WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- North Carolina's political primaries are still about six months away, but all the talk about the presidential race has politics front and center.
The Republican nomination for president may be decided by the time North Carolina votes in May, but there will still be the battle for the Republican nomination to represent our area in the US House of Representatives. The two candidates, David Rouzer and Ilario Pantano, are a study in contrast within the GOP.
Rouzer was once an aide to North Carolina icon Sen. Jesse Helms. Currently a state senator from Johnston County, Rouzer has a past in North Carolina tradition.
"I do come from a farming background," Rouzer said during a visit to Wilmington Friday. "On my mom's side of the family we have had a farm since the civil war in johnston county. Growing up I spent all my summer working on the farm, and that's how I paid my way through school at NC State."
Marine veteran and author Ilario Pantano has taken a much different path to get here.
"I was born and raised in Hell's Kitchen, NY, which is about as far away from here that you can get," Pantano said. "I enlisted in the Marines at 17. I fought in the first Gulf War. I was based here at Camp Lejeune. After the Berlin Wall came down and it was clear that this was a very different time and place than when I had gone into the Marines, I made a decision to get out and go work on Wall Street. I did what the son of an immigrant does: you go out and try to make some money."
Rouzer looks to his political experience as a strength.
"Obviously you have coastal issues here, beach renourishment, sea level rise. All those issues are very important to this area, and that's one of the advantages I have," Rouzer said. "Having worked for Sen. Helms and Sen. Elizabeth Dole I have dealt with the issues form the coast to the western part of the state."
Pantano says his political platform is about three things.
"It's about a pro-growth agenda making sure the private sector can bring jobs back to the area. It's about lowering taxes and reducing regulation. It's about protecting the homeland, and I have the scars to prove I am serious about that," Pantano.
Both men know they have a fight on their hands to win the nomination, and it doesn't end there. The winner takes on incumbent Democrat Rep. Mike McIntyre in November. McIntyre beat Pantano for the 7th District seat in 2010.