BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Incumbent state Representative Frank Iler said he knows Brunswick County Commissioner Pat Sykes will put up a tough fight in the District 17 May primary race.
"In the past, I've run against non-office holders," Iler said. "She's a strong candidate, no doubt about it."
Sykes has served as commissioner for six years and said state house decisions have not helped Brunswick County as much as she would have hoped.
"Sometimes you get these unfunded mandates that you are saying, 'OK, what are they doing up there that hurts the county?'" said Sykes, who added that her frustration with the lack of state funding for GenX research in the county was a reason she decided to run.
"We were not included the funding for testing our water," said Sykes. "That's a major issue."
Both candidates said school safety should be a top priority statewide.
Sykes wants law enforcement to assess schools statewide for potential security issues. Iler said the state should contribute more money to pay resource officers, taking some of the burden off the county, sheriff's department and school system.
Iler also wants to put an "air marshal" in each school to protect the students.
"Somebody who is also armed in addition to the school resource officer, but highly trained, whether ex-military or ex-law enforcement," Iler said.
Iler was appointed to the house seat in 2009. Since then, he has worked his way up the ranks and said his seniority in Raleigh is an advantage over Sykes.
"Regardless of who the freshman is, (they) won't have a chairmanship, " Iler said. "I have three transportation committees and one on the river quality."
Sykes said she doesn't consider herself an underdog in the race and said voters will make the ultimate decision.
"I stand pretty strong on my own," Sykes said. "The things I have done for the county is proof of where I stand on issues and how hard I work to help the people."
WECT will have team coverage on election night across the Cape Fear Region.