05/09/12 — Bell beats LaRoque

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Bell beats LaRoque

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on May 9, 2012 1:46 PM

John Bell IV

Fifty-four votes were all that separated Wayne County's John Bell IV from state Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir. Those votes, spread across four counties, are what will now propel Bell, a political newcomer, to the general election in November.

Bell, who has served as the first vice chairman of the Wayne County GOP and has helped to manage several campaigns, said he was a little stunned at how tight of a race he won.

"We've got people hugging right now," he said Tuesday night, moments after the state Board of Elections website showed the final tally. "A little overwhelmed."

Running against LaRoque for the state House District 10 seat, Bell pulled in a total of 3,877 votes (50.35 percent) to LaRoque's 3,823 (49.65 percent).

"We worked hard," Bell said. "We put a great effort into this, and hard work pays off. I credit my victory to the grassroots effort. I knew going into this my biggest disadvantage was going to be name recognition. So we were at every barbecue supper, every church event, every fire department. We got out and met the people. We did this by going out and talking to the people."

And those efforts paid off as Bell won Wayne County, 1,685 to 922 and Craven County, 1,340 to 917, but lost Lenoir County, 1,821 to 713 and Greene County 163 to 139.

Now, he said, he is turning his attention toward November where his approach will be more of the same as he faces Democrat James Hardison of Kinston.

"We've got to have a voice in eastern North Carolina, and we've got to have somebody who can work with the other elected officials in the legislature, as well as with the county commissions and other community leaders," Bell said. "I think the things I bring to the table, my passion, my ambition and my drive, to do what's best for the citizens of eastern North Carolina, that's what will set me apart in November."

LaRoque, who has served three nonconsecutive terms in the state House, said he was satisfied with the campaign he ran.

"The voters made their choice. I did everything I knew to do," he said. "It's been an honor and a privilege to serve the folks of the 10th District, and hopefully we helped some of them."

Noting that he does not plan to ask for a recount, despite the closeness of the vote, he said he wishes Bell the best in November, and that he is looking forward to the upcoming short session.

"We've got to get through the short session, and we're looking forward to doing some things to help move this state forward," LaRoque said.