HAMLET — U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell has more to worry about during the November General Election than a Republican foe. He will also have a Democratic opponent as he attempts to win a second term.
Dobbins Heights Mayor Antonio Blue was picked on Wednesday by the 8th District Black Leadership Caucus Political Action Committee to run as a write-in candidate against Kissell. Blue, who serves a chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party, said he will resign from that post.
“I will do everything in my power and will give you 200 percent, just like I did in the military for 24 years,” Blue told the group of about 35 people who packed the small NAACP building in Hamlet.
For caucus members, the decision to support someone other than the Democratic nominee was reached after Kissell announced that he would not be endorsing President Barack Obama’s re-election bid. A Kissell spokesman has said the congressman would vote for Obama, but doesn’t do endorsements.
“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Walter Rogers, PAC spokesman and chairman of the NC Black Leadership Caucus.
Rogers understands how difficult it is for a write-in candidate.
“But if he doesn’t win, he will make a statement,” Rogers said. “Not just a statement in the 8th District, but a statement all across the country where elected Democrats are voting with Republicans.”
Blue said that the incumbent’s “lack of support for the president and his vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt” were factors in his decision to oppose the congressman, as well as his opposition of the health care act.
“You can’t claim to be a Democrat and not support the leaders of your own party,” Blue said.
Blue said that he “just found out” at Wednesday’s meeting that he was the PAC’s pick.
“I was pleased with their decision, but it was not an easy decision for me,” said Blue, citing his desire to spend time with his 4-year-old daughter. “I was willing to participate because I believe in the cause.”
June Mabry, chairman of the District 8 Democratic Party, said that it was the job of party officials “to support the Democratic nominee, period.”
Mabry said that she is still trying to schedule a meeting between Kissell and the district’s executive board, but has not yet “been able to lock in a date.”
A Kissell aide attended Wednesday’s caucus meeting, but declined to comment.
The Republican nominee will be decided on Tuesday during a runoff between Richard Hudson of Concord, and Scott Keadl, of Mooresville.
Most of Robeson County is now in the District 8, a result of the recent redistricting. District 8 was redrawn with a majority of Republicans, and some political experts believe Kissell is trying to move to the right to win favor with GOP voters.
Just a sliver of Robeson County remains in District 7, which is represented by U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Lumberton native seeking his ninth term.