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Michale Ackerman spends time with his wife Leslie and daughter Sara.

WATAUGA — With more than a year until the primary, the 2022 election is already building up steam with candidates declaring their intention to run for office.

One of those candidates is Michael Ackerman, a former Charleston County, S.C. sheriff deputy and Appalachian State graduate, who is running against Rep. Virginia Foxx (R – District 5) for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ackerman lives in Valle Crucis with his wife, Leslie, and daughter, Sara, who has Down syndrome. He graduated from App State in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in history secondary education. After he graduated, he taught at the Navajo reservation in Arizona for a few years.

In 2004, he left teaching for law enforcement and was a police officer in Arizona and later a deputy sheriff in South Carolina for 14 years. During that time, he also earned a master’s degree in justice administration from Norwich University in Vermont. He and his family moved to Watauga County in 2019, which Ackerman said he always wanted to do.

Ackerman first experienced the law-making process in South Carolina.

“I got very involved in the legislative process in South Carolina, trying to get our workers comp laws changed because first responders weren’t being covered for any type of anxiety related disorder that was directly caused by an on the job, traumatic incident,” Ackerman said.

In 2014, when he was a deputy sheriff with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, Ackerman was wounded and his partner was killed in a shooting at an apartment complex.

According to Live 5 WCSC — a South Carolina news station — deputies responded to a report of a disorderly person creating a disturbance at the apartment complex. While deputies were attempting to make contact, the person fired multiple gunshots through the door with an AK-47, striking two of the deputies, according to the news station at the time of the 2014 incident. Ackerman returned fire.

“I developed PTSD from that incident,” Ackerman said. “I started to see some really ugly things about how first responders are treated when they develop anxiety disorders that are job related.”

Unfortunately, Ackerman said, he was not able to get legislation to help provide more coverage to first responders with PTSD passed because some senators were not in favor of it.

A few years later, when then presidential candidate Donald Trump ran for office, Ackerman said he saw the “curtain” being pulled back on the “political machine” in Washington, D.C. He said he saw how both Democrats and Republicans were fighting to keep the establishment ways as they care more about “the power” and “the money that they’re getting” by being in office.

“We didn’t elect them to represent their self interests,” Ackerman said. “They’re there to represent us. Whether they’re Democrat or whether they’re Republican, they should be representing their constituency. I started to see what was really going on up there was that there were too many people who’ve been up there way too long. (They) have really forgotten why they’re there and, they’ve gotten too comfortable.”

Ackerman said he started to think about ways to get involved with local politics, but then thought if he wanted to make a change and prove that he believed what he was saying, he would need to go bigger.

“I don’t have a problem with (Foxx) personally,” Ackerman said. “I don’t have a problem with the way that she votes. I do have a problem with the Republican Party in those who have been in power for so long.”

Foxx has represented the 5th District since January 2005. The 5th District encompass, Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Rutherford, Watauga and Wilkes counties.

If elected, Ackerman said he would not serve more than eight years no matter what, citing term limits as one of his main campaign promises.

“We should allow for new ideas to come in, people with different ways of looking at things to come in,” Ackerman said. “I think it will solve a lot of the gridlock problems that we have in D.C. It’ll definitely solve the problem of Congress people sitting up there serving their own self interest instead of the interests of their constituents.”

Ackerman said if elected, he hopes to start building a bridge between the two major political parties that control the United States Congress.

“The bottom line is, I don’t know everything,” Ackerman said. “If you keep yourself in a bubble, where you only surround yourself with like minded individuals, you’re never going to see the whole picture. I strongly believe that through differences is where you find solutions.”

Ackerman isn’t the only one running against Foxx in the primary, as Bo Hines, a former NC State University football player and Wake Forest law school student, announced he is running as well. Foxx last faced a primary in 2018 and won with 76 percent of the vote, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

Ackerman thinks each candidate so far brings something different to the table. One key issue for Ackerman is that he said he will tell people exactly where he stands on an issue.

“I’m not going to try to dance around it with fancy words,” Ackerman said. “I’m not going to change my beliefs based on a focus group, and I believe that’s what career politicians do.”

Ackerman also said he thinks people should vote for him because he’s a middle class guy. He currently works for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety as a juvenile court counselor, and said he is veteran of the Marines and Naval Reserve Corps.

“My mother raised me as a single parent; she was a school teacher,” Ackerman said. “I’m not in it for the money. I live my life just like every other working class person does. My wife and I, we have to clip coupons.”

He said he doesn’t want to get comfortable in D.C. as Watauga County and the 5th District is his home.

Ackerman is still working on creating a website, but more information on him and his views on different issues can be found on his official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ackermanforcongress. Ackerman posts videos on his page that discuss his beliefs on certain issues.

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(6) comments

Mike - NC1

Branch,

It's very clear from your lengthy responses to the article and your previous posts on other articles that you are only open to liberal talking points. Although Ackerman stated his goal was to "start building a bridge between the two major political parties", you stated he wants to "burn it". It sounds like you have preconceived opinions and an agenda. Reading your posts is similar to the anger and hate from our current politicians and media.

Almost all of our politicians need to be replaced and Virginia Foxx is one of those.

thechaosaysmuuuu

I'm sorry, but I've got to jump in here. either 1) you've never actually read a single thing Branch has ever written, or 2) you're so beholden to your own personal bias that you're completely incapable of (or unwilling to try) understanding a rational argument when it's presented to you.

If you're gonna call someone out on here for coming off as "angry/hateful" from a "liberal talking point" perspective, then point that at me. I've completely lost my ability to deal with y'all's incessant BS. Branch, however, is by far the most calm, collected, and intelligent commenter on this entire site. Agree or disagree with his views, there's absolutely no arguing that point.

Branch

Hi Mike,

I do apologize if I have come off as hateful – that is never my intention. I do try to use persuasive language, and I may come off as rude or forceful at times. The latter is probably most often true when I am directing my attention towards paid commentators (like John Hood). But these are big boys, they are not my neighbors, and they are never going to read my commentary. I never indulge in ad hominem attacks and personal insults against individuals. I have never called for anyone to be fired, removed, banned, or otherwise “cancelled.” I am deeply opinionated; in the words of Mission of Burma: “it’s the same old story, the undecided bore me.” I have no reason to doubt that Michael Ackerman is a decent person, and a good husband and father. However, this does not place him above criticism.

When I contribute, it is out of a desire to introduce some productive antagonism, and to not let certain ideas go unchallenged in a vacuum. Given only the content of this article, I would say I agree with quite a few things Ackerman says: imposing term limits, reducing legislative gridlock, removing Big Money from politics, destigmatizing mental health issues, etc. These are good things to my mind. It is also refreshing to hear Republican candidates vow to work across the aisle – typically that burden is placed entirely on the other party.

The issue came when I investigated Ackerman’s platform via the included link to his campaign Facebook page. The undisturbed, tranquil bi-partisanship and honest charm projected in the article quickly vanished. When Ackerman claims a desire to work across the aisle but then champions figures as divisive and aggressive as Bongino and Limbaugh, it makes me very suspicious. These guys built their reputations on deep partisan enmity, and not just against elected officials, but against the citizenry who happen to be registered to vote a certain way. When a contemporary Republican presents themselves as a compassionate conservative, but still supports a one-term twice-impeached wannabe strongman who has openly praised nearly every living authoritarian leader on earth – yes, it upsets me. When they say we need fresh ideas in Washington, and then support the same tired Neoliberal status quo with all of its wealth inequality and classism? When they pay lip service to civil rights, but reject positive legislation as government interference? When they demonize immigrants and promise to bring them discomfort and suffering so that they leave? When they believe that every giant systemic problem in this country is caused by individual moral failures, and the answer is pulling yourself up by the bootstraps? When I see the same old lies repeated decades after they have been debunked? Yes, it makes me angry. So I am critical of Ackerman’s ideology, and I call it poison because it is toxic. And because I believe it is the responsibility of the free press to be antagonistic towards all political parties, to ask difficult questions, and to challenge the canned PR lines, I am also critical of the Watauga Democrat for promoting Ackerman without a single word about his actual platform and its problematic nature.

Oh, and thanks to Chao, who has showered me with support and high praise for which I am undoubtedly undeserving.

Branch

Some more content from Ackerman’s own congressional campaign Facebook page: He is against raising the minimum wage to a living wage because the working poor “don’t deserve” it. He reposts foaming-at-the-mouth conspiracy theorist Dan Bongino who infamously said "my entire life right now is about owning the libs. That's it." He denounces BLM as “nothing more than a Marxist group, that does not care about the black community.” He fearmongers about an imminent migrant crisis in classic Trumpian form. He celebrates Rush Limbaugh’s divisive, destructive, racist, homophobic, and misogynistic career in multiple posts. He pushes COVID denial. He is unyielding in his support of Donald Trump even after his (failed) attempt to seize political control of our country in a fascist coup attempt. He believes that the “left” is part of a secret cabal that “stole” the 2020 election. Follow the provided link; you can see it all for yourselves.

While I understand the appeal of a puff-piece on a local politician, I would have liked to see some sort of pushback from the Watauga Democrat. This article basically comes across as an endorsement. Ackerman is clearly and openly modeling his politics after the nationalistic extreme right-wing “populism” that brought this country to its very knees on January 6th. This goes way beyond differing opinions on policy and legislating. Ackerman doesn’t want to build a bridge across the partisan divide, he wants to burn it. It seems that no care or legwork was done before wrapping this man's poisonous ideology in easy-to-swallow rhetoric replete with middle-class appeal and topped off with a cute family photo. But it's still poison.

Branch

On his Facebook page, you can find videos of Ackerman dropping some real gems. His video on gay marriage is particularly interesting. He claims that the constitution grants a positive right for all people to get married. If that were true, why did we have to wait two hundred and thirty nine years after the founding of this country for same-sex marriage to be legally recognized nationally?

“You can’t legislate the heart,” he says in reference to an unspecified legislative push that apparently forces people to “like” the idea of gay rights. I can only presume this is Ackerman being offended by the idea of the LGBT community becoming a protected class (which wasn’t settled by the judiciary until June of 2020), and (hopefully) no longer freely subjected to discrimination by landlords, private businesses, homeless shelters, etc. Or maybe it’s just intended as a jab at “cancel culture,” which of course has nothing to do with legislation. Ackerman doesn’t say.

After repeatedly referring to being gay as a “choice,” he neatly wraps up the segment with a “hate the sin, not the sinner” type argument. Ackerman will defend your (previously nonexistent) constitutional right to be gay, but he doesn’t want to legislatively grant you those rights or actively protect you from discrimination. Spoken like a true politician! Ackerman can wave the US constitution around all he wants, but without laws to reinforce its philosophical tenets, it’s just another piece of paper. And he knows this. For a man who claims to want fresh ideas, he sure is living in the past. Real progress obviously isn’t going to come from a Republican primary opponent.

ackermanforcongress2022@gmail.com

Branch thank you for your posts here and on my campaign page. The issues you bring up are very complex and I would welcome the opportunity to sit down with you and discuss our viewpoints on things. We may end up still disagreeing with each other, but at least maybe we can serve as a model of how people can disagree with one another and still respect each other as people, which I feel is missing. You are absolutely correct to say that I am not above criticism. In fact I welcome constructive criticism. I am far from perfect, and the only way I can better myself is to see where improvements need to be made. One of the ways to do that is to be open to critique. So I hope you will consider my offer for us to sit down and discuss any concerns you have to include the ones you raised here.

Welcome to the discussion.

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