The new 8th Congressional District, which sweeps east from Cabarrus County to Fayetteville, lost most of the counties and half the population from its previous version.
But it’s still familiar territory for Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson.
That’s because he got to know much of it as a senior staffer for former GOP Rep. Robin Hayes, who represented the district, and much of this year’s addition to it, for a decade.
Hudson, of Concord, faces businessman Tim D’Annunzio, 58, from Hoke County in the June 7 primary. The winner takes on Democrat Thomas Mills of Carrboro.
Hudson, who grew up in Charlotte, is a two-term incumbent first elected in 2012. No longer does his district reach into Mecklenburg County or stretch through the southern Sandhills to Robeson County.
“I’m really focused on meeting the new folks and frankly, educating people that there’s another election,” Hudson, 44, said.
D’Annunzio, 58, is making his second run in the 8th District. He also ran in the 4th District in 2012. In 2014 he ran for the U.S. Senate as a Libertarian and lost the primary.
Hudson has the advantages of incumbency.
One day this past week he held a Fayetteville fundraiser headlined by Sen. Thom Tillis and the chairman of House Armed Services Committee.
Through March, Hudson had raised more than $1.1 million. Two-thirds came from PACs, most representing corporations and trade groups. D’Annunzio had raised $71,000, almost all in the form of personal loans.
D’Annunzio, who could not be reached, has a web page called “establishmentpuppet.com,” which calls Hudson “a special interest puppet … bought and paid for by the Washington elite.”
“It’s the same argument that D’Annunzio has been using for seven years as he’s run for office continuously,” Hudson said. “It doesn’t ring true.”
Hudson touts his rating as the 12th most conservative member of the 113th Congress as well as A ratings from the NRA and National Right to Life.
Last fall, after the Paris terrorist attacks, Hudson gained national attention for a bill that would have slowed down the immigration of refugees from Syria and Iraq. “When we don’t know who these people are, you got to err on the side of not letting them in,” he said at the time.
One critic called the bill “a knee-jerk reaction” to the Paris terror attacks that would hurt vulnerable refugees.
But Hudson found himself in the spotlight. He appeared on national television – including Fox News, CNN and MSNBC – at least eight times after he filed his bill, which sailed through the House but stalled in the Senate.
D’Annunzio first made headlines in his 2010 race with a “Machine-Gun Social” fundraiser, an event that included a raffle prize of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. He spent more than a half-million dollars on the race. At one point, only four House candidates in the country had spent more.
A former Army paratrooper, he made a fortune making body armor for U.S. troops and owns an indoor wind tunnel as well as a skydiving dropzone with its own fleet of aircraft.
State party officials took the unusual step of disavowing D’Annunzio in 2010 after court papers turned up that revealed a history of questionable behavior. Court documents portrayed him as “a self-described religious zealot” who once told his ex-wife that he’d found the Ark of the Covenant. This year, he wrote on Facebook that he’d been endorsed by God.
Then-state GOP chairman Tom Fetzer called him “unfit for public office at any level.”
Education: B.A., UNC Charlotte.
Family: Wife, Renee; one son.
Job: Longtime district director for Rep. Robin Hayes; Ran a consulting firm from 2011-2012.
Politics: U.S. House, 2013-present.
Worth knowing: Former student body president at UNC Charlotte.
Education: High school in his native Philadelphia.
Family: Wife, Colleen; six children.
Job: Runs Paraclete XP SkyVenture, billed as “the world’s largest freefall simulator wind tunnel.” Also owns Skydive Paraclete XP, a skydiving dropzone with a fleet of aircraft.
Politics: Ran for Congress in 2010 and 2012 and the U.S. Senate in 2014.
Worth knowing: At Fort Bragg, became a member of the elite Golden Knights parachute team.