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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The Republican National Committee has listed the 6th District in North Carolina as one it hopes to flip in November, and there are a group of candidates on the ballot who say they would like to do just that.

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) has represented the district since November 2020, the first elected to represent Greensboro and Guilford County since 1984 – and the first woman ever – but the picture for her return to Washington has changed somewhat.

This is the current congressional map that has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. (NC GENERAL ASSEMBLY)

Former Rep. Mark Walker and Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) had represented the city and county since 2014 under various district configurations until the NC Supreme Court forced a redraw for 2020 that defined the district as strictly Guilford County and a chunk of Forsyth County that is largely Winston-Salem.

Walker then decided not to run for re-election – he is a candidate for the U.S. Senate – and in November 2020 Manning with 62.3% of the vote, which was a higher percentage than President Joe Biden received in the district. She is the only Democrat on the ballot this year.

But after several machinations of map-drawing that went through the General Assembly and then a court-mandated review, the 6th District now is comprised of Guilford County, yes, but also Rockingham and almost all of Caswell counties. A reduced section of Forsyth County around Winston-Salem is included.

The RNC has seen those new demographics as slightly more favorable to Republican candidates, and seven of them are on the ballot available as of today for early, in-person voting. A Libertarian awaits in November.

Who is running

Marvin Boguslawski (PHOTO FROM CANDIDATE)
Mary Ann Contogiannis (PHOTO FROM CANDIDATE)

Some of these candidates are political newcomers, and others are long-time party supporters. One of them was the party’s nominee in 2020. None of them, though, has held elected office. One doesn’t even live in the 6th District:

Gerald Austin of Summerfield spent a career in law enforcement.

Marvin Boguslawski of Jamestown, an engineer and corporate executive, is a newcomer to politics.

Christian Castelli of Southern Pines is an Army veteran and business owner in his first campaign.

Mary Ann Contogiannis of Greensboro is a physician who said she felt moved to enter the race.

Lee Haywood of Summerfield is a longtime GOP activist who lost to Manning in 2019.

Laura Pichardo of Pelham is a business professional who has dabbled in politics.

Bill Schuch of Greensboro is a former law enforcement officer and corporate security expert.

About those candidates

WGHP reached out to all seven candidates with a series of questions designed to give you insights into their personal histories and visions. All but two submitted answers. Those who didn’t, Castelli and Schuch, did not reply to a series of email prompts and did not answer a question about whether their campaigns remained active.

Castelli is the more curious of these. He had filed to run for Congress under the General Assembly’s first map and filed in the 6th when those lines were final in February. He is the only candidate who is not a resident of the district – not required by law in congressional races but generally preferred by candidates – and is one of numerous GOP candidates this year who are running out of their residential districts.

Castelli’s campaign, though, also has more cash on hand — $144,621 as of March 31 – than all the other candidates combined. But a chunk of that has been from personal loans totaling $140,000 to his campaign. He did list about $65,000 in donations for the first quarter of the year, but $19,000 of that was a personal loan.

Haywood has $14,163, and that’s the next most. Pichardo and Schuch have reported no donations to the Federal Elections Commission, as they are required to do.

Responses to questions

Those who responded to WGHP’s questions agreed on one principal issue: They aren’t happy with the direction of the government since 2020 (at least). Here are those responses, lightly edited, and presented in alphabetical order:

What drew you to pursue the GOP nomination in the 6th Congressional District?

GERALD AUSTIN: I believe I was called to do it.  As a veteran and 28-year law enforcement officer, I come from an ethos that doesn’t wait for others to solve problems, we move towards challenges and overcome them. Currently, the 6th District doesn’t have a problem solver representing us.  Instead, we have a rubber stamp that does whatever Nancy Pelosi wants and now we have soaring costs and a world which is less secure

MARVIN BOGUSLAWSKI: I live in District 6, in Jamestown.  I am a lifelong conservative.  I made the decision to be a part of the solution instead of just complaining about the direction the country is going since the election in 2020.  I am extremely disappointed and dissatisfied with the direction the country is going in.  It is time for conservatives to step up their activism to support our values and the American Dream.

MARY ANN CONTOGIANNIS: I decided to run because of the direction the country is headed and the current leadership is not moving the country in the right direction. I could not sit on the sidelines, I felt I needed to step up and do something.  As a small business owner I know the challenges business owners have faced during the last three years.  Also as a doctor I know we need to improve access and affordability to health care for patients.  Times are difficult for families and we need new leadership to fight inflation, reduce spending and make America the beacon of hope for all.

LEE HAYWOOD: As much as possible I would like to return our country back to what the framers envisioned. Self-determination and accountability with limited government interference. I wish to leave the next generation a country with the same opportunities as I have been blessed with.

LAURA PICHARDO: I am running for Congress because of the massive spending, people are suffering because of inflation, and we don’t have the necessary mental health care funding.

What experience as an elected official or a leader in public and private ventures have you had?

GERALD AUSTIN: Every day of my military and law enforcement careers prepared me to lead. When people call for help, you lead them through adversity. I learned to lead by having to make difficult decisions and motivating others to follow those decisions. I learned to make principled and informed decisions which lead to successful outcomes. Other times, I had to lead under very harrowing circumstances common to the nature of being a first responder. During my service in the National Guard, I served as a section chief, accomplishing mission goals and taking care of the soldiers under my care.  My last 8 years in the sheriff’s office, I investigated crimes against children.  These cases often required me to lead a team of specialists from many different disciplines through the width and breadth of complex investigations.

MARVIN BOGUSLAWSKI: I am currently the director of operations of a health care company.  My division repairs broken surgical instruments for hospital systems.  I am responsible for eight repair labs in six states across the country.  Previously, I was the director of continuous improvement for various manufacturing companies and also production manager as well.  I served on the Parish Council at my church for two years.

MARY ANN CONTOGIANNIS: I’ve been engaged in public policy ever since I was in medical school. Very early in my medical career I realized that advocacy on behalf of my patients was an important part of my care for them. So I have been active with the American Medical Association, the North Carolina Medical Society, the NC Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons on advocacy issues with elected officials.  I have visited and lobbied members of Congress and legislators in Raleigh on these issues.  Also I have served in leadership roles with these organizations and other civic organizations as well as my church.

LEE HAYWOOD: I have been a small business owner for forty years. I have also been a leader in the Republican Party, including serving as 6th District Chairman overseeing and organizing eight county parties.

LAURA PICHARDO: I studied economics when I attended UNCG and I have always been curious about how our federal government spends our tax dollars. We have $30 trillion of federal debt, and I find it alarming. I am currently an Sr. Accounts Payable Analyst who consistently reviews how much is being spent. In the past when I was working on my master’s in Business Administration from WSSU, I would listen to NPR’s Planet Money Podcast to learn more about how different businesses were updating their businesses with new technology. I believe both my educational background, my interest in podcasts, and my current career has molded me into being a critical thinker who consistently reviews data and makes the best decisions possible.

What sort of steps have you taken to learn about government and leadership and prepare yourself for this position?

GERALD AUSTIN: Again, every day of my law enforcement career provided real-world application of government. This included the constitution, rulings of different courts, and the workings of government at the local, state, and federal levels.  I am a student of political history; I have a degree from NC State in Political Science.  I read three different periodicals daily that I use to remain attuned to current events.

MARVIN BOGUSLAWSKI:  I have always been interested in government because I love liberty.  I have not been involved before, but I have always personally studied policy and history.  I have read dozens of books and attended many seminars on leadership for my career in corporate America.  This will also serve me well in Washington.  My job is about continuous improvement – I also incorporate this mindset in my personal life.  I am always learning and pushing myself to improve all aspects of my life.  I have also studied the Constitution and I will defend it in its original form.

MARY ANN CONTOGIANNIS: As I stated, I have worked with the medical advocacy organizations and spoken with elected officials about key public policy issues, primarily related to the health industry.  I have been working with these organizations on public policy for more than two decades.  I believe my experience of working with elected officials will be beneficial when I’m sworn in as a member of Congress.

LEE HAYWOOD: I have always been a news junkie and always up to date with current events. I have been involved in many successful campaigns.

LAURA PICHARDO: In the past 2 years, I have gotten involved with/by local government by campaigning for a local Caswell County commissioner. I have regularly attended and participated during the Public Remarks portion of the County Commissioner meetings. I also work to understand the formal process of the meetings, actions that are taken, and all the communication that is involved. I also watch CSPAN on a regular basis to understand how bills are introduced, the voting procedure in the House of Representatives, and reading bills that are being proposed.

Whose leadership style – not political style – do you most admire and would seek to emulate?

GERALD AUSTIN: My choices are Lincoln and Eisenhower.  Since you ask for a specific person, I will say Eisenhower.  I admire his ability to find and recognize talented people and place them where their abilities contributed most efficiently to the prosecution of the allied campaign in Europe.  He is the president who began the press briefing model we recognize today, making the office more transparent than it had been.  He trusted those under him to succeed and empowered them to do so.

MARVIN BOGUSLAWSKI:  John Maxwell is my absolute favorite leader!

MARY ANN CONTOGIANNIS: Longtime Congressman Howard Coble. Mr. Coble knew what it meant to be a Congressional representative of his district. He always tried to get to know as much of his district as possible. My family and I counted him as a friend. We always knew when he was home on breaks because he made it a point to get out to as much of the district as he could and listen to the needs of his congressional district. Mr. Coble then tried his best to make changes, sponsor legislation and vote on legislation that improved all of the district and not just part of it. His leadership with local government regardless of party affiliation spelled success for our communities. He was dependable and always got the job done.

LEE HAYWOOD: No one in particular but an amalgamation of past bosses and mentors that have taught me the values that I try to emulate. 

LAURA PICHARDO: I am a fan of Elon Musk, who tries to do what is best and pushes himself to be creative. I appreciate leaders who remain humble and are on the ground working with people and are open to conversation.

Focusing your answer on issues of government and policy and not politics, what do you see as the top priorities for the next person to be elected in this district?

GERALD AUSTIN: The next person to represent the 6th District needs to understand we are a Republic government. It is not the federal government’s role to tell local school districts what to do.  It is not the federal government’s role to put upset parents on a domestic terrorist watchlist for voicing an opinion at a school board meeting. It is not the federal government’s role to adjudicate elections. However, it is the federal government’s responsibility to secure the nation and its borders.  I will say the most important thing that should be a priority for the next representative is to remember, the Constitution exists to limit government and empower the people. Not the reverse.

MARVIN BOGUSLAWSKI: Reduce government waste and inflation.  Keep the streets of the district safe and provide opportunities, not hand-outs.  Support original educational foundation:  the 3 Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic – and remove social indoctrination agendas.

MARY ANN CONTOGIANNIS: From knocking on doors what I hear most often is inflation, jobs, crime, and securing our borders. I’m going to Washington to reduce the out-of-control government spending – there is no free lunch, and we have to stop giving money away to programs that don’t work or are duplicative in effort. While the unemployment numbers are low, generally the problem is many individuals have quit working or quit looking for work. We need to focus on getting individuals back into employment to help them succeed and help strengthen our nation.  Over the last few years, there has been efforts to deemphasize law enforcement, which has significantly impacted the crime rate.  I believe we must stand strong with law enforcement to help them understand we support them in their fight against crime.  Finally our border control policy is like an open door, and we must strengthen our efforts to stop the flow of illegal immigration in this country.  My parents came here as immigrants and followed the accepted process to become naturalized citizens. We cannot continue to let illegals come to America who have no intention to follow our citizenship application process yet want to take advantage of everything America has to offer.

LEE HAYWOOD: Controlled, smart growth while keeping the hometown feel that we all love about the area. I would also like to put a priority on opportunity zones, especially around A&T University.

LAURA PICHARDO: I have been door-knocking to introduce myself to voters across the district. We need to fund mental health programs so that repeat offenders receive the necessary medications that they need to stay out of criminal trouble. Often people self-medicate with drugs because they don’t know what medications they need to take to prevent mental health issues. We need to add funding to the public education for children with autism. I spoke to two teachers in different areas of the district, and they have expressed a need for funding to help teach children with autism. We also need to get rid of inflation! People are suffering because of the higher prices in the grocery store and at the gas pump. We need to be energy independent and diversified. We need to reduce our reliance on other countries and create higher-paying jobs within our district.

How can you serve the best interests of a district that is very diverse and includes a fairly equal mix of urban and rural voters?

GERALD AUSTIN: It is the diversity of the district that provides it strength. I will best serve the 6th Congressional District by defending the Constitution.  The Constitution protects all of us. ALL OF US. While the mainstream media and liberal left socialist work to divide us, the Constitution remains a constant truth. It protects ALL of us and does so regardless of color, heritage, or any number of different demographics.  When the evil of bigotry or prejudice rears its ugly head, I will be there to say “NO”! I will stand against those who attempt to take the Constitution out of context and use it in a manner detrimental to the American people.  I will stand to tell government that it may not replace parents with government schools.  I will stand to tell government that it cannot replace God with science.  I will stand and say that places of worship cannot be shut down. I will stand and say our right to bear arms shall not be infringed. I will stand and proclaim that the voiceless unborn have the right to live. Just as I did as a veteran and 28-year law enforcement officer, I will stand and tell those who wish to infringe on our guaranteed freedoms; not today, not tomorrow, not ever

MARVIN BOGUSLAWSKI: My specialty as an engineer in corporate America for 30 years was solving problems and making improvements for the company and customers.  All people in District 6 – urban and rural, liberal and conservative, young and old – all want solutions, and not more talking points.  I am a professional problem-solver – I deliver solutions.  We need to get the country moving back towards prosperity and opportunity – this will unify us as Americans and reduce the amount of differences we all have.

MARY ANN CONTOGIANNIS: The good news is this district is fairly compact, meaning you can get from one side of the district to the other in a short period of time.  While I cannot be everywhere at the same time, I will make it a priority to spend time with voters from across the entire district.  I will organize town halls throughout the district and have multiple offices set up, not just in the higher density downtown areas.  Being an elected official is an honor and means I will represent all voters in the district.  In order to do my job to the best of my ability I will need to meet with and listen to voters throughout the district to understand their needs.

LEE HAYWOOD: Make myself accessible to all constituents and treat everyone as an individual.

LAURA PICHARDO: To be honest, the best way to serve both rural and urban voters is by being willing to take time to speak to both types. I have been working diligently to canvass in rural and urban areas. When I have gone door knocking, I ask the voters, what are their concerns? I listen to their concerns and make notes. I can relate to both types, because I live in a rural area, and I have worked in an urban area. Those of us who live in rural areas have to drive out to urban areas to work. Those of us live in rural areas are concerned about the higher gas prices because it cuts into our dispensable income. Not everyone in our district is interested in buying a newer vehicle at this time.