Local Politics

Former GOP Lawmakers Settle Feud

Posted October 23, 2007 1:49 p.m. EDT

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— Two Republican former state lawmakers have buried the hatchet, ending a 14-month feud over a vote-buying allegation.

A group financed by Raleigh businessman and former lawmaker Art Pope sent out mailings last year that attacked Steven LaRoque, who faced opposition in the Republican primary to retain his Lenoir County seat in the state House. The mailings tied him to disgraced former House Speaker Jim Black and tax hikes.

Before a runoff election in August 2006, which he ended up losing, LaRoque characterized Pope's financial support of certain Republican candidates as "buying seats" in the General Assembly.

Pope called the statement defamatory, saying he and his company follow state campaign finance laws, and he filed suit against LaRoque.

Last Friday, LaRoque's attorneys faxed an apology to Pope's attorney in Raleigh in an effort to settle the dispute.

"In the heat of a hard-fought campaign and contested election outcome, I misspoke," LaRoque said in the apology. "Art Pope has not been engaged in buying legislators or their votes. I did not mean to imply Art Pope had done anything wrong. ... I apologize for any harm my words may have caused Art Pope and his family."

Pope said Tuesday that, in light of the apology, he would dismiss the defamation suit. He said LaRoque also agreed to an undisclosed monetary settlement based on attorney's fees.