Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pantano or Rouzer -- Who deserves your trust? Choice looms in May 8 NCGOP primary.


By Verne Strickland, April 21, 2012
So the chips are down. What’s it going to be? Whose story really stands up to the claims of the candidates, and the scrutiny of the voters?
Unlike David Rouzer, Ilario Pantano has not raised eight rows of tobacco. He hasn’t chopped cotton or combined soybeans. But war is a job too. The toughest and most grueling there is. And Pantano has shouldered this awesome task that few in this country have cared to take on  – fewer still in Congress. And, to be sure, no one else running for the Seventh Congressional Seat of North Carolina has gone into mortal combat for the sake of God, family and country. 
David Rouzer may be the patriot he claims. I expect he is. But, as in everything else, there are degrees of patriotism. 
Ilario Pantano has voluntarily gone to war not once but twice for principles he believes in – passionately, unreservedly, unselfishly. This is a personal commitment he has made without hesitation, knowingly putting his own life on the line for America and her citizens. In short, it cannot be denied that Ilario Pantano’s commitment is the greatest act of valor an individual can put forward. We need to think about that. This is a selfless investment he has made for all of us.
And yet I find that his service in uniform is repeatedly marginalized – by area liberals, by pacifists, as well as the media, led by the Wilmington Star-News, which gives the appearance of hoping someone – anyone – other than Pantano will carry the banner of the Seventh District to the U.S. Congress in Washington.
Candidate Pantano’s military service – in not one but two bloody foreign wars – is not marginalized by overt denigration, but by glaring omission. It is mentioned only in passing, if at all. 
This is clearly because the Star-News, while under new ownership, has shown obvious signals that it will slavishly follow the same hide-bound policies of the mainstream Democratic Party, which while in power from the statehouse to the White House to the outhouse, and now the poorhouse, has driven our economy, our individual freedoms, our business vitality, and our national pride to a dismal new low. 
State Senator David Rouzer, while not a Democrat, is the darling of the press in the GOP primary, where his name invariably bobs to the top as the chosen one to take on Mike McIntyre in the general election. It’s a dubious honor.
A case in point is an “editorial” in which the Star-News danced around a thinly disguised endorsement of Rouzer, while injecting negative, polarizing comments about Pantano – by any measure a decent, honest, intelligent gentleman, and a fighter in the real sense of the word. This is the brand of journalistic integrity and courage we have come to expect from this newspaper, whose roots in Democratic politics are deep and demanding. 
No, Ilario Pantano of New York has not raised eight acres of tobacco. That is not the opportunity or the curse of every red-blooded American patriot. But, as much as any who have migrated to our area from the frozen north and chosen to stay and raise a family, he has invested his loyalty and his love in the region, meeting and embracing our good citizens, and becoming a model citizen himself. He has endeared himself to many by his open, engaging attitude – peculiarly Southern – and is ready to represent our area with the same genuine enthusiasm, spirit and effectiveness as one raised here. 
Just as important, he has familiarized himself with the key issues, concerns and opportunities which are the underpinnings and legacy of our area – specifically the coastal region, which is contained within the newly-minted Seventh District, except for one oddly gerrymandered appendage of land which somehow managed to reach deep into agricultural Johnston County, whose most enduring link to the coast may be the week-end and vacation trips by inland boaters and recreational fishermen. It is worthy of note that this convenient happenstance in the district boundaries drew beachfront McGee’s Crossroads officially into the Seventh District. 
In this case, it is David Rouzer who seems the outsider, immersed as he has been in business and culture west of Interstate 95, where the traditional economic base has been the rich farmland and rowcrop agriculture of the Coastal Plains , and where the influences – political and economic – have been tied irreversibly to Raleigh and the N.C. General Assembly.
David Rouzer, it may be noted, has said he has connections to the coastal area from a home in Kure Beach his family has shared with another family – a statement made as he opened his Wilmington campaign office quite recently. 
Rouzer, 40, is not married and lives in the rural community of McGees Crossroads in Johnston County, several miles from where he grew up working on the family farm. First elected in 2008, he is serving his second term in the state Senate, where he represents Johnston and Wayne counties. He lost a bid for state agriculture commissioner in 2000.

Rouzer owns a business consulting firm, with tobacco companies as clients. On the side, he owns a distributorship, marketing a degreaser called Cobra Clean.

His past experience includes stints as a senior staffer for former U.S. senators Jesse Helms and Elizabeth Dole, where he cites work on farm bills, the tobacco quota buyout and the 1999 Hurricane Floyd disaster recovery legislation among the highlights.

He also was appointed by President George W. Bush to a post in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he helped manage a $1.2 billion budget and a rural loan portfolio of $5 billion.

Rouzer also worked as a lobbyist for tobacco companies in Washington, but said he deregistered in 2008. In the heat of campaign debates, Senator Rouzer has been coy about his service as a lobbyist, a point not missed by those keeping score. At times outright evasive, Rouzer seemed aware that his work in support of amnesty for illegal, undocumented workers could generate a particularly cruel backlash. And it has.

Whereas Rouzer worked closely with Jesse Helms at various points in his career, Ilario Pantano never met the iconic five-term Republican U.S. Senator who passed away in 2008 at the age of 86.

But Pantano is an ardent admirer of the late statesman, and an avid student of Jesse’s implacable conservatism, which is legend. More importantly, Pantano has proven by his beliefs and platform that he subscribes wholeheartedly to the Helms Doctrine of fiscal solvency, limited government, law and order, Christian values, Constitutional precepts, American pride and exceptionalism, and freedom, freedom, freedom. 
While Rouzer has had every opportunity to absorb Jesse’s philosophy, he may have fallen short of duplicating the beloved Senator’s unrelenting personal code of honor, for which Senator Helms was respected by friend and foe alike in Washington and around the world. 
Jesse said he never won a public opinion poll, and never lost an election. And he never waffled on a vote, no matter how unpopular. And he never tried to revise his record.
Only on two of these scores will I find fault with Senator Rouzer, who, while habitually vilifying the “ethics” of lobbyists as a whole, was a lobbyist himself, racing back to Washington to cash in his services and inside knowledge of economic powerhouse industries like tobacco production, processing, manufacturing and exports. 
Perhaps more troubling, he obscured his support for granting amnesty to illegal immigrants, and, only under intense questioning from Pantano, finally admitted what he had done. He said that he did this because workers were needed for tobacco and produce harvests in Southeastern North Carolina. But Pantano, a stickler for accuracy, pointed out that only fourteen percent of the illegal workers are employed in commercial agriculture.  
“The rest,” Pantano said in an interview, “are draining the economic lifeblood of our people.  A full 86 per cent of these illegals are taking jobs away from young veterans in food services, construction, hospitality, landscape design – all these things that are good, entry-level jobs, not glamorous, but that are starting points for young men and women to get on their feet – these jobs are being taken by illegals. This is also a tax on the battered incomes of our taxpayers in our classroom, our courtroom, our schoolroom, and our emergency room. 
“It would be one thing if the Senator (Rouzer) had an ubiased view of amnesty and hung his hat on that. But he has tried to dodge and bob and weave until he was finally pinned down the other day. And only then did he confess his role as a paid lobbyist working for something that every poll and statistic shows will create two Obama voters for every GOP voter. So who was he really working for when he got that lobbying check?"
The halting Rouzer admission of his work to secure amnesty for illegal immigrants created a firestorm of derision from conservative leaders like William Gheen, president of ALIPAC.
"David Rouzer's support for Amnesty for illegal aliens may endear him to some of the unscrupulous big business interests that do not want to obey our existing guest worker and immigration laws," said ALIPAC leader Gheen.  "However, his support for Amnesty puts him at odds with over 80 percent of the voters in North Carolina's 7th Congressional District who are paying the price of illegal immigration through lost jobs, depreciated wages, stolen taxpayer resources, and preventable crimes."

Americans for Legal ImmigrationPAC has endorsed David Rouzer's opponent  Ilario Pantano due to Pantano's support for adequate enforcement of America's existing border and immigration laws.

Ilario Pantano has made fighting illegal immigration a top issue in his campaign. He has vowed he will oppose any form of Amnesty for illegal immigrants that would allow them to stay in the United States.
Pantano has attended recent immigration hearings conducted by the NC General Assembly. His opponent David Rouzer has not attended these meetings even though he serves as a state legislator.

"The voters of North Carolina have a clear choice between Ilario Pantano, who will work to deter illegal immigration, and David Rouzer, who is now on the record supporting Amnesty which will only encourage more illegal immigration to our nation and communities," said William Gheen. "Now that David Rouzer has abandoned his earlier denials and admitted his support for Amnesty our job is to make sure every voter knows about his unpopular stance."

Americans for Legal Immigration PAC plans to raise funds to conduct an automated call to GOP voter households in District 7 warning voters that David Rouzer supported Agjobs Amnesty for illegal aliens in the past and has reaffirmed his support for Amnesty during the recent debate on WECT.

For more information about Americans for Legal Immigration PAC or to view ALIPAC's 125 currently endorsed federal candidates, please visit
Pantano, a Wilmington resident who now works as an author, referred to Rouzer as a career politician and said government needs "principled leadership" and term limits for members of Congress. Rouzer opposes term limits.
"Who's going to go to Washington and reform it, and who's going to go to Washington and conform to it?" Pantano asked.
Since contrasts are the stuff of which campaigns are made, it should be instructive to note which candidate contrasts most dramatically with Democrat incumbent Seventh District Congressman Mike McIntyre – Rouzer, who has shown some inclination to shade the facts about his service and his stands on the issues – or Pantano, who as proven himself to be honest, honorable and straightforward at all times. Which of these candidates, when it comes to candor and truth, or lack of it, is more like Mike McIntyre? 
Raise the issue of term limits, and decide for yourself which candidate – Pantano or Rouzer – fits more into the McIntyre mold. McIntyre ignored his own promise several times to limit his terms in office, but is going for a ninth term as he gears up his 2012 campaign. Rouzer has declined to commit to term limits, whereas Ilario Pantano has signed a pledge to seek no more than three Congressional terms if elected to this office.
"Term limits would be a tremendous step at reforming our culture of corruption in Washington," Ilario Pantano said.
U.S. Term Limits (USTL), the leader in the national movement to limit terms for elected officials, praised NC-7 candidate Ilario Pantano for promising to support and co-sponsor an amendment to the U.S. Constitution limiting congressional terms. USTL’s Philip Blumel commented on Pantano’s pledge saying, “Ilario Pantano is leading the way for the other candidates for Congress by being an early signer of the term limits pledge.

Pantano’s commitment to returning to citizen government in Washington, D.C. “is a beacon that should be followed by candidates across the nation,” Blumel concluded.

There is more – so much more – that can and should be said about the dramatic differences between Ilario Pantano and David Rouzer – important contrasts that have been obscured or ignored by shabby news reporting or outright subterfuge. 
Those facts will be reported in this column before the May 8 Primary, when the man appointed to take down excessively incumbent Democrat Congressman Mike McIntyre of the Seventh District of North Carolina will be selected. 
Maybe the best yardstick comes down to where voters can comfortably put their trust when selecting the man that might be our next Congessman.
Bottom line — for the Seventh District to be burdened with another professional politician, which Rouzer could well become, would be a bitter pill indeed. Pantano or Rouzer? It’s down to this. You make the call.