The sad thing about Virginia Foxx's performance as the 5th District congressional representative is that it did not have to be this way. She had no need to be such a hard-right Republican marching in lockstep with the Bush administration and the House Republican leadership.
The Journal endorses Roger Sharpe, her Democratic challenger, for the 5th District seat in the belief that he would do more to try to bring about badly needed change in the Republican-dominated Congress.
Foxx has demonstrated time and again that she would be an impediment to such change. Once she had emerged from the loud and offensive primaries as the GOP nominee in 2004, she could have considered herself nearly home free. The district has been configured to give Republicans an edge; Richard Burr won five terms as its representative and probably would have gone on winning had he not moved to the Senate.
So Foxx could have moved toward the moderate center and reached out to her Democratic and independent constituents as well. She could have been a representative with a mind of her own, one who was willing to do what was in the best interests of her district. She could have abandoned the shrillness that poisons our politics and could have tried to build consensus.
Foxx did show some early promise. She got a sensible bill through the House of Representatives that fixed a glitch in the federal tax code so that military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan can contribute their pay into individual retirement accounts.
But for the most part, Foxx has done little to establish herself as an independent voice. The notable exception was her protest vote against a hastily arranged package of federal aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina; Foxx wanted at least some accountability.
On most other issues, however, Foxx has not only swallowed the party line uncritically; she has also helped to spread it. She spouted the Bush administration's rosy talking points on Iraq even as military commanders were painting a grimmer picture. Given the opportunity to speak out against the House leadership for its woefully inadequate response to the Mark Foley e-mails to House pages, she declined.
She has exploited fears and prejudices against immigrants. She has played fast and loose with the truth, including sending letters and e-mail messages misrepresenting this newspaper's editorial policies in a ploy to raise more money.
The GOP leaders she has so obediently followed have presided over a Do-Nothing Congress that is immersed in scandals. A vote to send her back to Congress would be a vote to continue to do nothing about immigration, Social Security, Medicare, energy independence and other problems facing the nation. It would be a vote to continue condoning the selling of government to the highest-bidding lobbyists.
A vote for Roger Sharpe, a former state senator and educator and an author, would be a vote for change. Sharpe is a well-educated, thoughtful man who has devoted much of his life to public service. A native of western North Carolina, he knows the 5th District and its needs, and would be more likely to put the best interests of the district ahead of the wishes of his party's leaders.
The Journal did not endorse Sharpe in the Democratic primary because he had largely been out of politics since the late 1970s, but he has run a competent, thoughtful, clean campaign and is well informed on a broad range of issues. Thoughtfulness, integrity, civility and independence are qualities that are sorely needed in Congress.
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