By Pete Zamplas- Cody Henson is impressing people with conviction and enthusiasm such as for restrained state spending so taxpayers “keep their hard-earned money,” in his bid to succeed fellow Republican and Transylvanian Chris Whitmire as State House District 113 representative.
Henson faces Democrat Maureen Mahan Copelof, 62, another military veteran and Transylvanian. She is a retired Navy captain, who has lived in Brevard for seven years. She was unopposed in the Democratic primary, months after switching parties. Lifelong Rosman resident Henson is a Marine Reserve corporal, and infantry machine gun team leader.
Cody defeated Coty Ferguson in what a “Code-y of Honor” contest between military men, in the GOP primary in May. It helped Henson to get Whitmire’s endorsement. Whitmire announced a year ago he will step aside after two terms, to take a civilian job utilizing his Air Force experience. He pledged to help find a “like-minded candidate,” for a “handoff.”
He and Henson played football and basketball — a decade apart — for fiery, close-knit Rosman Tigers. Henson, Class of 2010, played fullback and linebacker at 5-foot-9. He ran the basketball offense, as the point guard. He is still active and fit.
Transylvanians have dominated in serving the 113th. The district has all of Transylvania and Polk counties, and southern Henderson County such as Flat Rock and Crab Creek.
Henson, 24, is in his first run for public office. He serves on the Transylvania County Republic Party’s executive committee.
Doing so fueled drive to impact issues first-hand, as an elected official for “the future of this area,” he told The Tribune. “This is the best place to raise a family — with Christian conservatism.” He learned to be “self-sufficient” rather than rely on government handouts, even in getting food by hunting, fishing and gardening. He has worked jobs for a decade, since age 14.
He spoke to The Tribune at a private champagne reception fundraiser Sept. 21, in George and Pam Danz’s home in Flat Rock. Dozens attended. This raised over $3,000 for Henson, according to Doris Hawkins who helped organize and host.
Guests included N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, Rep. Whitmire, his predecessor former Rep. Trudi Walend, Dist. 117 State Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Hen. Co.) who is unopposed Nov. 8, and local State Sen. Chuck Edwards of Hendersonville.
Many there said they were very impressed with Henson and his wife Kelsey (Meece) Henson. Speaker Moore told the crowd he sees in Henson an energetic newcomer to “fight for conservative values and fiscal conservatism,” and for more jobs and lower spending and taxes.
Rep. Whitmire said “success roots success.” He cited tax reform, restrained spending, replenished emergency funds, economic growth (i.e. the Sierra Nevada brewery) and other GOP “tremendous advances.” He sees Henson carrying on the cause. Former Rep. Walend said Henson “speaks to issues” starting with jobs, and “picks up” details.
Rep. McGrady told The Tribune retaining the GOP majority in both chambers and in the governor’s chair for cohesive action can net much more compelling and efficient spending than in Democrat-controlled decades past. He said “we’re out of debt,” yet tackling jobs, roads, cleaner energy and other pressing needs.
McGrady noted this is the first major election in N.C. after one-party voting got scrapped. This prompts better reviewing each race, and more ticket-splitting and less reliance on the presidential outcome. Whitmire said “Democrats are gunning” for his seat, and GOP faithful hope to counter Copelof’s fundraising.
Character is a bonus. “You can tell he’s an honest guy,” George Danz said of Henson. “He’ll do a good job.”He and Rep. McGrady hailed infusing a “millennial” into the State House, to help carry the party into future decades and to share his generation’s perspectives such as on job training.
The Hensons said they empathize with young area native couples staking their claim to staying in the area, despite an outpouring of industrial and other jobs for decades. He drives 45 minutes to Arden, where he is a call center supervisor to “work to provide” for his family. The Hensons have a toddler son, Bo.
Cody wants the state to make it more favorable tax-wise and otherwise for industries and businesses to locate and stay here, for his and future generations. He quipped at a GOP function earlier this year that “our children shouldn’t be our biggest ‘export.’” He wants more vocational training, starting in high school.
His foe, Copelof, also rates jobs first. She states on her campaign website she wants to “market WNC to companies that pay a decent wage, respect the environment and are poised for the future.” She lists jobs, education, health care, environment, alternative energy, crime, drugs, infrastructure and technology and poverty in that order. She has said she switched from the GOP due to her opposing education funding cuts and the state not expanding Medicaid to go with federally-mandated health coverage.
Henson’s online issue list, in order, is for jobs, education reverting to more local control; to protect the “unborn,” “taxpayer dollars” and “2nd Amendment (gun) rights”; and for small government and pro-constitution principles. His “Tell Cody” link enables web viewers to message such as on their priority issues.
Henson lauded Whitmire’s consistency: “You knew how Chris’d vote.” Whitmire said of conservatives, “we don’t compromise our core values.” Walend said lawmakers learn when to hold out, and when to give in for bipartisan support of a mostly-good bill.
Henson said if elected, he will abide by any massive and fervent constituent input on an issue. But he aims to stick to his most crucial principles, seeing himself mirroring mountain values more than Copelof. Henson candidly said at a GOP forum about the HB2 issue that its “transgender bathrooms debate” is “sickening. You can’t really cut one part off, and say you’re something else.”
He backs Gov. McCrory and other GOP leaders opposing unfettered immigration of Syrian and other Middle East refugees into the country and state — especially without more reliable “vetting” and background checks on terrorist links. He said “security of our citizens comes first.”
Henderson County commissioner Grady Hawkins, Doris’ husband, sees mature pragmatism in Henson. He quizzed Henson on what he would buy, before donated to his campaign. He said Henson rattled off a priority list, starting with yard signs. Henson grinned to The Tribune, saying that shows how “as a Marine, I like to be prepared.”
He seemed consistently at ease at the reception. Helping him stay relaxed and less stressed is his exercising for 40 minutes on most days. He often watches TV news, while on a treadmill. Kelsey said Cody has “blossomed” in public speaking, and issue-fused messages.
Copelof pledges on her campaign to be an “intelligent and fiscally prudent, independent thinker and consensus-builder who will put constituents before party and will work towards collaborative solutions in Raleigh.”
She is on the Transylvania County Planning Board, and that county’s NAACP executive board. She has master’s degree in business administration and political science, and a B.A. in religion from South Carolina in 1974.
Copelof, 38 years elder than her foe, is a 30-year, oft-decorated Navy veteran. In 2006-08, she was deputy director of the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Ger. over Command, Control, Communications and Warfighting Integration with a $100 million budget and 1,000 workers in five sites. She “directed communications support for evacuation of American citizens” during the Israel-Lebanon conflict in ’06, according to her website.
For more about each candidate on issues, check maureencopelof.com/issues and hensonnchouse.com/issues.html.