Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pantano hosts friends and supporters at Riverfest event on banks of the Cape Fear


Conservative GOP congressional candidate Ilario Pantano with guests

By Verne Strickland / October 9, 2012

 The invitation read: 

Come out to Mike McCarley's beautiful riverside garden in Historic Downtown Wilmington to view the Invasion of the Pirates Flotilla and Fireworks on the Saturday night of Riverfest and get 'fired' up for Pantano for Congress.

The event lived up to its billing -- and then some. An estimated 125 guests turned up to cheer on their hero and favorite in what is certain to be a long and arduous struggle for the Seventh District seat in Congress -- a contest that won't be settled until November 2012.

Pantano led the group in prayer, then launched into a patriotic stump speech that pounced on liberal Democrats far and wide, promising that GOP stalwarts in North Carolina would be in the front ranks to rout them from their cushy incumbent lethargy.

A pulse-quickening display of fireworks flared brilliant against the night sky. The "Pirate Flotilla" arrived to the thunder of booming cannon. When the echoes faded, one person onshore --doubtless a Republican --  was heard to inquire: "Is Obama the captain of this boat? He's a pirate isn't he?"

Then it was down to business. I interviewed candidate Ilario Pantano about his campaign and the Riverfest GOP spin-off:

VS: It's a beautiful night, and your supporters are obviously fired up. What is this event all about?

It’s a celebration, and our chance to thank our growing ranks of supporters for all their hard work at the grassroots level. As I said, we’ve been building for seven months, and we have seven months to go. The heavy lifting starts now, and I say it matters. It matters more than ever. And I have a sense they all agree.

VS: Where are you now in your campaign?

We’re actually at the halfway point in this drive for a primary victory. We started this campaign back in February, and we’ve been running hard for seven months. We now have seven months to go before the primary, and we’re focused on that primary.

VS: You've always depended on strength and energy at the grassroots and precinct level. How is this ramping up?

What I will tell you is the support and the excitement in every county in this district is huge. And you know we have twelve counties in the Seventh now, and some of them are new. Even in these new counties, new friends are joining our cause, and are excited about what we represent. Because we are not the establishment, we’re not business as usual. We are just somebody who loves their country, and have sacrificed for it time and time again, who understand how the economy works and how to create jobs. That combination is pretty important right now.

VS: Many in the political game just talk the talk. But you claim to walk the walk. What does that mean actually?

A lot of people can quote the policy all day long, but when you look to their life experience and understand their true motivations, and understand that their heart isn’t a service heart, and what sacrifice really means, you have to wonder – do they know John 15:13? Do they really know? I am insistent on living out my faith, and this keeps me in a positive state of mind. I am really bullish on this country. What I see happening with this Occupy Wall Street movement is they want to replicate this right now.  And this very desperate president wants to foment unrest throughout the country to shore up his chances in 2012. His game plan is a strategy of destruction. It is not in the best interest of the country. It’s not good for my children or yours. I going to fight it and fight it hard.

Joe Agovino of Southport, long-time GOP leader in Brunswick County, was on hand at the GOP Riverfest celebration. He said conservative candidate Pantano has learned much from his experience in the political arena since his challenge to incumbent Mike McIntyre in the last congressional election.

VS: So you feel he has only gained strength and wisdom from being in the political arena?

That's right. I think Ilario has grown a great deal in the last year and a half. He’s even more committed to serving his country. He has also learned a great deal about internal politics. I’ve been close to Ilario through the  last campaign, and now this one. His commitment is genuine, and his loyalty is to his country, which he has served unselfishly.. In so doing, he has faced daunting challenges, but he has risen above all this, and has distinguished himself in many ways. So, today, I think he stands a better chance to win this primary because his supporters and the general public are comfortable with him and are really behind him. 

VS: Ilario will face off in the GOP primary against State Senator David Rouzer of Johnston County. What do you expect from him as a candidate?  

This race is a struggle between the old guard of the Republican Party and the newer members who are committed Constitutionalists and want to take our country back to work for the general well-being of the people. Mr. Rouzer is a bright young man, but is basically a Washington insider, and also a product of the system for a number of years. My personal opinion is that David Rouzer getting into this race will be good for Ilario, because of  the stark contrast between the politician, David Rouzer, and the patriot, Ilario Pantano.

VS: You hang your hat in Brunswick County. How do you size up the conservative Republican base there?

In our county -- Brunswick -- we’re seeing growth and strength at the precinct levels. That will be vital as Obama’s paid volunteers flood into North Carolina with their liberal agenda. We intend to be ready.
What I’m seeing is more cohesiveness in the organization, and more motivation. I’ve been involved in politics for many years, and this is the earliest I’ve seen our Republican Party become involved in statewide or presidential elections in an off-election year. That’s a tremendous plus. Our leadership is proactive and aggressive.We're putting the lessons we've learned to work for us on the road to 2012.