07/18/04 — Starling faces Rep. LaRoque for state House

View Archive

Starling faces Rep. LaRoque for state House

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on July 18, 2004 2:16 AM

Wayne County voters will have a small say in whether one of their own can help unseat a N.C. legislator.

Willie Ray Starling of Indian Springs Road in southern Wayne has challenged N.C. Rep. Stephen LaRoque of Kinston in the Republican primary. Whoever wins Tuesday will face Democrat Lew Llewellyn of Kinston in the Nov. 2 general elections.

Southeastern Wayne County makes up only a small portion of the House's 10th District. Around 80 percent of voters live in Greene and Lenoir counties.

So far, both Republicans have focused their attentions outside Wayne. Their signs dot lawns in Kinston and Snow Hill.

LaRoque noted Friday, though, that his only billboard is on U.S. 70 in Wayne County. He also has made one meet-and-greet appearance in Walnut Creek.

But the House's schedule has kept him stuck in Raleigh. "I thought we'd be out by now," he said.

For his part, Starling has tried to make the best of a bite from a brown recluse spider that hospitalized him. During his recuperation at home, he has been calling people who voted in the last Republican primary election.

As of Friday afternoon, Starling had completed 77 of 112 pages of the phone list, he said. He started by calling the Greene County voters and then moved onto Lenoir County.

He hopes to get through the local people before Tuesday, but added, "Everybody in Wayne County already knows who I am and what I stand for. It can be summed up in two phrases -- government's too big and taxes are too high."

LaRoque has campaigned primarily on economic development and job creation, he said. "It's what I do for a living. It's what I know." He runs two nonprofit organizations that assist small businesses with loans

LaRoque says he's pro-life, pro-gun rights, and anti-gay marriage. He want to lower people's taxes, he said.

But Starling has charged LaRoque with voting for the past state budgets that raised taxes.

Starling said he challenged LaRoque, because LaRoque is part of a small group of Republicans that conspired with Democrats to elect Republican Richard Morgan and Democrat Jim Black as co-speakers of the N.C. House. The Republican legislators were then rewarded with plum committee assignments, he said. LaRoque received two co-chairman positions.

Starling called LaRoque "a traitor" to Republicans, then later backed off and said he was a good man "but he fell in with a bad crowd."

LaRoque, 41, is a Kinston native who holds a bachelor's degree in finance and a master's degree in business, both from East Carolina University. He's never been married.

More information about him is available at www.replaque.com.

Starling, 63, is a military retiree. He holds a bachelor's degree in computer science. He is a member of the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee and serves as senior steward of Mount Olive's Masonic Lodge. He is an active member of Harvest Baptist Church.

He has been married for 23 years, has five children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

More information can be found at www.willieray.com.

Only about 12 percent of Wayne County is in the 10th District. It includes voters from these precincts: New Hope Friends Church (#14), Spring Creek High School (#15), Dudley Fire Department (#26), and Indian Springs Fire Department (#28).

The great majority of Wayne County is in the 11th District, represented by Louis Pate, a Republican from Mount Olive. Some parts of Goldsboro, Dudley and Mount Olive are in the 21st District, a seat held by Larry M. Bell, a Sampson County Democrat.

Neither Pate nor Bell is opposed for re-election this year.