"It's not what's on my head, it's what's in it": Congresswoman known for her hats seeks reelection

She’s known as the lady with a hat for every occasion and owns more than 1,100 of them. But Congresswoman Alma Adams wants her constituents to know, that’s just one fact about her.

“I like my hats, but it’s not what’s on my head, it’s what’s in it,” she said.

Adams, a democrat, represents North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District in the United States House of Representative.

She’s up for reelection and faces the primary in May. Three democrats are seeking to unseat her: Gabe Ortiz, Patrick Register and Keith Young.

“I believe that the folks in this district need an experienced member of Congress. Someone who not only knows her way around, but also understands what the community issues are,” Adams said.

Adams is running for a second term in the redrawn 12th Congressional District, which now only covers the majority of Mecklenburg County. Overall, she’s seeking her fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The congresswoman sat down with FOX 46 Charlotte to talk about what she’s accomplished the past two years in office and what her platform issues are for this election.

“You’ve got to be able to deliver something. People are looking for someone who knows what they need and who can help them achieve that,” she said.

Last election, she promised constituents to address affordable housing and helping small businesses.

“In Congress, I have supported and co-sponsored legislation to increase the funding for homes. We need more funding to filter down to our state and local levels,” she said. “I do sit on small business. I am now vice ranking on the entire committee. I am also ranking on the subcommittee on oversight and investigations on small business. I have sponsored a number of bills, some that would support our veterans, African-Americans and women. We’ve brought small businesses in to come and interact with us.”

Adams said she recently announced a bill they’re trying to get introduced in Congress, that would relieve a female small business owner’s student debt by 15 percent, if they create jobs and have been in business for a certain amount of years. She started working on the bill after hearing from constituents that student debt hinders entrepreneurship.

Adams said the issues she promised to address last election cycle still are on her priority list. This election season she has created “The Four H’s” to brand what she hopes to focus on next term: Housing, homelessness, healthcare and higher education.

Some critics have questioned if the 71-year-old congresswoman can relate to a growing millennial district.

In response, Adams said she’s spent her three decades in politics fighting battles on behalf of young people through her advocacy on paid family leave, living wage and the Affordable Care Act. She considers her age an asset and surrounds herself with an age-diverse staff.

“With my age, comes the experience that I can bring to this table. You have to learn.”

Adams was born in High Point, NC.

Her mother moved out of the city and moved north when she was about eight weeks. Adams grew up in New Jersey, and at some parts of her younger years even lived in Maryland.

She would graduate in 1964 from a New Jersey high school and was interested in moving back to North Carolina. She attended the historically black university, North Carolina A&T.

Her mother always pushed her to pursue higher education.

“My mom was a domestic worker—she cleaned other folks houses. She always told me that you’re going to college. Now, I could never figure that out because we didn’t have a lot of money or anything like that. But my family really pitched in to help me and I have been working ever since I was 13,” she said.

Adams majored in Art, a subject she had been interested in since the age of 7. Adams graduated from North Carolina A&T State University in 1968. She would then receive her master’s degree in Art Education in 1972. Later, she earned her Ph.D. in Art Education and Multicultural Education from Ohio State University in 1981.

“My mother didn’t get the privilege of going to school and having an education. She actually didn’t complete high school. But she was a smart woman. And she knew education would be my pathway,” Adams said.

She started teaching at Bennett College in 1971, where she stayed on the campus for 40 years in several different roles. In the 1980s, she was the first African-American woman elected to the Guilford County School Board.

In 2016, the 12th Congressional District was redrawn, eliminating portions of Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Lexington, Salisbury, Concord and High Point. This made the 12th Congressional District Charlotte-based. At the time, Adams was serving as the 12th districts U.S. Representative and said after the redistricting, she moved from Greensboro to Charlotte.

She said her Greensboro home is currently being put up for sale.

Some of her favorite restaurants in Charlotte are Freshwaters, Midwood Smokehouse and Moo & Brew.