Meadows is a 52-year-old real estate broker who lives in Cashiers with his wife and two college-aged children. He has never held political office before.
During the next 60 days leading up to the official start of his term in Congress, Meadows said he will be gathering input on issues from as many people as possible from all around the district. He emphasized that he plans to do what is best for the district, not for Democrats or Republicans.
“It’s being a representative, not being a congressmen,” Meadows said.
Meadows overcame big obstacles on his way to becoming congressman-elect. He competed against eight other Republican challengers during the primary and only garnered enough votes to run in a second primary in July against fellow Republican Vance Patterson. Meadows eventually beat out Patterson for the nomination and has now won out over challenger Hayden Rogers, a Blue Dog Democrat who served as the chief of staff to current U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-Waynesville).
“This has been a hard fought and spirited campaign,” Rogers said in a written statement conceding the race to Meadows. “I have been truly humbled by the dedication, encouragement and generosity that so many across Western North Carolina have shown me throughout this journey. Thank you.”
Despite his overall loss, Rogers won Swain County, home to his former employer Shuler; Graham County, where he grew up; Haywood County; and even Meadows’ home of Jackson County. But, it was not enough to clinch the seat.
Meanwhile, Meadows won 13 of the district’s 17 counties, including Clay County, where Rogers currently lives.
“We were pleased that the win was a large as it was,” Meadows said. “We knew we had great grassroots support.”
Meadows and Rogers ran a comparatively clean campaign. Meadows focused his campaign message on his business resume as a small business owner and Realtor, while Robbinsville native Rogers touted his roots to Western North Carolina as the main reason he was the right person to represent the mountains in Congress.
While Rogers positioned himself as a conservative Democrat — much in the same vein as outgoing Congressman Shuler — it ultimately did not sway enough mountain voters on the conservative voting spectrum.
“I think it is a ploy,” said Jeff Neff, a Republican voter in Waynesville. “This is a pretty conservative area so what are you going to do, come out and say ‘I am a liberal Democrat?’”
Playing the conservative card was Rogers’ only option, but it didn’t work, said Neff, a retired Continental airline pilot.
While Shuler showed it was possible for a conservative so-called Blue Dog Democrat to win support from rural mountain voters, he had his football quarterback stardom going for him — name recognition that Rogers lacked going in to the race.
In the end, for some voters Rogers did not differentiate himself enough from his competitor Meadows to convince people to vote for him.
Mark Engle, of Deep Creek, said he voted for Meadows because Rogers gave him no reason to switch his vote from an ‘R’ to a ‘D.’
The majority of mountain voters agreed that Meadows shares their ideals.
“He has the values that I do,” said Charlotte Henson, a part-time Nationwide Insurance employee from Bethel. Henson said her biggest concerns were the economy and jobs.
Although Meadows was against the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which extended the length of time in which women can sue an employer for pay discrimination, one voter, Daisy Phillips, 39, of Canton, said she supported Meadows because “he supports women’s right in the workforce.”
How voters leaned in the presidential race often dictated how they voted in the congressional race as well.
Jackson County voter Mark Herron, 52, asked what the point was of voting for Barack Obama as president without also supporting Democrats in Congress. He didn’t see much hope for compromise across the aisle in the coming years if Obama wins reelection and Republicans win Congress.
“Obama needs all the help he can get,” Herron said. “There’s no such thing as bipartisanship.”
Unfortunately for Herron, that’s exactly what happened — Republicans and Meadows retained control of Congress while Obama won a second term.