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State General Assembly races draw opponents, one unopposed

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

 Three candidates, including longtime Democratic incumbent R.C. Soles, are vying for the N.C. Senate District 8 seat up for a two-year renewal this year. District 8 encompasses Brunswick, Columbus and Pender counties.

Republican incumbent Bonner Stiller is seeking a fourth two-year term in the District 17 N.C. House of Representatives race, with a challenge from Democrat Vernon Ward.

Democratic incumbent Dewey Hill is unopposed in his bid for a ninth two-year term representing District 20 in the state House of Representatives.

North Carolina Senate, District 8

Democratic incumbent Sen. R.C. Soles Jr., 73, is completing his 40th year in the North Carolina Legislature (the first eight in the state house) and is the longest serving member in the history of the state General Assembly.

“That’s what the people that keep score in Raleigh tell me,” Soles said this week.

He is an attorney with a Tabor City law firm in Columbus County.

He is being challenged in his pursuit of another two-year term by Republican candidate Bettie Fennell, 66, of Rocky Point in Pender County. Fennell is a retired reporter for the Star-News in Wilmington and former small business owner. She also serves as secretary of the 7th Congressional District GOP Executive Committee.

Libertarian candidate Rachel Joiner Merrill did not respond to a Beacon questionnaire about her candidacy.

Soles said if re-elected, he would continue to support investments in creating jobs without raising taxes. He voted to extend a cap on the gas tax and would give a tax credit to small businesses that provide healthcare coverage to their employees.

He also supported passage of the state’s first earned income tax credit that increased wages and cut taxes for up to 700,000 working families.

At a recent candidates’ forum, Soles said he had been working locally with fellow District 17 Rep. Bonner Stiller to come up with $250,000 to look at transportation needs in Brunswick County. He also said he worked to put $99 million back into the state Highway Trust Fund.

With a new port that may or may not be coming, “we have to assume for planning purposes it’s coming and get ready,” Soles said at the Oct. 7 ABCPOA candidates’ forum.

Soles also said there is a drastic need for annexation reform.

“We need to be assured those people about to be annexed need to have a voice, and the annexation process right now, it’s kind of a one-sided thing,” he said. “You’ve got to have orderly growth…but you don’t need to go out and take people. Instead of a shotgun approach, find out what the real problems are.”

Fennell says she favors cutting wasteful spending and duplicate programs, followed by a tax cut and reduction in the gas tax. She says offshore drilling should be considered to help stimulate the economy and “work toward energy independence,” with a portion of revenues shared with the state and also used for beach renourishment.

Fennell opposes forced annexation and legislative annexations, stating targeted residents should have a chance to vote on annexation referendums.

“I think it’s an abuse of power,” she said at the recent candidates’ forum. “I think people should be allowed to vote on it. Cities and towns should bear the burden of convincing those folks why they should be annexed.”

N.C. House of Representatives, District 17

Republican incumbent Bonner Stiller, 52, of Oak Island, is a Southport attorney seeking a fourth two-year term in District 17 consisting of Brunswick County. He is being challenged by Vernon Ward, 67, chairman of the Brunswick County Democratic Party, who did not respond to a Beacon questionnaire about his candidacy.

In response to recent questions, Stiller wrote he would continue to fight for tax relief for small businesses, voted “no” on spending or transferring money from the Highway Funds into the general budget and voted in favor of making specific recommendations to change NCDOT management.

Stiller has said annexation laws are outdated and need to be removed and that affected residents should have a say-so in the process.

Ward suggested a priority system for funding road projects throughout the state.

N.C. House of Representatives, District 20

Democratic incumbent Dewey Hill, 83, a business executive, is unopposed in his quest for a ninth two-year term representing District 20 (Brunswick and Columbus counties).

He recently indicated the state must be a major player in drawing good industry that pays good wages and benefits, and funding must be secured for needed roads.

Hill also favors re-organization of NCDOT and changing the way its board members are selected. He also approved an annexation moratorium this year while a study committee comes up with recommendations for the 2009 General Assembly.