PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribe will lose a supporter of federal recognition if Vernon Robinson, a candidate for the GOP nomination for the District 8 congressional seat, is elected to Congress.
Robinson, during a debate last week in Concord with other GOP candidates seeking the District 8 nomination, was the only candidate to say he would not support federal recognition for the Lumbee Tribe. He stood by that position during a subsequent interview with The Robesonian.
“Essentially tribal recognition is reparation benefits for sins committed during the 19th century,” Robinson, of Concord, said. “We should not be handing out group-based benefits in the 21st century. This is bad public policy.”
Other announced GOP candidates for the District 8 seat are John Whitley of Fairmont, Scott Keadle of Mooresville, Richard Hudson of Concord, and Fred Steen II of Landis.
Because of redistricting, most of Robeson County is no longer in the 7th District, which is now represented by Mike McIntyre, who has led Lumbee recognition efforts in the House. McIntyre announced Monday he would seek re-election in District 7, which will only include a sliver of Robeson County.
After the November election, most of the county will be in District 8, which is now represented by Rep. Larry Kissell, a Democrat. Kissell has said he supports federal recognition for the tribe. Most of the 55,000 members of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina live in Robeson, Hoke and Scotland counties, almost all of which will be in the new District 8.
Robinson said that the principle that group-based benefits should not be public policy is one that was held by the late U.S. Sen Jesse Helms. Robinson noted that he was a plaintiff in a successful lawsuit several years ago that removed from state law favoritism toward American Indians and blacks with regard to University of North Carolina appointments to the Board of Governors, admissions, and race-based scholarships.
Robinson acknowledges that his stand on Lumbee federal recognition could cost him votes in the May 8 primary.
“But I invite the the voters to consider what I say about the issue,” he said. “I think I should be honest with voters.”
Kissell, who is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Marcus Williams, an attorney from Lumberton, recently met in Washington, D.C., with Lumbee Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks and other tribal members to discuss recognition efforts.
McIntyre guided the Lumbee Recognition Act through the House in 2009, but it failed to be passed in the Senate. He reintroduced the bill again in the House in January 2011. Kissell’s office said recently that the bill currently has 133 co-sponsors in the House.
The Lumbee Tribe has been recognized by the state of North Carolina since 1885. In 1956, it received federal recognition but was not granted the benefits received by other federally recognized tribes.
Full federal recognition of the tribe would mean federal dollars for housing, education, health care and economic development programs to serve tribal members.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com.