill Hill for an hour's worth of door-to-door campaigning. "It was gone. It was gone. And so much of the structure of the town just left us."Kissell was one of the luckier ones: a Wake Forest University graduate who was able to land a job at East Montgomery High when the end was nigh for his plant. But when he decided to challenge four-term incumbent Robin Hayes in 2006, Kissell's only previous elected offices had been president of the Biscoe Lions Club and deacon of the First Baptist Church of Biscoe.
The Washington Post, covering the race today (among many others) at The Fix blog, reports:
North Carolina's 8th district (R): Rep. Robin Hayes (R) drew national headlines earlier this week for all the wrong reasons. Warming up a crowd before a John McCain rally, Hayes told the crowd that "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God." After denying he said it, Hayes acknowledged he did but said he simply didn't remember saying it. Um, ok. Even before this foible Democrats insisted that 2006 nominee Larry Kissell was well positioned to win in a district with a considerable black population (27 percent).I'd say so. Kissell came within a few hundred votes of unseating Hayes in 2006.