03/12/12 — Legislator will face primary challenge

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Legislator will face primary challenge

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 12, 2012 1:46 PM

N.C. Rep. Stephen LaRoque

State Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, will defend his seat against a challenger from his own party on May 8 after declaring his intention to run for re-election.

LaRoque, who represents District 10, will face Wayne County GOP first vice chairman John Bell IV.

LaRoque, who has served three terms in the state House, winning elections in 2000, 2004 and 2010, said he was not surprised that he was once again facing a primary challenge. He lost to Willie Ray Starling in 2006.

"This is the third time a Wayne County Republican has run against me in a primary," he said. "It's ambition without substance."

And while he acknowledged that he is facing an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture into his management of his two Kinston-based economic development nonprofit agencies, he refused to comment on it.

"I believe I can be an effective representative. I'm not going to discuss what's going on," he said.

Instead, he chose to point to his position as chairman of the House Rules Committee, and his record during the long session, including his efforts to help reduce state regulations, secure small business tax exemption, and his work on annexation reform and the deannexation efforts for the Buck Swamp and Falling Brook areas of Goldsboro.

But, he said, he knows there's still more work to be done.

"It took us 140 years to get the majority in both houses of the legislature, and I felt 2011 was a successful year," LaRoque said. "We've got a good team, a good leadership team, a good caucus, and we're working toward common goals.

"And I believe I'm in a position of leadership where I can be extremely effective."

Going forward, he said, he plans to continue to focus on such issues as a voter identification, unemployment insurance reform, and environmental regulation reform, as well as tweaks to the annexation reform legislation and changes to the relationship between cities and their extra-territorial jurisdictions.

"The people who live in the ETJs have no real voice in what's going on where they live," LaRoque said.

He also said he wants to focus on combating childhood obesity.

"It's an epidemic and it's getting worse," he said.

Most of all, though, he said he wants to work for the constituents in his district, which after the 2011 redistricting, includes parts of Wayne, Lenoir, Greene and Craven counties.

"My priority has always been working for my constituents. If they have an issue, then I have an issue," he said. "I feel like I have done a good job representing the interests of the district, and I feel I'm in a position now to continue that and be even more effective.

"Why would you turn to somebody who has no knowledge or understanding of the legislative process and who won't be in a leadership position, from somebody who has been very effective at getting legislation passed? Why would you want to swap that out?"