Election 2012 Congressional District 7

Super PACs target McIntyre in redrawn 7th District

cjarvis@newsobserver.comOctober 19, 2012 

  • N.C. 7th Congressional District Mike McIntyre (Incumbent) Party: Democrat Website: mcintyreforcongress.com Family: Wife, Dee; two children Education: Morehead scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill; bachelor and law degrees. Political experience: Elected to Congress in 1996 Career/community involvement: Prior to his election to Congress, practiced law and has been involved in community, church, and civic activities. He has been a lifelong member of the First Presbyterian Church of Lumberton. David Rouzer Party: Republican Website: davidrouzer.com Family: Single Education: BS, Agricultural Business Management; BS, Ag Economics: BA, Chemistry, N.C. State University Political experience: Two terms in the N.C. Senate where he co-chairs four different committees. Career/community involvement: Raises money for the Brain Tumor Center at Duke University, is a charter member of the Mid-Day Clayton Rotary, is a member of several chambers of commerce in Johnston County, works with First in Families in Johnston County to help disadvantaged children, and is a member of First Baptist Church.

If Democratic Congressman Mike McIntyre, who is running for re-election against state Sen. David Rouzer, looks a little shell shocked these days, there’s a reason. His political fortunes were altered sharply when the new Republican majority in the state legislature dramatically redrew congressional districts.

The resulting 7th District is a far more Republican-tilting chunk of the state that stretches from Johnston County in the Triangle to Brunswick County on the southeast coast, eliminating some of the Democratic strongholds that helped keep him in Congress for the past 16 years.

That, in turn, has made him a target of a national GOP effort to unseat vulnerable Democrats. And that has opened the spigots to huge amounts of campaign money from conservative super PACs and other independent-expenditure groups buying TV ads and other campaign material.

By the end of September, Politico reported it was the fifth most expensive House race in the country. Three weeks into October, outside political groups have spent more than $5 million on the candidates, 70 percent of that benefiting Rouzer.

Most of the Rouzer money has gone to redefine McIntyre as a Washington liberal, even though he is among the conservative to moderate Democrats known as “blue dogs.” It has forced McIntyre to try to outflank his Republican opponent on the right, as he stresses his record as an independent.

“This is a battleground for keeping control of the House,” said N.C. State University political science professor Andy Taylor. “The Republicans believe they can pick up four seats in North Carolina.”

With incumbents leaving office in the 13th and 11th districts, McIntyre and Rep. Larry Kissell in the 8th District have been targeted by Republicans. The campaigns are attracting money. And McIntyre is in a part of the state that voted for John McCain in 2008.

“That’s why you have this heated battle,” Taylor said. “It all points to a very close race.”

Where Rouzer stands

Rouzer, 40, is a second-term state senator who was a one-time aide to Sen. Jesse Helms. As the senator from Johnston and Wayne counties, Rouzer has had to spend a lot of time introducing himself along the coastal counties. Even with the benefit of outside political groups, Rouzer says it’s a challenge to beat an incumbent like McIntyre.

“He’s probably one of the toughest Democrats to run against in the country,” Rouzer said by phone from Wilmington this week. “Congressman McIntyre has been in office 16 years. People know who he is. That is both an advantage and a disadvantage in some ways.

“It’s an advantage in that a lot of people want to make a change. The disadvantage is they haven’t known me that long. I think I proved in the primary I could come into New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties and I could peel off votes.”

Rouzer says one of McIntyre’s advantages as an incumbent is “he is getting just a ton of PAC money. The majority of my money is from individuals – the last I looked, 74 percent. More than half of his money was from special-interest groups.”

That’s true, although counting the super PACs and related groups – such as the Congressional Leadership Fund’s $575,000 ad buy this week, and the $1.5 million in ads and mailers from the Young Guns Action and Young Guns Network – tips the scales in Rouzer’s favor. Rouzer’s own campaign is running low: At the end of September it had only $92,000 on hand and was $75,000 in debt.

“We’re going to have the resources we need to win this race,” he said.

The campaign against McIntyre paints the incumbent as part of an unholy trio with President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The narrative is that he acts one way in North Carolina but is a different person in Washington.

McIntyre has been forced to emphasize his conservative credentials, even moving to the right of Rouzer by accusing him of lobbying Congress to bring illegal immigrants to North Carolina, and of lobbying for a foreign country. Rouzer supported a guest-worker program to help the state’s farmers. He also had lobbied to export U.S. tobacco to Japan.

“That’s a distinct sign that they are in desperation mode in this campaign,” Rouzer said this week. “They are throwing in everything plus the kitchen sink plus a little bit more.”

Rouzer did not have a high profile in the General Assembly until this past session, when he became chairman of the Joint Regulatory Reform Committee that shepherded through a slew of regulation-reducing changes to state law, especially environmental regulations. Rouzer said he worked across the aisle to get the Regulatory Reform Act passed and to override the governor’s veto of it.

“This election is about jobs and the economy, and it’s also about the future of this country,” Rouzer said.

If elected, he says he would focus on federal tax code reform, cutting government spending, and repealing the Affordable Care Act, among other issues.

Where McIntyre stands

McIntyre, 56, points to a slew of endorsements he has received, including from national groups representing business, right-to-life, religious and gun-rights interests. He says three-fourths of the mayors in his district support him because of his record on rural development and other issues.

“They know what I’ve done in Washington,” McIntyre said by phone from Smithfield on Thursday. “I am voting from the conservative side of the spectrum. I’m the most conservative House Democrat that’s running for re-election.”

The other thread running in the narrative against McIntyre is that he has been ineffective. Rouzer’s campaign says in 16 years he hasn’t been the primary sponsor on a single bill that became law. McIntyre dismisses the label as mostly inconsequential.

“Let me tell you something: It’s not about being a bean-counter, how many bills that you personally sponsored, or whether you’re a co-sponsored or primary sponsor, original sponsor, any of those terms. It’s about being effective.”

McIntyre lists as accomplishments projects he has helped bring to the state: facilities for Ft. Bragg, beach renourishment and inlets projects, town halls, fire departments, hospitals. He said he has quadrupled the number of veterans’ health clinics in the district, including a super regional center on the coast being built now.

McIntyre considers himself to be the underdog, not only because he’s losing the money race but mainly because of redistricting.

“This district was drawn in a vicious way just to advance the political career of my opponent,” he said.

Not only did GOP mapmakers put Rouzer’s home county into the district, they removed McIntyre’s hometown of Lumberton, took downtown Wilmington and the university out and put it into a district that runs to the Virginia line, and carved up Robeson County in general.

McIntyre says if he loses, the state loses important influence. If he wins, he will move to the No. 3 position on the House Armed Services Committee and No. 2 on the House Agriculture Committee, both dealing with matters important to North Carolina’s economy.

“My opponent can’t just say, ‘Oh, I’ll go take his place,’” McIntyre said. “That just doesn’t happen. We will go to dead last in those committees. This goes way beyond personalities and partisan labels. It becomes an issue of what’s best for North Carolina.”

Jarvis: 919-829-4576

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