Meet the Candidates: Rouzer vs. Casteen - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Meet the Candidates: Rouzer vs. Casteen

WECT takes a look at where David Rouzer and challenger Wesley Casteen stand on key issues. (Source: Raycom Media) WECT takes a look at where David Rouzer and challenger Wesley Casteen stand on key issues. (Source: Raycom Media)

It’s one of two congressional seats on the ballot in Southeastern North Carolina: Republican Congressman David Rouzer running for re-election against Democratic challenger Wesley Casteen for the 7th Congressional District.

WECT met with both candidates to ask why they deserve your vote.


Wesley Casteen is a CPA and attorney in Wilmington. His family’s history in this area goes back seven generations. He’s lived in Wilmington for 12 years, and is originally from Duplin County. Casteen graduated from James Keenan High School, Wake Forest University and Campbell Law School.

Casteen believes his professional skill set could be beneficial in Washington.

“I’m not a professional politician. I have no interest in making a career out of being in Washington,” Casteen explained. “I would like the opportunity to serve, I would like the opportunity to repay some of the benefits I have received professionally and personally growing up in Eastern North Carolina and this is the way I would like to be able to do that.”

Casteen ran in 2010 for the NC Court of Appeals, and in 2014 for the 7th Congressional Seat. He previously ran as a Libertarian but has since changed to the Democratic Party. Casteen said despite the fact that he’s challenging an incumbent, he thinks he has a viable chance.

“He’s a freshman incumbent. This is the first term in. The district as a whole has actually been represented by Democratic candidates pretty much for the last century. So Mr. Rouzer is the first Republican to hold the office in almost 100 years… I think there’s an opportunity there for the folks in Southeastern North Carolina to see that the representation that they’ve had previously is more akin to what they want to see going forward as opposed to what they’ve had for the last two years,” Casteen explained.

David Rouzer is completing his first term in the US Congress. He serves on the House Transportation and infrastructure Committee which oversees the Army Corps of Engineers. Rouzer says that’s key to this area because the Corps plays a big role in preserving local beaches, the Intracoastal Waterway, inlets, and rivers.

Rouzer also serves on the House Agriculture Committee, chairing the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee. “My district probably has more hogs, turkeys and chickens than just about any district in the country, and is one of the reasons I was put on that Subcommittee,” Rouzer said.

His previous political experience includes working for Senator Jesse Helms, Senator Elizabeth Dole, and the Bush administration. “I was a known commodity when I got to Congress. And I think that’s probably one of the big reasons I was given a gavel right from the start,” Rouzer told us.

Before going to Washington, Rouzer served in the NC state legislature from 2008-2012, and noted his work in regulatory reform which he said enabled North Carolina to be a much more pro-business state than it was previously.

“I’m just a common sense conservative. I’m very conservative, but I’m also very practical,” Rouzer said.

The Economy

Casteen supports raising the minimum wage to $10.50/hour, saying it has not kept pace with inflation.

He’s also concerned about the speed of the economic recovery in Southeastern North Carolina. Casteen says that recovery has been more of an issue for the rural inland areas that rely more heavily on agriculture than coastal communities that benefit from tourism.

“The recovery since the Great Recession has been very uneven. We’re now almost, roughly 10 years from the beginning Great Recession. And some segments of the economy have recovered well, others not so well. Primarily the lower wage earners are not seeing the kind of recovery that normally we would see from a protracted recession,” Casteen explained.

Rouzer is pushing for regulatory reform in Washington.

“That’s one of the biggest frustrations that we as member of congress have is you have all of these rules and regulations that have been issued by this Administration in particular over the last seven or eight years that have huge impacts on the economy, but yet we have no vote on it,” Rouzer said.

 “The overtime rule is a disaster for many small business, and the joint employer rule is a disaster for many franchise owners. There’s just so many rules and regulations that are having a huge impact on the economy, yet we have no vote on it. Which is why this presidential election is so important. We need a chief executive that will work with congress to repeal these rules and regulations that are making it so difficult to do business.”

Rouzer is also pushing for tax reform to get rid of loopholes, exemptions, deductions and special interest provisions that favor one industry over another. He wants to simplify the tax code, reducing the number of individual tax rates. He also wants to lower the tax on businesses.

“When you do that, what you are going to have happen is an increase in growth in the economy, and you are going to have even more money coming into the US Treasury. Which – that’s how we handle the debt, the $19-20 trillion dollar debt which is one of the major issues we face as a country in the future, how are we going to handle the debt?”

To fix our debt issues, Rouzer believes we need to grow the economy at 4-5 percent a year, and make modifications to our entitlement payments, which he says account for 70 percent of our government spending.

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

Casteen agrees on the need for entitlement reform.

“It’s necessary to do something differently than how we are doing now. Social Security and Medicare are moving towards insolvency. So in order to make them viable in the long term there’s going to have to be some changes. The alternatives are increase the revenue stream or decrease the benefits. Realistically, there’s going to be a multifaceted approach to make it viable,” Casteen explained.

Both candidates agreed it’s important to continue these programs in some form or fashion for people who have paid in all their lives and are relying on that income. Rouzer also specifically mentioned changes like creating medical savings accounts, changing age eligibility requirements, and making free market reforms to drive down the cost of healthcare, thus driving down the cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

National Security

National Security is one issue where the differences between the candidates are most clear. Wesley Casteen supports a more hands-off approach.

 “My concern is that administrations have been a little too eager to utilize military might, and use it when there wasn’t a clearly defined end game or exit strategy. We saw that in the Bush administration movement in Iraq, we’ve seen that to some degree in the current administrations actions in Libya,” Casteen said.

“Recognizing that military might should be a last resort after all other reasonable options have been exhausted, and realizing that each soldier is some parent’s child, and may be the spouse of some other person, or that parent of a child. It’s important that we realize the costs that are associated with armed conflict.”

Casteen said we have to pinpoint what our primary objective is before we engage in military action, and that we need to make sure we aren’t intervening only to destabilize a region, potentially leaving it worse off than before.

Casteen supports partnering with other nations to provide stability in regions like the Middle East and aid for refugees.

Congressman Rouzer would like to rebuild military, rebuild intelligence capabilities, and have peace through strength.

“When we draw a red line in the sand in Syria, we need to let the rest of the world know we stand by what we say. We can’t back away from that red line. That one act by our President has really damaged us overseas because our allies no longer trust us and our enemies no longer fear us. And as a result our world is in chaos. And we need a Commander in Chief that understands that,” Rouzer said.

“We have to have a strategy that’s focused on the real enemy, and we’re dealing with a radical ideology. This administration in my view has really dropped the ball on this. They have treated this as a law enforcement issue and not as a war…. The fact of the matter is, we are in a war. It’s not a war of our choosing but a war that’s been brought to us.”

Rouzer also supports Donald Trump’s suggestion of extreme vetting for people hoping to move to this country, calling it a matter of common sense.

“Until we are confident in the system that we have, have a temporary ban on those who are coming from that country until we get our arms around this. Our immigration system is flawed, it’s complex, it’s bureaucratic….” Rouzer explained of his position. “It leaves huge gaps for people to come into the country illegally.”

The Environment

Casteen is not in favor of off-shore fracking, saying it is an environmental liability.

“The recent history with the deep water horizon spill in the Gulf Coast, most people recognize that could be very harmful and detrimental to the coastal communities. And as a result of that I would personally oppose offshore drilling.”

Creating new oil pipelines is a concept Casteen is more open to.

“So the question becomes, do we continue to move those oil products through surface travel – trucks, tankers, or through antiquated railroad systems where there have been some crashes and spills related to that, or do we look at the more modern option of completed pipeline to do that. So it’s not so much of a bright line yes or no, but there are tradeoffs. And realistically the tradeoff could be to complete the Keystone Pipeline in order to have less reliance on surface travel.”

Rouzer is open to energy exploration of all kinds, including fracking.

“If you have the potential and the ability to provide the energy for yourselves and the rest of the world, that makes you that much more dominant, and I believe from a national security perspective, we need to explore all different avenues of energy production,” Rouzer said.

“Fracking, in particular, I don’t think there’s been any technology procedure that has been more maligned unnecessarily and unfortunately so in the press with a lot of very erroneous reports over the years, then fracking. Fracking is a technology that has come a long, long way…. It’s much more environmentally friendly than it was at the outset.”

Rouzer noted the energy sector has done well in a stagnant economy, and has revolutionized the economy in places like North Dakota.

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