BURLINGTON TIMES NEWS | October 5, 2015
Congressman Mark Walker kicked off his re-election campaign Saturday at Calvary Baptist Church.
Hundreds of supporters, including a long list of prominent and popular Republican elected officials, attended the rally despite the rain.
Walker, flanked by six American flags and beneath a large wooden cross, gave a speech focused heavily on his experiences as a former Baptist minister, his Christian faith and his conservative principles.
“I’m not ashamed to say that my faith is a very integral part of the way I govern,” he said. “I don’t go (to Washington) as a pastor. I got there as someone taking an oath to protect the Constitution and to protect the citizens I represent. But each and every day should be in all of our lives a new place to remember that we cannot do this in our own power.”
Walker’s speech also took some digs at popular conservative targets, such as Planned Parenthood and President Barack Obama.
Both the religious and the political pieces of Walker’s speech were greeted with applause and shouts of “Amen!” from the crowd.
Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes introduced Walker, calling him “a man with a good heart, a good spirit, a man who works for us.”
Barnes, a Republican, recalled last year’s bruising GOP primary, in which Walker — then a Baptist pastor and political unknown — beat eight other Republicans to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Howard Coble in the 6th Congressional District seat.
The toughest of those rivals was Phil Berger Jr., the Rockingham County district attorney at the time. Despite being better known, better funded and well-connected politically, Berger lost to Walker in a landslide.
“When I had to make a choice of who to support it wasn’t difficult for me to know — all due respect to my lawyer friends in here — that we didn’t need another lawyer,” Barnes said.
In the 2016 election Walker faces a challenge in the GOP primary by another lawyer, Kenn Kopf. Kopf kicked off his campaign last week at comparatively modest announcement in a small chapel at Oak Ridge Military Academy.
Kopf has already criticized Walker as insufficiently conservative, pointing to his support for John Boehner as the speaker of the House.
Walker said he expects all manner of criticisms and political attacks in his re-election bid. That’s something he got used to his first time around, he said.
At Saturday’s rally Walker’s supporters said despite the Boehner vote, digs against Walker’s conservative credentials don’t hold water. Among the Walker fans on hand at Saturday’s rally were state Rep. John Blust, Mayor Tim Sessoms of Summerfield and three Guilford County commissioners, Alan Branson, Alan Perdue and Justin Conrad, who all said Walker is still the conservative choice.
“You can’t look at any one vote and make a decision about the job someone’s doing,” Perdue said. “You have to look at the totality.”
In his speech, Walker acknowledged that he hasn’t been quite the conservative political flamethrower some people might have wanted. But his more moderate style has led to greater success in spreading his conservative message, he said.
“It’s very easy to preach to the choir,” Walker said. “It’s very easy to always find a circle of people around us who agree with everything we say. But the true success of a leader is to be able to augment, to be able to broaden that base, to be able to take that message of individual liberty, hope and opportunity to a new audience.”