Ryan Watts (politician)
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Template:Infobox officeholder Ryan Victor Watts (born February 1990), of Burlington, North Carolina, is a consultant for Deloitte and a United States Democratic Party politician. As a first-time candidate in 2018, he unsuccessfully challenged Republican Party incumbent Mark Walker for his United States House of Representatives seat.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Watts worked for IBM before joining Deloitte, in both positions as a consultant focused on technology and business. He announced his candidacy in North Carolina's 6th congressional district in 2017 and easily won the Democratic primary. Though Walker built a much stronger war chest, both campaigns used grassroots strategies to reach potential voters. In the end, Walker's "People Before Politics" messaging beat out Watts, who talked about universal health care, education, gun law reform, non-partisan redistricting, infrastructure improvements and a green economy. The incumbent won by over 13 percentage points.
Education and career
Ryan Victor Watts had a grandfather, a pastor, who taught him Christianity and world religions. Watts graduated from East Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in political science with a Bachelor of Science minor in business administration.
After university, Watts worked in Washington, D.C., for IBM as a strategy consultant helping companies transition to a more technology-driven economy. He later took a position as a senior consultant for Deloitte at which he examines the changes technology has made both socially and economically in the United States. Watts works with nonprofits and lives in Burlington, North Carolina.
U.S. House campaign, 2018
In 2018, Watts sought election to the U.S. House of Representatives for North Carolina's 6th congressional district, a seat held by Republican Mark Walker, who ran for reelection. The Cook Political Report considered the district—encompassing all of Alamance, Caswell, Chatham, Lee, Person, Randolph, Rockingham counties and part of Guilford County—to be solidly Republican. Watts, 28, was one of the youngest candidates in the 2018 Congressional elections.
In September 2017, Watts informally announced his candidacy, filing with the Federal Election Commission on February 12, 2018. In the Democratic Party primary election, he ran against 64-year-old truck driver Gerald Wong, an ardent supporter of Bernie Sanders. These Democrats had similar stances on gun control; in diction, Watts's "more polished, earnest style" contrasted with Wong's, who "was prone to sardonic quips". On the night of the May 8 primary, Watts held a viewing party with several dozen supporters. Watts won what was both his and Wong's first election, with 77.2% of the votes cast, carrying each county; Walker had no primary challenger.
Watts said that after winning the primary, he started campaigning continuously. In a grassroots effort, he drove across the eight counties of the 6th district to "[make] clear to voters what [Democrats] stand for." He said he delivered a "message of reducing rhetoric and doing the right thing". With about 300 volunteers and more than fifteen staff, Watts said he planned meet people "one-on-one" to present his platform. Walker's campaign also used a grassroots strategy, making more than 300,000 phone calls and knocking on almost 14,000 doors, comprising 37 percent of North Carolina Republican Party voter outreach. Walker called his message "People Before Politics".
Watts's social-media accounts were active in criticizing Walker and the policies of President Donald Trump. The News & Observer reported that in October, Walker's campaign contacted police to investigate a Twitter user in Montana who supported Watts and posted personal attacks against Walker.
Template:As of, Watts's campaign raised over $207,000. Watts said that his campaign was not trying to outspend Walker, who had out-raised him about fivefold—at one luncheon with Vice President Mike Pence, Walker's campaign received $650,000 in fundraising, the highest-ever single-event total for a House race. Instead, Watts said he intended to focus his campaign on the issues of health care, gerrymandering, and taxes, though his economic and infrastructure plans also stood out. After several months of campaigning, Watts said he learned that the issues most important to 6th-district voters were health care and education. Walker, meanwhile, also spent "relatively little" money and focused on targeting voters with mail and online advertising.
Watts says he considers gerrymanding to be the "most pressing" issue in the U.S. and wants to federally mandate "fair-districting legislation". With this approach, Watts says, non-partisan district-drawing would be required. At an Alamance Democratic women's group meeting on May 8, Watts called gerrymandering "the biggest danger to our democracy".
Another issue his 2018 campaign was directed toward, according to Watts, was health care. "Healthcare is a human right," Watts said. He says he wants to implement universal health care by allowing Medicaid and Medicare registration through the Affordable Care Act exchange, and also believes in maintaining Social Security programs, decreasing military spending, and taking a "surgical approach" in an audit of federal spending. He opposes the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which he says disproportionately services a wealthy few.
He says he wants to expand internet access as a measure to narrow the educational achievement gap and wants to increase the number of "green jobs" in the 6th district because he believes that sustainable energy is necessary for the future, adding that companies should be encouraged, such as with tax incentives, to transition to solar or other energies. Watts also supports the DACA program but says he believes that the immigration debate has become too heated for "meaningful change".
In contrast with incumbent Mark Walker's stated defense of "Second Amendment freedoms", Watts has expressed support what he calls "common-sense" gun control through universal background checks, raising the minimum age for gun purchase, and outlawing "military-style" firearms, silencers, and bump stocks. He also says he hopes to promote access to mental-health counseling in schools and let law enforcement (temporarily) confiscate firearms in crisis situations as well as "close the gun show loophole". Watts is a gun owner; he opposes single-day gun purchases.
Term limits are a part of Watts's platform. "There are a lot of great people in Congress who have been there a long time," he said, "but there are some that should age out." Watts says that the Millennial generation—the largest U.S. voting bloc—should be more represented in Congress, and says he wants to be part of the "new generation of leaders willing to build bridges." Watts has said: "We must insist on accountability and checks and balances in Congress," adding, "I believe in leadership by example and leadership that is unafraid to speak up."
Watts avoided saying that he is a member of the Democratic Party in his kickoff campaign video. "I certainly am a Democrat, but that doesn't mean I think Democrats are always right," Watts later told The News & Observer. "I also don't think that the Republicans are always wrong." Watts, whose parents were split on political ideology, suggests that the Democrats' failure in branding has led to him defining himself without the party label; this also served as a strategy for earning the vote of the 6th district, about evenly split among registered Republicans, Democrats, and independents.
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- Croxton, Kate (November 6, 2018). "Incumbent U.S. Rep. Mark Walker defeats challenger Ryan Watts". Times-News. http://www.thetimesnews.com/news/20181106/incumbent-us-rep-mark-walker-defeats-challenger-ryan-watts. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
- Wireback, Taft (November 6, 2018). "Walker coasts to re-election in 6th District". News & Record. https://www.greensboro.com/news/government/elections/walker-coasts-to-re-election-in-th-district/article_12601de1-b9f6-54b8-85e3-4050ab02758b.html. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
- Wireback, Taft (May 8, 2018). "Democrats pick Manning and Watts to challenge Republican incumbents in U.S. House races". News & Record. http://www.greensboro.com/news/government/elections/democrats-pick-manning-and-watts-to-challenge-republican-incumbents-in/article_7c694472-0cae-53d7-8ee4-53e576de5f66.html. Retrieved May 9, 2018. "The winner, Watts, garnered votes by advocating programs to help workers adapt to the changing economy as well as building a 'green economy,' ending gerrymandered election districts and improving outdated infrastructure."
- "Many candidates add names to the ballots". The Courier-Tribune. February 13, 2018. http://www.courier-tribune.com/news/20180213/many-candidates-add-names-to-ballots. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
- Horner, Zachary (July 20, 2018). "Q&A: Watts pushing for 'moral revolution'". The Sanford Herald. http://www.sanfordherald.com/news/2018_election/q-a-watts-pushing-for-moral-revolution/article_a57066c2-8ba0-11e8-bc77-17864f79b248.html. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
- "Elections: U.S. House Ryan Watts". The Courier-Tribune. October 6, 2018. http://www.courier-tribune.com/news/20181006/elections-us-house-ryan-watts. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
- Kovach, Kirk (February 4, 2018). "A New Generation of Leaders: Ryan Watts for Congress". Carolina Political Review. https://www.carolinapoliticalreview.org/editorial-content/watts-for-congress. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
- Murphy, Brian (September 6, 2017). "27-year-old Democrat to run for powerful NC congressman's seat in 2018". The News & Observer. http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article171617632.html. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
- Sodano, Nicole (May 8, 2018). "Ryan Watts to take on U.S. Rep. Mark Walker in fall". Times-News. http://www.thetimesnews.com/news/20180508/ryan-watts-to-take-on-us-rep-mark-walker-in-fall. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
- Womick, Chip (May 9, 2018). "Watts says grassroots campaign key to 6th District win". The Courier-Tribune. http://www.courier-tribune.com/news/20180509/ryan-watts-grassroots-campaign-key-to-6th-district-win. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
- Wireback, Taft (February 12, 2018). "Political newcomer Watts seeks Democratic nomination in 6th District race". News & Record. http://www.greensboro.com/townnews/politics/political-newcomer-watts-seeks-democratic-nomination-in-th-district-race/article_50bb83aa-29d0-5958-9952-1d99302d36e3.html. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
- Green, Jordan (April 12, 2018). "Two Dems vying for 6th Congressional District differ in style". Triad City Beat. https://triad-city-beat.com/two-dems-vying-for-6th-congressional-district-differ-in-style/. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
- Further reading on Gerald Wong: Wireback, Taft (February 14, 2018). "Greensboro trucker, a Democrat, hopes the road leads to Washington in bid for 6th Congressional District seat". News & Record. Archived from the original. Template:Citation error. https://web.archive.org/web/20180215030414/http://www.greensboro.com/news/government/greensboro-trucker-a-democrat-hopes-the-road-leads-to-washington/article_e5bd3f8f-6e68-5492-9882-5a26aa14f427.html.
- King, Steve (May 8, 2018). "Ryan Watts discusses 6th Congressional District Democratic Nomination". WXII-TV. http://www.wxii12.com/article/ryan-watts-discusses-6th-congressional-district-democratic-nomination/20534589. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
- "North Carolina Primary Election Results: Sixth House District". The New York Times. May 8, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/north-carolina-house-district-6-primary-election. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
- Robertson, Gary D. (May 5, 2018). "Incumbent House members in NC primary heavily favored". Hastings Tribune. http://www.hastingstribune.com/incumbent-house-members-in-nc-primary-heavily-favored/article_57e050ee-cfa3-581c-972d-7fc6f5e56ae5.html. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
- Jefferies, Terrence (November 7, 2018). "Walker wins easily to retain seat". The Courier-Tribune. http://www.courier-tribune.com/news/20181107/walker-wins-easily-to-retain-seat. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
- Horner, Zachary (July 4, 2018). "2018 Election: Local challengers pushing toward November". The Sanford Herald. http://www.sanfordherald.com/news/election-local-challengers-pushing-toward-november/article_28f3009c-7f10-11e8-9b3c-d78bd1dbec4d.html. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
- Murphy, Brian (October 4, 2018). "NC congressman's office reports Twitter user to police, triggering investigation". The News & Observer. https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article219375880.html. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
- Ayesh, Rashaan; Murphy, Brian (October 17, 2018). "Find out who's running to represent the Triangle in Congress". The Herald-Sun. https://www.heraldsun.com/latest-news/article219873215.html. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
- Wireback, Taft (July 28, 2018). "Money wins campaigns. That's why the 6th and 13th Districts are becoming an arms race.". News & Record. https://www.greensboro.com/news/local_news/money-wins-campaigns-that-s-why-the-th-and-th/article_2432c636-a39f-5a66-9be1-52c419b938a3.html. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
- Specht, Paul A. (April 27, 2018). "An NC Republican says he just made campaign history". The News & Observer. http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article209970629.html. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
- Wireback, Taft (May 5, 2018). "Bottom lines vary widely in local Democrat congressional primaries". The News & Record. http://www.greensboro.com/news/government/elections/bottom-lines-vary-widely-in-local-democrat-congressional-primaries/article_92ee6fcb-4345-5668-ab35-e18061b6269f.html. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
- "North Carolina Election Results: Sixth House District". The New York Times. November 6, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/north-carolina-house-district-6. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
- "Primary-US House 6: Ryan Watts (D)". News & Record. April 3, 2018. http://www.greensboro.com/townnews/politics/primary-us-house-ryan-watts-d/article_993463b3-3a29-549a-8a0e-af6875543cb2.html. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
- "Primary-U.S. House District 6: Ryan Watts (D)". News & Record. April 17, 2018. http://www.greensboro.com/primary-u-s-house-district-ryan-watts-d/article_90458204-426d-11e8-8435-7b6407953b06.html. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
- Elliott, Adelaide (April 19, 2018). "Alamance Democratic Women host state, local candidates". Times-News. http://www.thetimesnews.com/news/20180419/alamance-democratic-women-host-state-local-candidates. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
- Brinegar, Judi (April 12, 2018). "6th District, Democratic Primary: Watts, Wong". The Courier-Tribune. http://www.courier-tribune.com/news/20180412/6th-district-democratic-primary-watts-wong. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
- Green, Jordan (April 26, 2018). "Triad City Beat 2018 primary election guide". Triad City Beat. https://triad-city-beat.com/triad-city-beat-2018-primary-election-guide/. Retrieved May 8, 2018.