Under the Dome

Lawmaker who wanted secession amendment and gay marriage ban has a GOP challenger

Rep. Michael Speciale speaks during a session at the NC Legislative Building in Raleigh on August 19, 2014.
Rep. Michael Speciale speaks during a session at the NC Legislative Building in Raleigh on August 19, 2014. cseward@newsobserver.com

A Republican primary shaping up for 2018 would pit two retired Marines from New Bern against each other – including Rep. Michael Speciale, a legislative lightning rod.

The challenger, Eric Queen, 41, holds views in line with most Republicans. He supports voter ID and small government and opposes abortion.

But Queen says voters will see clear differences between him and Speciale, a three-term NC House incumbent.

Speciale sponsors bills that attract a lot of public attention but don’t get much support in the legislature.

He sponsored a bill this year that sought to repeal the part of the state constitution that prohibits secession. He was one of four House sponsors on a bill this year that would have once again made gay marriage illegal in the state, in defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. As the bill made national news, House Speaker Tim Moore said it would not be considered.

Queen said he does not agree with the secession amendment or the effort to defy a Supreme Court ruling.

“I believe in a traditional family,” Queen said. “I also believe in the Constitution. When the state is going to ignore the Supreme Court – I don’t know where you’re going with that.”

Speciale did not return a message left at his home.

Speciale represents a district that includes Pamlico County and parts of Beaufort and Craven counties. He has drawn attention for his commentary on social media, including criticizing the Jan. 21 Women’s March protests as “a joke.”

It tends to be hard for challengers to win primaries. Incumbents have better name recognition and their campaigns often have more money.

Rep. Larry Pittman, a Republican from Concord who has worked with Speciale on many controversial bills, handily defeated an attorney who ran against him in the 2016 GOP primary.

Queen said he considered running for local office but decided to seek the House seat as he and his wife talked about his options.

He wants voters to have a primary choice, and he’s banking on voters agreeing with his view of the Constitution.

“You might not agree with me,” he said, “but the Constitution protects your beliefs as much as it protects mine.”

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner

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