- Rep. G. K. Butterfield sworn into 115th Congress;
- Butterfield represents NC first congressional district;
- Progressives eyeball him as a House leader who can champion their issues.
I am honored by the trust the citizens of the First District have placed in me to represent them in Congress for a seventh term.
“As the 115th Congress begins, I am eager to get back to work as a strong advocate for North Carolinians. As Republican leadership begin talks of dismantling strides made to strengthen the health care and economic security of every American, I stand ready to protect the outgoing Administration’s legacy that put more Americans on a path forward. Today, I renew my commitment to working with my colleagues in Congress to create jobs, help more hard-working Americans put food on the table and have access to affordable health care, and protect the rights of all citizens. Constituents who need help with a federal agency or assistance receiving their benefits are urged to contact my office.
“I look forward to being a voice on pressing issues in North Carolina and I remain enthusiastic about working with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to advance responsible, progressive solutions to the challenges our state faces right now.
“I will continue to advocate for an America that works for us all and I plan to do everything I can to hold Republican leadership in Washington accountable every step of the way.”
Congressman G. K. Butterfield was first elected to Congress in a special election in 2004. He represents North Carolina’s First Congressional District which includes 14 counties in the Triangle and eastern North Carolina. Butterfield will maintain his existing office locations in Wilson and Durham which are dedicated to constituent services.
He is the immediate past Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. He currently holds leadership positions as Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus, Co-Chair of the Out-Of-Poverty Caucus, Co-Chair of the Pediatric Trauma Caucus, and Co-Chair of the State Medicaid Expansion Caucus. He serves as a senior member of the influential House Committee on Energy and Commerce, including the Subcommittees on Health; Communications and Technology; and Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade.
Of particular interest, many progressive groups see Butterfield as a House leader with experience and the desire to stand up and fight for issues most progressives care about:
- Living wages;
- Affordable healthcare;
- Affordable education;
Progressives such as Susan Spence, who lives in the 1st congressional district and hosts a progressive email group primarily targeting NC’s progressive unaffiliated, says, “it’s very important to work with proven House and Senate leaders who understand our issues and concerns.” She goes on to say, “I think his commitment to Hillary was more a product of his environment than it was a slap against Bernie. But, we’re willing to work with him now if he’s willing to stand up and fight for what Bernie campaigned on.”
Spence is a mother of two teenage children. She’s a healthcare professional working a full time job at a doctor’s office and she also works a part time job at a nearby hospital. She says it takes that to make ends meet to pay her student loans.
“I was in nursing school but I had to quit. I couldn’t do school and work at the same time. So, I had to make a decision: do I feed my kids or go to school.”
Spence decided to enroll and get her two year degree as a certified medical assistant. “I could do that and continue to work–something I couldn’t do in nursing school. Plus all my classes transferred over to the CMA.”
Three years ago, Spence was on food stamps and living in Section 8 housing. Today, she’s able to stand on her own two feet, support her children and hold down a job that pays her a decent wage.
“Before I graduated, I was making $8.15 working as a cashier at the Circle K – now, I’m making $16 an hour.”
As Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus, Butterfield will have an opportunity and the burden of herding Democratic cats on issues especially sensitive to people like Ms. Spence: affordable healthcare, living wage, jobs, rural healthcare and education. She’s not the only one.
“I followed Rep. Butterfield when he was the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus. I didn’t know anything about him until them – other than he was from North Carolina. I wished he had supported Bernie but I’m willing to support anyone who sees progressive issues as something meaningful and he’s willing to fight for us,” said David Harris, a self-described Berniebot who lives in the Triad of North Carolina.
“One of the reasons Trump got elected was because he talked about jobs. I don’t like Trump, but at least he talked about bringing jobs back to America and growing the economy,” Harris said. “I’m sick of all the political spin. It’s one side against the other and it shouldn’t be. They’re elected because we put them there. It’s time for elected officials to work for us and not the 1% and corporate America.”
Harris is a computer programmer who maintains databases for his company. “If it wasn’t for Pell grants, I wouldn’t have been able to go to school. I was one of four kids and my parents didn’t have the money to send me to a traditional school.”
Harris went to ECPI and he says it took him three years to finish his two year degree. “I don’t think people understand that. Nobody wants to live on welfare. But, education isn’t an option for everybody. I think it’s cheaper to send someone like me to school than it is to have to stay on food stamps and Medicaid for years and years.”
Harris and Spence are success stories. Sadly, there are many others who fall through the cracks and never get media attention. Most progressives will tell you the issues they talk about aren’t political to them – it’s a matter of common sense. Neither one spent much time thinking about politics or candidates before Bernie Sanders came along and ran for president. “Bernie talked about the things I care about. And, I started paying attention,” Spence said. “Now I’m looking around to see who got elected and is willing to carry the message forward.”