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AP

NC lawmakers John Szoka, Ben Clark launch congressional bids

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina state Sen. Ben Clark announced Monday his run for U.S. House in the state's 4th Congressional District. He is looking to secure the Democratic nomination in a GOP-leaning district outside Raleigh that is expected to be one of the most competitive races in the state.

Meanwhile, state Rep. John Szoka, a Cumberland County Republican, kicked off his campaign for the congressional seat Tuesday. The West Point alum and U.S. Army veteran said he's best fit to address the concerns of current and former servicemembers in a community that includes Fort Bragg, one of the country's most prominent military installations.

“What DC politicians are doing to this country is appalling,” Szoka said in an announcement of his candidacy. “Abandoning our military, forgetting our veterans, wrecking our economy. The Washington liberals will hate me, but our military, veterans, and North Carolina taxpayers will have no truer friend. It’s absolutely imperative that this district, with its heavy military presence and agricultural roots, be represented by someone with military experience and knowledge of the issues affecting the constituents.”

Among his primary opponents are ex-Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson and former police officer Christine Villaverde.

Clark is competing for the Democratic nomination against Denton Lee, a high school teacher in Smithfield. The lawmaker was among the most prominent Democrats during redistricting seeking to boost his party's representation. But Clark believes he can still win under the GOP-drawn map lawmakers passed earlier this month.

“Our nation stands at a crossroad. Either we continue the forward march toward a more perfect union or we turn back and break our bonds of affection forever,” Clark wrote on Twitter on Monday afternoon. “I am announcing my candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives because at this critical juncture in our nation's history, I must do my part to promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for all the citizens of this great nation.”

It is possible the congressional map could get struck down amid legal challenges accusing Republicans of drawing boundaries that were partisan and racial gerrymanders.

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Follow Anderson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BryanRAnderson.

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Anderson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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