LUMBERTON — The race for North Carolina’s Congressional District 7 seat has become one of the costliest and most competitive races in the country,
“As of last week, the race was rated as the fifth most expensive House race in the country,” U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, the veteran lawmaker from Lumberton, told The Robesonian on Thursday. “It also is in the top three House races targeted by the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee).”
McIntyre and state Sen. David Rouzer, a Republican from Johnston County, are locked in a battle so close that national political pundits aren’t ready to call a winner. According to the Website Elections Projections, the race is currently leaning in McIntyre’s direction by .7 percent.
Except for a small sliver, Robeson County is no longer a part of the 7th District. As a result of the new district lines, drafted by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, most of Robeson County is now in District 8.
McIntyre, 56, a lawyer and member of Congress since 1997, charges that the new distinct — which eliminates heavily Democratic-dominated precincts in Wilmington, the area surrounding Fort Bragg, and in his home county of Robeson — was drawn to “predetermine the outcome” of the election. The new district, which Rouzer voted in favor of as a member of the state Senate, includes Rouzer’s home county of Johnston.
Because national Republican leaders are eyeing the 7th District as a good opportunity for extending the party’s majority in the U.S. House, huge amounts of money are being poured into the race to fund attack ads on McIntyre. The national GOP, and groups outside of the party organization, have spent more than $4.4 million to boost Rouzer’s campaign, McIntyre said. forcing his campaign to respond by spending $1.9 million of its money plus additional funds from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. McIntyre said Thursday he did not immediately have the figures available on how much the national Democratic Party has spent on advertising for his campaign.
“I’m the underdog in this race because of the way the district was redrawn to determine the outcome of the election and the barrage of negative adds that are being run distorting my votes,” McIntyre said. “It’s been very frustrating to me to have to fight off these negative adds and get my positions across.”
McIntyre, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat, often votes against his party. He voted for the extension of tax credits that Congress approved during the George W. Bush years as president; voted against the overhaul of health care proposed by President Barack Obama; voted in favor of holding Attorney General Eric Holden in contempt of Congress; and voted against bailouts for banks and auto companies.
McIntyre also says he is a strong supporter of education; consistently works toward economic development; and supports the programs that benefit such groups as senior citizens, veterans and active military personnel, and providers of law enforcement.
“On every issue, my guiding principle has always been to ask how this legislation is going to help folks back home in Eastern North Carolina,” he said. “I don’t look at party label. I have an established record for working across the the aisles.”
McIntyre, who is seeking his ninth term, also touts his seniority in the Congress, noting that if he wins Tuesday’s election, he is in line to become the second-ranking member on the Agricultural Committee and the No. 3-ranking member on the Armed Services Committee.
“These are tremendous positions to have, especially since agriculture and the military are the top two industries in the state,” he said.
McIntyre also noted that during his years in Congress he has received a number of “Legislator of the Year”awards and other honors from organizations that know the service he has provided.
“Many of these are national groups that have scrutinized my actions and endorsed me,” he said.
Rouzer, 40, won the right to challenge McIntyre in Tuesday’s election after defeating two other GOP candidates, Ilario Pantano and Randy Crow, in the primary. In the General Election of 2010, McIntyre beat back a strong challenge from Pantano, a nationally known ex-Marine.
Rouzer, who represents Johnston and Wayne counties, has served in the state Senate for four years. He previously worked on the staffs of former U.S. Sens. Jesse Helms and Elizabeth Dole, as well as served as an associate administrator of rural development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Every job I’ve held I’ve helped bring about results to complex solutions,” Rouzer said, citing as an example his part as a senior Senate staffer in crafting and obtaining passage of the tobacco quota buyout bill. “… If elected, I won’t be your regular freshman member of Congress. I’ll be able to hit the ground running from day one.”
A staunch conservative, Rouzer pledges to pursue his party’s goals of cutting taxes, reducing government regulations on businesses and repealing ObamaCare.
“People are concerned about the direction of the country and worried about jobs,” Rouzer told The Robesonian. “… People have been telling me not to worry about them, but to do what I can to get the country back on track.”
Rouzer said that if he had been in Congress at the time, he would not have been like McIntyre and voted for Obama’s stimulus plan, a measure that he said did not create the jobs needed to move the economy forward. He also said he would not vote in “lock step” for unions.
“I’ll work hard to make America the No. 1 place to work and do business,” he said.