Saturday, March 16, 2013

McIntyre's problem: 'When he gets up there in Washington, he votes for the far left.'

By Verne Strickland
March 16, 2013 (First published Sept. 9, 2010)

For years, Doug and Peggy Murray, who are Republicans, voted for Mike McIntyre, a Democrat.

The ties between the two families were more personal than political in the early going.

The Robeson County community of Lumberton was where McIntyre was born and raised, and where he returned to practice law after winning his degree from Wake Forest University. He was a Morehead Scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Lumberton was where Doug and Peggy became acquainted with Mike and his family after Doug’s move to Robeson in 1972. Doug, also an attorney, had established his own practice there as a sole practitioner.

The Murrays and McIntyres attended the same Presbyterian Church in Lumberton. Both Doug and Mike were officers in the church.

When Mike decided to run for Congress, Doug recalls being contacted by Mike, who told Doug he was going to make his announcement.

“He asked if I would join him for that occasion, and I was pleased to do that, by virtue of our long and close relationship. Both Peggy and I supported him from that day with contributions, and attending various of his political gatherings. We supported him through all seven of his races," Doug observed.

The Murrays, a bright, vibrant couple, now make their home in the Magnolia Greens community in Leland, where they moved in 2005.

Doug is retired. Peggy is a spirited wife and soul mate. They have uncompromising beliefs, and this has compelled them to make decisions they knew would come at considerable personal cost.

“About two years ago,” Doug recounted, “it was obvious that liberal and progressive politicians, most of whom were Democrats, were taking over the leadership of the country. Peggy and I were quite dismayed about that. Even though we were quietly participating in the political process, we decided we needed to get more active, not only for our own benefit, but as well for the benefit of generations to come. The country was heading toward what we saw as socialism, if not something more sinister, and neither of us could support that.”

While Doug and Peggy were mulling this over, their attention became riveted by the overblown media coverage of murder charges lodged against a young Marine officer at Camp Lejeune in nearby Jacksonville, NC.

The Murrays were impressed by the sincerity of the young Marine, and they followed the military proceedings on television and in the newspapers.

“We were overjoyed when there was a failure to issue charges arising out of the Article 32 hearing,” said Doug. “They had their day to prove that he should be tried, and failed to do so. One young man who was the only one attempting to substantiate a bogus story about what happened in the deaths of these Iraqis was not believed. Ilario was exonerated.”

A couple of years passed, and the Murrays didn’t hear anything more about Ilario Pantano until he announced a run for Congress in 2009.

“Because we knew about him,” Doug continued, “we started to listen to what he was saying. He was very personable, articulate, and obviously a true patriot. Because of my own military background, I was doubly impressed with Ilario."

Doug served four years of active duty in the Navy as a line officer, followed by attendance at Wake Forest Law School, after which his Reserve designation was changed to JAG. He remained in the Reserves for another 16 years, retiring after 20 years with the rank of Commander.

Other events were moving simultaneously. In 2008, Doug and Peggy had attended a local GOP executive committee precinct meeting in Belville.

“Frank Iler, then chairman of the Brunswick County Republican Party, was presiding. I think Peggy volunteered me to be chairman of the Belville precinct. That’s how I went onto the executive committee of the Brunswick GOP. The more meetings I attended, the more I saw that there were others who felt as deeply and sincerely as we about the direction our country was going. Our enthusiasm was going into full gear,” Doug said.

The Murrays met Pantano for the first time at a meeting of the Brunswick County Republican executive committee. The charismatic young candidate made a deep and lasting impression.

“When you have the opportunity to talk with him, regardless of how many people are around him, he is attentive to you alone, no matter what is going on around you. He is a very engaging individual,” Doug recalls.

In the hearts and minds of Doug and Peggy Murray, an idea – a calling – was emerging, and they both knew it.

Here was Doug’s description of the phenomenon: “Ilario’s military background was attractive to me, and his service as an enlisted man, then as an officer --nobody can doubt his allegiance to his country, his sincerity and his belief that we all have a duty to preserve our independence.”

Peggy, similarly impressed, talked about how her own long-held loyalties in favor of Congressman McIntyre were beginning to falter.

“Mike never had any real competition until he was challenged by Ilario Pantano. For a long time we had never really thought to check on McIntyre’s record. But when we did, we were pretty surprised. He says he’s a conservative but that’s not what his record shows. Someone in Brunswick County said when Mike is talking to us here, he acts like a good old boy. Just one of us. But when he gets up there in Washington he votes for the far left. That offends me,” she asserted.

They talked – Doug and Peggy – long bouts of soul-searching, attempting to resolve the tug between uncertainty and a leap into unknown political waters, with treasured personal relationships surely hanging in the balance.

“We had a decision to make,” Doug commented. “How much support do we feel comfortable giving to Ilario insofar as the upcoming election is concerned? In the primary, there was no problem. We are Republicans, and we knew Ilario by far to be the better choice there. But in the general election, where do we come down? We had to look at our good Lumberton friends, and say this is the man we are for, and we are supporting Ilario all the way. Could we do that?”

The words of Doug’s late father came to him, and it was like a key had turned in a lock.

“He used to say to me, ‘Doug, if you’re in for a penny, get in for a pound.’ So we gave it even more consideration, and finally agreed we would do all we could to get Ilario elected.”

One of the first occasions which would signal the Murrays’ change in loyalties would be a “meet and greet” for candidate Pantano at their attractive and inviting home across from the Magnolia Greens golfing links.

Did Mike McIntyre get wind of the upcoming event in late June when he called Doug to ask a favor? Doug wonders.

The congressman contacted Doug approximately two weeks before the meet and greet to discuss strategy issues in North Brunswick.

Doug told Mike at that time that he and Peggy would be supporting Ilario Pantano, although somewhat reluctantly.

“Mike, though gracious, reiterated that he was a moderate and at times conservative, as his record would indicate, and that he looked after his folks at home,” Doug continued.

“He said he needed advice and counsel about how to proceed with gaining some support from people in the Leland area, whom we know well since we live there.

“That’s the way we left it, and there has been no further contact between us since then.”