ROCKINGHAM — Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee shook hundreds of hands Wednesday in the first of four stops campaigning for House hopeful Mark Harris.
A large crowd of conservatives, including local pastors and politicians, awaited the Republican heavyweight’s arrival in the parking lot of the Richmond County Cooperative Extension office, which is serving as an early voting site.
Huckabee took the time to pose for photos — including a selfie with Hamlet City Manager Jonathan Blanton — sign autographs and briefly speak with those in attendance.
Misti-Laurel Loan, an Arkansas native who now attends church at Place of Grace, was excited to see her former governor and get a photo with him in her North Carolina town.
“He’s a mighty man of God and he had a great reputation in Arkansas and we supported him when he ran for president,” she said. “It’s just really neat to get to meet him in person.”
Loan said she supports Harris in the N.C. 9th Congressional District race because of his values and principles.
Harris won the Republican primary earlier this year against incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger and faces challenges from Democrat Dan McCready and Libertarian Jeff Scott.
T.K. Thrower, who was also in the crowd, said he has been following Huckabee since his presidential bids in 2004 and 2008 and watches his television show on Trinity Broadcasting Network.
“The first time I saw him on television, I knew we were of a kindred spirit,” Thrower said. “I could recognize that he had the spirit of God in him as he spoke and as he acted. And I wanted to affirm the presence of God in his life because it had an effect on me.
“There is something special about him and have that same spirit in me and I recognized that in him.”
Like Huckabee, Harris was a Baptist pastor before entering politics. And because he’s seen the “whole world, up close and personal” because of that role, Huckabee thinks Harris is a good fit for the U.S. House of Representatives.
“People don’t think about it, but a pastor has seen every social pathology there is,” he said. “He’s dealt with people who are addicted to opioids, he’s dealt with people who have gone through deaths of children, elderly people deciding whether to cut their medicine in half or buy groceries — he’s seen it all.
“I think somebody who has that human touch will serve well in Congress and Mark is that kind of person.”
Huckabee has a political action committee that has been raising money for conservative Christian candidates, including Harris.
“Not all of them are Christian, but all of them are conservative,” he said. “They’re all pro-life. We only give to people who believe that every human being has value and worth.”
He said that’s one of the reason’s he supports Harris.
“He has respect that there’s no such thing as an unwanted, disposable, expendable human being and that’s important to me,” Huckabee said.
Serving as lieutenant governor and governor of Arkansas from 1993 to 2007 and running twice for the presidency, Huckabee said he saw no conflict in moving from the pulpit to politics.
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s,” he said, quoting Matthew 22:21. “If pastors pay taxes, pastors are citizens. We have a government that is led by citizens and run by citizens. So there’d be no reason a person should not get to be a full citizen just because they loved God.”