02/03/12 — Bell may battle LaRoque in GOP primary

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Bell may battle LaRoque in GOP primary

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 3, 2012 1:46 PM

John Bell IV

John Bell IV, Wayne County GOP first vice chairman, said today that he will make an official announcement on Tuesday, but that he is preparing to challenge fellow Republican state Rep. Stephen LaRoque for the House District 10 seat.

Bell, 32, who is a Wayne County native from Mount Olive, now living in the Rosewood community and working as the sales and business development manager at the North Carolina Community Federal Credit Union, said he was first approached about running for the seat about six months ago.

"This opportunity just came my way. I was asked to consider running, and I was very flattered. They said we need to find someone who has moral values and is ethical and is going to represent all the people of the district," Bell said. "And after much thought and prayer about it with my family, I decided this was something I should do."

Bell said his decision was not motivated specifically by LaRoque's recent legal troubles -- a recently opened investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture into LaRoque's management of two Kinston-based economic development nonprofit agencies.

"This isn't because of the legal and ethical issues he's had," Bell said. "We just need someone who will go to Raleigh and fight for everybody, and someone who can go and work with the other legislators in the House and the Senate. We need somebody who will represent the people and not their personal agenda. I'm not going up there to be a career politician. I'm going to have to come back home and go to work."

Despite his lack of political experience -- this is his first race for elected office, though he has managed other local GOP races in the past, including directing state Sen. Efton Sager's recent campaign -- he believes his background makes him an ideal candidate for eastern North Carolina.

"My first job was working in the fields, so I understand agriculture. I've been heavily involved in Boy Scouts, so I know what it's like to raise money for a nonprofit. And with the credit union, I understand the challenges facing small businesses, what it's like to help somebody buy their first car and what it's like to help people who are struggling financially.

"I hold the same values that make eastern North Carolina special."

He said that as a representative, one of his primary focuses would be working to create more jobs, but that before that can happen, the infrastructure of the eastern part of the state must be improved, beginning with its ports, its railways and its roads.

"We need jobs, yes, but we need the infrastructure in place before the jobs will come," he said.

He does not think, though, that if LaRoque decides to run for re-election -- and he has not yet publicly declared his intentions -- that a primary will harm the GOP's efforts to hold its first majority in the Legislature since Reconstruction.

District 10 covers portions of Wayne, Lenoir, Greene and Craven counties, including Deep Run, Pink Hill, Fremont, Pikeville, Eureka and Walstonburg. He will make his formal announcement at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the visitor's center in Kinston.

"That's kind of the center of the district. This is a rural district. It is a strong Republican district, and more than likely, it will fall to the Republicans," Bell said. "I'm just going to run a campaign on my merits. We just need somebody who will work for the district and eastern North Carolina."