Long-haul truck driver Gerald Wong wants to reroute the nation’s health care policies, accelerate the minimum wage and slam the brakes on abusive police practices.
The 64-year-old Greensboro resident filed this week as a Democratic candidate for North Carolina’s 6th District congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro), who plans to seek re-election.
Wong said his decision was inspired by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and the Vermont independent’s 2016 presidential bid.
“When he lost in the primaries to Hillary Clinton, that’s when I decided to run,” said Wong, noting that he had been moved greatly by Sanders’ campaign speech at the Greensboro Coliseum two years ago and by seeing what enthusiasm Sanders generated among younger progressive voters.
“They really couldn’t articulate a reason but his message got through to them,” he said. “I want to move that political needle back to the left. It’s been moving away from the left ever since (President) Reagan, and it’s time to move it back.”
A native of California and son of an immigrant from China whose military service helped him win American citizenship, Wong said one thing he could bring to the 6th District office is a wealth of life experiences that range from homelessness to minimum-wage employment and nearly 30 years behind the wheel of a big rig.
In addition to six years of U.S. Army service, Wong’s background includes day labor in the farm fields of the West Coast bucking hay, working with irrigation pipes, tending beets, and picking apples and cherries.
He has lived in Greensboro for a decade with his wife, Susan, with whom he owns the truck in which they travel the nation’s highways.
Wong is financing the primary campaign on his own, he said, and is not soliciting political contributions. That would change, he said, if he wins the primary.
He finds fault with Walker for the congressman’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act and its now-repealed individual mandate that required all to have health insurance.
Universal access to health care ranks at the top of his campaign objectives, Wong said: “I’ve always believed that health care should be a right, not a privilege.”
If elected, he would work to increase the minimum wage throughout the district to an hourly target of “$15 plus,” he said.
“I’d like to promote a campaign where I could go to local businesses and talk with them about raising the minimum wage to $15 plus, depending on the economic conditions of that area,” he said, noting that a community might warrant somewhat more or less depending on its cost of living.
Wong said he also strongly supports the nationwide women’s movement “that is creating a storm of epic proportions” after revelations of sexual improprieties or intimidation involving powerful men in government and other professions.
Wong also said that if elected he would work to impose greater oversight and restraints on the small percentage of police officers who are arrogant and racially insensitive.
“I’d say that 99 percent of police officers are professional and courteous,” Wong said.
But he added that lately there have been “too many instances where police escalate a simple traffic stop into a brutal situation” when interacting with minority residents.
Candidates can file for congressional and other posts at elections offices statewide, including the Guilford County Board of Elections at 301 W. Market St. in Greensboro and 325 E. Russell Ave. in High Point.
Filing ends at noon Feb. 28, followed by May 8 primary and Nov. 6 general elections.
In the primary, Wong will face Burlington management consultant Ryan Watts who also filed this week, and Greensboro resident Margot Horney has said she also plans to seek the district’s Democratic nomination.
The district includes suburban and rural parts of Guilford County, in addition to the counties of Alamance, Randolph, Rockingham, Caswell, Chatham, Lee and Person.
Contact Taft Wireback at 336-373-7100 and follow @TaftWirebackNR on Twitter.