After years of studying medical and engineering systems, William “B.J.” Lawson discovered one system he didn’t understand: Washington politics.
“Medicine and engineering are disciplines that teach you to study systems and solve problems,” Lawson said. “After years of frustration and cynicism with Washington, I gradually realized I needed to do something.”
So after selling his medical engineering company, Mercury MD, in 2006, Lawson set his sights on Democrat Rep. David Price’s U.S. House seat in the 4th District, which includes Orange County.
Although he distrusts political labels, Lawson’s platform closely resembles that of libertarians such as Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and includes abolishing the IRS, the income tax, the Federal Reserve. In addition, Lawson advocates eliminating government spending on education and alternative energy.
On many social issues, Lawson is more liberal than many of his fellow Republicans, which has earned him some support with UNC students.
“He’s good about the government issues because he stays conservative about them, and he’s liberal about some social issues,” said Nina Kelly, who was appointed by the College Republicans to lead Tar Heels for Lawson on Wednesday.
“I see him as the most likely to be the change candidate because he’s more moderate and appeals both ways,” Kelly said.
Lawson’s campaign focuses on cutting the size of government and its spending — a Tea Party ideology that is gaining momentum.
“My thinking is that the government has completely overstepped the bounds set for it in the Constitution,” Lawson said. He would know — since 2008 he’s ordered more than 75,000 pocket Constitutions to hand out to voters.
Most Republican candidates in the 4th District struggle to raise money in the relatively liberal district, but Lawson’s campaign raised more than $520,000 in 2008 and nearly $150,000 this year. Most of that has come from individual donors, he said.
“Ours is a very well-connected district, so we’ve tried to tap into that for ads and fundraising,” Lawson said.
Although Lawson’s fund-raising efforts continue to improve, they will not be inadequate in the campaign to defeat Price, said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning think tank.
Lawson grew up in Florida, in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area but came to the district in 1992 to study at Duke University as an undergraduate and later a medical student and resident.
As a medical doctor and former business owner, two of Lawson’s most emphasized platform planks are health care and the economy.
His platform has more in common with both parties than people realize, he insists.
“We all want safe communities, great education options, great economic opportunities,” he said. “It’s a question of how we get there. Do we get where we want to go by going to Washington or do we need to have more power and control in our community?”
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