Steen makes it official as Republican field taking on Kissell grows
By Karissa Minn
LANDIS — With his official announcement Thursday, N.C. Rep. Fred Steen has become the sixth announced candidate to run in North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District.
Steen, a Republican who currently represents the 76th District in the N.C. House, hopes to win the Republican nomination and challenge Democratic incumbent Larry Kissell in 2012.
During his announcement in front of the Landis Town Hall, he presented an American flag to town officials. He said it was flown over the state capitol building on Nov. 29, his father’s 80th birthday.
Landis Mayor James Furr spoke briefly to the gathered crowd of county residents and local and state officials.
“Rep. Steen, during his tenure as mayor here, always encouraged me to look at public service, look to serve and try to reach a little bit higher,” Furr said. “What an irony and what an honor for me today, at my first function as mayor of Landis, to be able to kick this off.”
Steen thanked his supporters for asking him to run.
“What people have been telling me throughout this region is that we need to have a local voice — a conservative voice,” Steen said. “We need someone who understands what is going on here at home.”
New district boundaries have expanded the 8th District into southern and eastern Rowan County, which includes many of Steen’s constituents.
Steen said this week that he will continue his duties as state legislator throughout his campaign. But the 76th District must elect a new representative in 2012.
One local resident who is “definitely considering” running for that seat is Bruce Jones, president and chief executive officer of Community Bank of Rowan. He said he spoke to people about the idea at Thursday’s event to get their feedback and advice.
“I ran for school board and was successful, and I’ve always wanted to ... run at the state level,” he said. “I feel like I have a lot to offer from a business perspective.”
Jones, of China Grove, said he hopes to make up his mind in the next month or so.
At Thursday’s event, N.C. Rep. Linda Johnson (R-83) said the nation’s capital needs a problem solver and leader like Steen.
“His North Carolina record proves he is a job creator, he is a budget downsizer and ... he is 100 percent conservative,” Johnson said.
N.C. Rep. Justin Burr (R-67) said at Thursday’s event that Steen is a truly local candidate who grew up in the 8th district and has continued to be a part of the community.
“As (Republicans have) moved into the majority, he has been the voice and the leader that we needed,” Burr said. “I have no doubt that as we send him to Washington... he will do the same for us there.”
Steen is squeezing into the race for the 8th District seat with five other Republican candidates so far.
Some, like Steen, have gained experience as elected officials. Three have run for Congress before.
Vernon Robinson served on the Winston-Salem City Council for eight years and recently moved to Concord. In the past, he ran high-profile campaigns in the 5th and 13th districts.
Scott Keadle, a Mooresville resident, is a former Iredell County Commissioner who works as a dentist in Salisbury. He has run for office in the 10th District and previously received the Republican nomination in the 12th.
Dan Barry serves on the Weddington Town Council as mayor pro tem. The Union County resident also is a regional vice president with the Principal Financial Group.
Other candidates are hoping to hold a public office for the first time.
John Whitley, a neurosurgeon and farmer, ran for Congress in Tennessee but was not elected. The Kannapolis native now lives in the Robeson County town of Fairmont.
Business consultant Richard Hudson, who recently moved to Concord, has never run for office but has managed the campaigns of several candidates in Washington.
Hudson, Robinson, Steen and Whitley live in the new 8th District, while Barry and Keadle do not.
These candidates will compete in the Republican primary for the chance to face off against Kissell, a resident of Biscoe in Montgomery County. He has represented the 8th district since 2009.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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