Grimes to challenge Butterfield for U.S. House
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 4, 2010 1:46 PM
Jerry Michael Grimes II takes pride in his unusual route to politics.
"One voter complimented me, 'You're an anti-politician.' I'm certainly anti-establishment," he said.
Grimes, who lives in Goldsboro, is running for the opportunity to represent the Republican Party in November against the U.S. District 1 incumbent, Democrat Rep. G.K. Butterfield.
Grimes, 32, said he made his decision to run for the nomination after a long examination of the core Republican Party principles -- and the discovery that his grandfather, the Rev. Jerry Michael Grimes of Mount Olive, was a lifelong Republican.
"Over the past decade, it has become apparent that the size of our government has been increasing, and yet the basic services and basic provisions for people in our district have been dwindling. But more important than services, has been the dwindling of employment and opportunity for small business owners," he said.
In addition, he also lays the deterioration of families, particularly those in minority communities, at the feet of a federal government that he said encourages dependence through welfare and other programs.
The solution, he believes, is a return to the original, core Jeffersonian Republican Party principles of decentralized government.
"When the federal government allows people to keep more of their money for local uses, it gives them more power," Grimes said. "In Washington, we have a government, which serves a powerful few.
"What I want to do is embrace the original vision of what our founders intended."
But to Grimes -- a 1996 Goldsboro High School graduate who has three master's degrees, spent a year working as a full-time English and writing tutor in Wayne County Public Schools, two years as an adjunct professor at Shaw University, and is currently an assistant pastor with Peter's Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Wallace while pursuing his doctorate in theology and ethics at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Va. -- returning to that original vision means getting closer to the district's constituents.
"I'm probably the only candidate in this race with no health insurance," he said. "I drive myself around in a 1996 Toyota Camry with 310,000 miles. I'm living the experiences of people who are suffering the most. I'd like for every candidate to take a walk around the district at night. That's when you really see how people live."
That means that so far, he's spent much of his time walking neighborhoods, sitting in barbershops and visiting Wal-Marts and truck stops at 2 a.m. talking to voters about the issues in Washington, D.C.
"I know that's when North Carolina works," the former Coca-Cola merchandiser said. "A man in my church once told me, 'Preach it so that a 7-year-old and a 70-year-old can both say 'Amen' at the same time."
"I'm on the ground level talking to people, and what I'm finding throughout the district is that most people don't know who their representative is, or even what district they're in."
And that is his primary goal -- being a "constituent caseworker and champion."
"My greatest concern is not whether I'm elected," he said. "My greatest concern is that whoever is elected, that he or she take the great problems of the district to heart, and is a person in the district that nobody has to question who their representative is or whether or not they're in the First District."
And, so far, he said, that's a concern that is crossing party lines.
"There's a misconception that the Republican Party is somehow racist. I can only speak from my experiences, but from Wayne to Lenoir to Bertie counties, I have been embraced both as a person and as a candidate," Grimes said. "And there have been people of color who have voted in the Democrat party, and people in the Tea Party who have seen in my campaign an opportunity to let Washington know that we in eastern North Carolina are bearing the brunt of their bad decisions.
"A general election, if I'm nominated, wouldn't be an election between a Democrat and a Republican. It would be an election of two different philosophies and two different ideas."
Specifically, he continued, if elected, his first action would be to sign onto a bill currently sponsored by Republican Reps. Virginia Foxx and Walter Jones to freeze unfunded mandates. He also said he would work to improve revenue sharing between the federal and state governments, as well as to increase education and training opportunities for high school students interested in going into medical fields.