LUMBERTON — Voters on Tuesday will have the chance to elect nominees for congressional Districts 7 and 8.
Most of District 7, now represented by U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton, has been moved through redistricting into District 8, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, a Democrat from Biscoe. McIntyre is unopposed in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, but will face a Republican challenger in November.
The 7th District encompasses 12 counties. In addition to a small piece of northeastern Robeson County, the district includes all or parts of the counties of Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, Hoke, Johnston, Lenoir, New Hanover, Pender and Sampson. Democrats make up 42 percent of the district’s total 473,589 voters; Republicans make up 33.4 percent.
Three Republicans are running for their party’s District 7 nomination on Tuesday. They are: Ilario Pantano of Wilmington; state Sen. David Rouzer of Benson; and Randy Crow of Kelly. Pantano’s attempt to defeat McIntyre in 2010 was unsuccessful.
“This election is about character and personal commitment,” Pantano told The Robesonian. “I represent real change. I want to reform Washington, not conform to it.”
Pantano, a former U.S. Marine combat veteran and best-selling author, touts his experience working in both global markets and with small business.
“I have worked in the private sector, I have experience … I can bring common sense to Washington,” he said. “We need leadership.”
Pantano said that there are concerns within the district about education.
“The Department of Education needs to be reduced, if not eliminated altogether,” he said. “Responsibility for education needs to be given to the people closer to home.”
On Thursday, Pantano was already talking about a rematch against McIntyre in the fall.
“I’m not getting overconfident,” he said, “but I’m a proven fighter … The people want someone in Washington who will stand up and be accountable.”
Rouzer, who is currently serving his second term in the N.C. Senate representing Johnston and Wayne counties, was a senior staffer to former U.S. Sens. Jesse Helms and Elizabeth Dole. He worked on various provisions in two Farm Bills and the 1999 Hurricane Floyd disaster recovery legislation, as well as serving as a senior staffer in crafting and securing passage of the tobacco quota buyout.
Rouzer currently owns and operates a business and consulting firm that provides strategies and advice to businesses.
Crow, of Kelly, has run unsuccessfully more than a dozen times for local and federal offices. These offices have included U.S. president, U.S. House and U.S. Senate.
In the 8th District, of which almost all of Robeson County is now included, there are both Democrat and Republican primaries.
Kissell is being challenged by Marcus Williams, an attorney from Lumberton. In the GOP primary there are five candidates: John M. Whitley of Fairmont; Richard Hudson of Concord; Scott Keadle of Mooresville; Vernon Robinson of Concord; and state Rep. Fred F. Steen II of Landis.
District 8 includes all or parts of 11 counties. These counties include: Anson; Cabarrus; Davidson; Montgomery; Randolph; Richmond; Robeson; Rowan; Scotland; Stanly; and Union. The total number of voters is 446,195. Democrats make up 44.8 percent of the total number of voters, with 33.1 percent being Republicans.
Kissell is seeking his third term in the Congress, where he currently sits on the House Armed Services and Agriculture committees. He worked in textiles manufacturing for 27 years before becoming a teacher.
The district’s economy, Kissell said, is one of the concerns of the district’s residents.
“We’ve been hurting since the 1990s because of the rural aspects of the district,” he said. “We need to continue to address job creation and industrial recruitment … . We should be looking to buy American. The border patrol should not be wearing uniforms that are made in Mexico.”
Kissell said he has been an advocate for seniors, veterans and teachers.
“This job is about providing services to people,” he said.
Williams told The Robesonian that the 8th District is a “perfect fit” for him to run for office because all but three precincts are rural. Major issues facing the district are the need for jobs, additional means to improved health care, improved education that maintains a “world class education system within the district.”
Williams said he believes his more than 32 years of public service and advocacy have prepared him for what he will face as a congressman.
In 1992, Williams ran unsuccessfully for governor and in 2010 he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.
In the GOP primary, Whitley is campaigning for less government intervention and regulations in the lives of individuals.
“Incentives are important in attracting businesses to the state,” he said. “They will not come if there are so many restrictions and such a large amount of bureaucratic red tape.”
Whitley strongly speaks out against the health care reform proposed by the Obama administration.
“People don’t want Obama care,” he said.
Illegal immigrants should never be allowed to become U.S. citizens, Whitley said, and the federal government should keep out of education.
“Local school districts, parents, and teachers know what is needed in their local districts,” he said.
Whitley said his expertise in health care, being an older candidate, and having knowledge and wisdom earned through years of business and life experiences, are make him a viable congressional candidate.
Hudson has extensive experience in Washington, having served as key staff to several members of Congress. He points to the need for jobs to boost the region’s struggling economy.
“Obama politics is preventing employers from wanting to expand,” he said. “They are afraid to make a move because of the uncertainty of the cost of gas, health care taxes and regulations.”
Hudson says that the country’s staggering deficit needs to be brought under control.
“The federal government has increased its deficit by $5 trillion to $16 trillion since Kissell took office,” he said.
Hudson also contends that Obama care is “destroying the quality of the health care system.”
Robinson, who has run for Congress in the past, said that “cutting the size and scope of the federal government is a big challenge,” but steps that must be taken to get the economy moving in the right direction.
Robinson also is an advocate of securing the country’s borders, action that will require the use of the country’s armed services. He also told The Robesonian that he would work toward abolishing the federal Department of Education.
“We have to keep the federal government out of education,” he said.
Robinson has also come out against federal recognition for the Lumbee tribe.
Keadle, a dentist from Mooresville, said that everyone in Robeson County, North Carolina and the country is worried about financial security.
“I hear it in my office every day,” he said.
Keadle said that he is the only candidate who has put together a plan for moving America forward.
“We have to balance the budget, stop spending and get our financial house in order,” he said.
Keadle also advocates the need for “American-made energy,” and proposes returning education to the state and local governing units.
Steen, who currently serves in the N.C.. House of Representatives and worked for many years in manufacturing, says that people “want to be productive.” He said that a replacement for manufacturing needs to be found so that that the region can become economically productive.
“We need to be manufacturers of something,” he said. “We need common sense and a good energy policy.”
On education, Steen said it should be left to the state and local school districts.
“The federal role in education should be limited,” he said.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.