WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Jason Thigpen fought for his country in Iraq, and when he returned home after being wounded, he began to fight for other military service members and their families. The decorated Army Veteran still has a lot of fight left, only now his mission is winning a seat in the United States House of Representatives. Thigpen is campaigning as a candidate in District 3, which spans more than 20 counties and runs from Wilmington to the Virginia border.
"People want to talk about jobs," Thigpen said when asked what he has heard on the campaign trail. "People want to talk about a living wage, and they want to talk about the American family. That is really the most important thing to people in eastern North Carolina, families and a living wage, and they deserve that."
Thigpen grew up in the Wilmington area, and served in the U.S. Army before being wounded in Iraq in 2009. He received the Purple Heart for his service, and enrolled at UNC Wilmington. While there he started a Student Veterans Advocacy Group to support Veterans and their families. Thigpen also began the effort to make Veterans eligible to pay in-state tuition if they attend a school in the UNC system. With large military bases like Camp Lejeune and MCAS Cherry Point in District 3, Thigpen believes helping military families is essential for the state's success.
"We've got to give (Veterans) what we promised them we were going to do for them and their families when they finished up their time in the service," Thigpen said. "Things like providing the educational benefits, the transition opportunities, and counseling. We need to be able to ensure they can transition successfully, because that is important not only to the economy, but to our community moving forward as well."
Thigpen is one of three candidates who planned to enter the Democratic primary race. The current incumbent, ten-term Rep. Walter B. Jones of Farmville, may also have two challengers in the Republican primary. Jones has a large lead in fundraising with $126,808 cash-on-hand at the end of 2013, according to FEC reports. Thigpen, by comparison, had about $1,623.34. Thigpen said he has been focused on putting together a campaign team that can help him get his message out through social media and other avenues, and can help him "get across the finish line".
Thigpen recently made headlines by switching parties, leaving the GOP and registering as a Democrat. He cites a splintered Republican party for the move. "Having become more politically engaged, because I had to in order to take the fight on for our veterans and military families, I realized the Republican Party just wasn't what I thought it was," Thigpen said. "The extremists in the Tea Party have taken the Republican Party with it down the wrong road that really does not represent the views that I find myself much more aligned with."
Jones' length of time in Congress (sworn-in in 1995) is a concern to Thigpen and another reason why he decided to enter the race. "I definitely appreciate his willingness to serve our state and serve our nation, but no one is meant to serve but so long," Thigpen said. "I think serving is an honor, and just like in the military we need to change the guard every so often. We have to keep our eyes and mind focused on what it is that the people want in this district, and in this area of eastern North Carolina, and being in the bubble up there for so long, I think he's been detracted away from what eastern North Carolinians really want. "
Click here to visit the candidate's campaign website.
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