Rep. Robert Pittenger kept his congressional seat on election night and has plans to work on health care, national security, the economy and more.
Pittenger, a Republican, took some historically Democrat-leaning counties in his race against Christian Cano.
“I think people are very concerned,” he said. “We have such a slow-growing economy. What I conveyed was a need to reduce the burden of regulations on small businesses, and the burdens of taxes that keep small businesses from expanding and creating better jobs. It’s all about jobs, the economy, economic growth. Compare it to the 80s when (President Ronald) Reagan cut regulations and the tax burden and the economy took off.”
That concern is what pushed voters to support Pittenger’s vision, he said.
“I think we’re unified,” he said. “We’re unified in replacing Obamacare. It needs to be done. It has gotten so costly, people just can’t afford it. We need tax reform: a fair tax code for everybody.”
The Charlotte Congressman says the federal government has overstepped its bounds.
“The government’s gotten too big,” Pittenger said. “It’s gotten too invasive in our counties, too invasive in small businesses and individuals. We’ve got to get the government off our back.”
He believes he and his party will have the support of controversial President-elect Donald Trump.
“Oh, sure, absolutely,” he said. “We did this summer. He embraced all of our reforms — securing the border, tax reform, replacing Obamacare with something to lower the cost, a competitive health care plan.”
Pittenger said that House Speaker Paul Ryan has talked with Trump a good deal and that he does support all of the planned reforms, including balancing the budget.
The congressman said he’d stopped through Anson several times and heard the residents’ concerns.
“The other issue that’s a real concern for Anson County folks I talked to is national security,” he said. “I’m the chairman of the congressional taskforce on terrorism and unconventional warfare. I spent a very large amount of my time working to make sure our country is protected. We have many challenges from our adversaries, and the primary responsibility of the federal government is to protect this country.”
Pittenger outlined his top priorities.
“One, working on cybersecurity issues,” he said. “Two, working with our allies in intercepting ISIS’s financing. It takes money for them to operate, and we want to intercept their funding abilities. Three, get good intelligence, good info on what they’re about to do. We need to collaborate with our partners and get a good sharing of intelligence information.”
Pittenger said that ISIS members are “masters at hacking” and that the group is “brilliant.” He also said he believed the Chinese pose a cybersecurity threat.
“We will have to lead with our partners in the Gulf states,” he said. “They will follow if we give a clear direction. I’ve been with every leader there is in the Gulf region, and they were all very discouraged with President (Barack) Obama’s lack of direction. We need to be like Reagan when he stood strong, and the Soviet Union collapsed without firing a shot. We were able to see that country dissolve, or at least break up, freeing hundreds of millions of people. In a like manner, we have to have clear direction for our friends and allies for those who want to defeat ISIS.”
On a smaller scale, Pittenger said he has plans for Anson.
“We have a crime issue there,” he said. “Anson has a real crime concern. Robbery, particularly. We need more recreational facilities there.”
He was also concerned about the county’s economy, noting that 25 percent of the population is under the poverty line.
“There are some real challenges, but I’m committed to helping the people of Anson,” he said.
Pittenger said his office is available to help his constituents with a variety of needs, including veterans’ benefits, Social Security, obtaining visas and more.
“Whatever needs they have, or a challenge working through the federal government, they should call us and contact my office,” he said. “We will help them process that.”
The congressman plans to have traveling representatives and weekly office hours in Anson in the future. He added that he spent a lot of time driving over the new congressional district.
“I got to know people,” he said. “You’ll see. I’ll be very responsive to them. I’m there to help people. I don’t ask what party they’re from. I’m trying to build the economy for everybody, and help with community colleges and job training.”
Pittenger is back in Washington, D.C.
“I’m in Washington today, but I’ll be coming,” he said. “You’ll be seeing me. I’ve got a lot of work to do between now and the end of the year, but there’ll be plenty of times we’ll be there.”
“I’m here to serve,” he continued. “Don’t hesitate to call me. Scotland and Anson are two of the most economically-deprived counties in North Carolina, so they have my full attention.”
Those who wish to contact Pittenger can call regional district director Graham Long at 704-917-9573.
Reach reporter Imari Scarbrough at 704-994-5471 and follow her on Twitter @ImariScarbrough.