Pastor Mark Burns of South Carolina's Harvest Praise and Worship Center is banking on his relationship with President Donald Trump as he runs for the House seat of Trey Gowdy, who is retiring from Congress.
"The president loves me," Burns, a member of President Donald Trump's evangelical advisory council, told Greenville News after announcing his bid.
"Candidate Trump gave me the the platform to begin to speak," he said in the media interview. "The White House is fully aware at the highest level of my candidacy… I can't speak for the president, but I have zero reason whatsoever as to why the president would not be coming down to help me here in South Carolina."
Burns, of a church in Easley, added that he fully backs Trump's focus on controlling illegal immigration and improving national security. As a black candidate, he continued, he can raise issues that white politicians shy away from.
"This politically correct society in which we live in and this racial divide that we are in — it has given me the voice to say the things that white politicians want to say, used to be said, but they are afraid of being labeled a racist or a bigot," he said. "I am a black man in the deep South saying the things needs to be said that is going to raise the economic value of not just minorities but low-income Americans in general. Because what happens in poor black communities oftentimes happens in poor white communities."
After Wednesday's deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Burns called on Congress to federalize security in public schools to help protect students. He said the same way the Transportation Security Administration was created to secure America's airports in response to the 9/11, it can also be done to secure America's schools.
"I believe that we could do the same thing with children. We need to be protecting our children ... I believe if we federalize the protection of our children and Congress acts upon this and makes sure that our children across this nation [it would be a step in the right direction]," Burns said. "We don't want to turn our schools into prisons ... not every school district can afford protection, but we need to be making sure that our children are protected in America."
In December, Burns said he saved President Trump from a poisonous spider bite when he was in the Oval Office with a group of evangelical leaders. "It was this massive, huge white spider. And it was darting toward the back of his neck," he recalled, and added that he smacked the president's back, killing the spider in the process.
On the issue of confederate statues, Burns has said "historical artifacts" should remain as a legitimate part of American history.
Despite the ugliness the statues represent, he said, Americans should rally for new statues of civil rights leaders to be erected.