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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — In a gracious concession statement, Ilario Pantano has endorsed his political rival David Rouzer as the Republican challenges eight-time incumbent Democrat Rep. Mike McIntyre for his seat in Congress.

“Friends, David Rouzer is our Republican Nominee for the 7th Congressional District,” Pantano wrote in an e-mail to his supporters. “I support him and I hope you will too.”

Rouzer beat Pantano by four percentage points, or about 2,800 votes, according to the state Board of Elections, in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

Pantano asked voters to “focus on the importance of a strong and unified conservative voice in defeating Barack Obama and I ask that you help David Rouzer in his effort to build a Republican firewall here in SE North Carolina.”

“We cannot afford the luxury of hurt feelings or disappointment,” Pantano wrote. “We were knocked down on May 8, but I ask that you get up and like me, brush yourself off and get back in the fight.”

In his message, Pantano looked to the example of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who made the difficult decision to surrender for the good of the country as a whole to heal instead of continuing to fight.

Pantano described this year’s election as “an ideological battle for the soul of our country.” He described McIntyre as President Obama’s “lieutenant here in SE North Carolina.” In addition to his endorsement of Rouzer, he encouraged voters to support Republican Pat McCrory and Mitt Romney in their campaigns for governor and president respectively. He said he has contributed money to each man’s campaign, and asked others to do the same.

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