Winston-Salem native Rev. Mark Harris has told the Charlotte Observer that he’s “Listening to those who want him to run for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination next year.” If nominated, Rev. Harris would run against current Senator Kay Hagan(D), considered by many political professionals to be on a short-list of vulnerable Democrats in 2013.
Harris is currently the pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, a position he has held since 2005. Prior to that postition, Harris pastored Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons for 11 years, and Curtis Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., for six years. Harris holds degrees from Appalachian State University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is completing his term as a member of the board of trustees for Southeastern Seminary where he has also served as Chairman. Harris is also currently the President of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
According to the Charlotte Observer:
Harris met in Charlotte last week with about 70 people from around 20 North Carolina counties who are trying to draft him to run.
“I’m certainly humbled and flattered by the confidence that these folks have expressed,” he said. “It’s a little bit overwhelming to be honest. Right now we’re doing two things. One … doing a lot of listening to people and the second and most importantly to me is just to pray and seek God’s leadership … and see if that’s his plan for me.”
Harris announced that to his congregation at the end of Sunday’s church service, and walked off to a standing ovation.
One political issue near and dear to Harris’ heart is his opposition to gay marriage and his rigid adherence to anti-gay rhetoric and opinion. Rev. Harris was interviewed for a story about a new book by Charlotte Observer writer Pam Kelly. The book was written to include anecdotes from famous homosexuals who spoke directly to gay teens and their struggles with bullying, physical abuse, and rejection by their families. Rev. Harris told Kelly:
“I just don’t buy that it’s a natural inclination,” he says.
Still, Harris says he’d welcome anyone featured in the book to worship at his church. “We love the person caught in the sin of homosexuality. It’s the sin we hate.”
In an editorial prior to the May 8th 2012 vote on Amendment One Harris, himself wrote in the Charlotte Observer:
There is a threat to marriage here in North Carolina, and we must act now before activists redefine marriage for all of society. Marriage is essential for the health of our economy and for the stability of society.
It is time for the people of North Carolina to preserve marriage before activists usurp the will of the people by redefining marriage. For thousands of years, marriage has been the building block of our society. Social science confirms that marriage is the best environment for having and rearing children.
Social science has never “confirmed” anything resembling Harris’ assertion, but like a seasoned politician Harris is not going to let the facts get in the way of his rhetoric. Harris was a major player in the battle for Amendment One’s passage along with lobbyist Tami Fitzgerald.
One issue on which Rev. Harris may not fully be embraced by the Republican primary electorate (which tends to be more extreme than those who vote in general elections) is on immigration.
In 2011 Harris told Fox News Latino that the time to talk about illegal immigration had come, stating “There needs to be a plan put in effect where we can get out of the situation we’re in.” He went on to walk a tight-rope stating, “It’s not possible or feasible for either of the two extremes of deportation or amnesty.”
With this flirtation Rev. Harris looks to take the pitch against Cary OB/Gyn Dr. Greg Brannon who has officially declared his candidacy. Both men represent the far right-wing of the Republican Party with Harris breaking moderate only on immigration. The more likely candidates like NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (attempting to tack to the middle as of late) and Senate Majority leader Phil Berger have not officially announced their intentions, but have been doing preliminary ground work.
This is a developing story, please check back tomorrow for more on Rev. Mark Harris and his background.