06/30/06 — Rivals try to keep voters' attention

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Rivals try to keep voters' attention

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on June 30, 2006 1:53 PM

A protest filed in the Republican primary for the District 10 seat in the state House will be heard July 12 by the state Board of Elections.

In the meantime, the two candidates involved have been trying to keep their campaigns from going dormant while the issue is up in the air.

While Willie Ray Starling has continued to hit the campaign trail, Stephen LaRoque has been in Raleigh, where, as the incumbent, he has been involved in developing a state budget.

Starling won the May primary by a handful of votes. But LaRoque filed a protest, saying some voters were not properly instructed at the polls and were not permitted to cast their ballot for him.

The district includes all of Greene, most of Lenoir and the east central portion of Wayne County. The protest was filed in Lenoir County and passed on to the state board by the Lenoir County Board of Elections.

Both candidates said their campaigns have been held back by the delay. Some voters uncertain of which man will face Democrat Van Braxton of Kinston in November have been understandably hesitant to completely endorse either, they said.

"It does have a damper on people, because they are wondering, 'Who do I give it to?' They don't want to give it to the wrong person," Starling said.

LaRoque said he has been unable to campaign because of his legislative duties, but that he has continued to receive contributions. Lawmakers were expected to complete a budget and adjourn by today but last-minute differences will mean the session will continue at least into next week.

LaRoque, who is seeking a third two-year term in the House, said that if his protest is upheld he will run a different type of campaign next time around. LaRoque beat Starling 2-1 two years ago, but Starling narrowed that gap considerably this time around.

"I can't divulge my strategy, but I will do things differently for this campaign," LaRoque said.

Starling is confident that LaRoque's protest will be denied by the state board.

"In the worst-case scenario, they'll call a new election, but that new election won't be until the end of September," Starling said.

The two candidates squared off two years ago, when LaRoque defeated Starling by 56 percent to 44 percent.

Braxton faced no opposition in the May primary.