He's a 16-year veteran of the N.C. Senate and considered one of its most powerful members.
She's never been elected to a political office.
But the race pitting incumbent David Hoyle, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Kathy Harrington for the N.C. Senate District 43 seat is one of Gaston County's hottest political battles.
The issue causing the most buzz is the Garden Parkway. Two years ago, Hoyle invested in 327 acres near a proposed exit for the expressway. He then took at least three votes in the General Assembly to advance the road and lobbied colleagues to fund it.
A legislative attorney said Hoyle, who is a developer, didn't violate state ethics laws when he voted for the funding.
But Harrington called Hoyle's action unethical and said it's an example of his poor judgment.
In 2002, her husband, former state Rep. Michael Harrington, challenged Hoyle for the seat in District 43, which covers all of Gaston County except for six precincts in northeast Gaston.
Harrington lost, but it was a close race. Kathy Harrington hopes to win this time.
Mailings from the state GOP executive committee in recent weeks have slammed Hoyle on everything from the Garden Parkway vote to allegations he cut teachers' bonuses and wasted tax money.
Hoyle said he was hurt by the negative ads, but “I knew it was going to be ugly.”
“I'm their (GOP) number one target,” he said. “I'm the one they'd like to get the most.”
As senior chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Hoyle has considerable power and influence. He wants to continue using his experience and knowledge of the system to benefit Gaston County, he said, citing what he termed a major role in bringing Dole Foods and National Gypsum to the county.
Bringing in more jobs is a top priority, he said, along with providing more resources for public education, particularly reading programs for children.
On the Garden Parkway vote, Hoyle said, he made all the required disclosures and still doesn't know which of several proposed routes the road will take. “I've broken no laws,” he said. “I've got nothing to hide.”
Hoyle admitted he's facing his toughest challenge in years, but said “I'll never quit.”
“I'm a fighter,” he said. “I'm in this to win. I think the truth will prevail.”
Harrington, who is a Realtor, said she was approached by the GOP in December about running for the Senate seat and “decided the time was right to join the race.”
She described her campaign as a grass-roots effort aimed at finding out what's on voters' minds. In February, she began going door-to-door and attending meetings and other events, listening to the concerns of the people.
For Gaston County, she said, the top issue is jobs. One of the problems in recruiting new industry is the corporate tax rate of 9 percent, she said.
“That's the highest in the Southeast,” Harrington said. “It's a disadvantage when you're trying to recruit industry.”
She would reduce the corporate tax rate and eliminate the transfer of money from the highway trust fund to the general operating budget. Gaston County ranks 99 among the 100 counties in road funding, Harrington said. She thinks the formula needs to be changed, so Gaston will get its fair share.
On the Garden Parkway issue, she said, “We need to stop and go back over the entire process – morally, truthfully and above-board. We need full disclosure.”
Harrington said Hoyle is ineffective and out of touch with voters.
“People are upset he's used his power to place votes that will benefit him financially,” she said. “They feel like their voices don't matter.
If elected, Harrington said, she'll “work as hard as I can and be a voice for the people.”