Staff photo by Allison Potter
New Hanover County Commission Chairman Woody White formally announces his candidacy for U.S. Congress with his wife, Tammie, and son, Hayden, by his side on Monday, Jan. 13 outside of Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park.
Rep. Mike McIntyre to retire
New Hanover County Commission Chairman Woody White is the latest candidate to officially announce plans to run for a seat in the U.S. Congress currently held by Rep. Mike McIntyre, who will retire after this year.
“Washington, D.C., needs more average people from the real world to solve our problems, people that think innovatively,” White, a Wilmington attorney, said Monday, Jan. 13, during a campaign rally outside of Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park in Wilmington.
“In the primary this year you’re going to have a choice between a Washington insider, a proven lobbyist and someone that’s been part of the problem his whole adult life; or someone from a central part of this district, Elizabethtown, that lives in New Hanover County,” White later added. “We’ve built our business here, we are raising our family here, we’ve served in public office here, and we understand what the day-to-day grind is in business.”
White, who was appointed to serve in the state Senate for less than a year to fill an unexpired term in 2004, faces former state Sen. David Rouzer, from Johnston County, in the Republican primary this May. Rouzer won the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District in 2012 but lost to McIntyre, D-N.C., in the general election by a slim margin – 655 votes out of more than 300,000 cast.
Rouzer, a wholesaler who previously worked as a senior advisor for U.S. Sens. Jesse Helms and Elizabeth Dole, grew up in North Carolina and worked summers on the family’s tobacco farm. He works as a distributer through The Rouzer Company and R&C Distributors.
“I understand what it is to be out there and to work, and to struggle with making things work in this economy today,” Rouzer said during a Tuesday, Jan. 14, phone interview. “It’s certainly not like I have been on easy street.”
In November Rouzer or White could face New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield Jr., who is running for the Democratic nomination.
Barfield, who owns Barfield & Associates Realty, said his issues of interest in the campaign include economic development, job creation, beach renourishment and inlet dredging, affordable healthcare and education.
“My focus is going to be on, No. 1, serving the citizens of our county, as well as going out throughout the district and meeting folks and understanding the issues of the 7th Congressional District,” Barfield said Saturday, Jan. 11, after attending a campaign event for state Senate candidate Elizabeth Redenbaugh.
Both Barfield and White, who work together on the county commission, said they would continue serving New Hanover residents while campaigning.
“Jonathan and I are both professionals, and we have great respect for each other,” White said days before his official announcement. “Our congressional effort will have no effect on the oath we swore.”
Meanwhile, some of the candidates said they were a bit surprised by McIntyre’s Jan. 8 announcement he would retire at the end of this congressional term — his ninth — but wished him well.
“The important thing is to commend the congressman for his dedication and service to the citizens of the district,” Rouzer said. “Certainly he and his staff went out of their way to try to address the local needs, particularly the coastal needs.”
McIntyre said his decision was unrelated to the last, tight race but was made after his family spent time together during the holidays to reflect and think about the future.
“It really boiled down to a personal and professional decision to look at new opportunities to serve,” McIntyre said during a Jan. 10 phone interview.
McIntyre encouraged his successor to reach out to North Carolina citizens, look at each issue on its own merit and avoid getting caught up in a partisan agenda.
“There are very few of us left who have been willing to work across the aisle,” McIntyre said.
McIntyre said he had yet to determine what he will do next but wanted to continue helping North Carolina in the public or private sector.
He also will decide where to live after retiring from Congress. He still has a permanent home in Lumberton, as well as a place at Sunset Beach. McIntyre also said he loved Wrightsville Beach and coastal areas throughout the district.
“Whatever else that we do we will still have our anchor in Southeastern North Carolina,” McIntyre said.