Mooresville attorney George Rouco, the son of Cuban immigrants and a former CIA officer, announced Thursday that he’ll run against U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger in next spring’s Republican primary to represent the state’s 9th Congressional District.
Rouco, 40, said he considered running for North Carolina attorney general, but had growing concerns over national security and felt his CIA experience made him better suited to run for federal office.
“With the threat of ISIS growing, the resurgence of Russia and the Chinese hacking into the Office of Personnel Management, our national security is getting worse,” he said. “I believe the district is being underserved by the incumbent.
“All we get from Washington is that we continue to push issues further and further down the road.”
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It’s Rouco’s first run for elected office, but he’s been involved with other Republican campaigns.
Rouco said he decided to run against Pittenger weeks before news that the FBI was investigating the congressman’s former land investment company now owned and run by his wife.
Pittenger has said he and his former company did nothing wrong. He said the House Ethics Committee approved the sale of Pittenger Land Investments to his wife after he was elected to Congress in 2012. He’s refused to release a letter from the committee showing the approval, saying it contains personal matters.
Pittenger, who is in his second term, was unavailable for comment about Rouco’s announcement. His office said he’s overseas as vice chairman of a House task force investigating financing for terrorists.
His re-election campaign released a statement: “As your congressman, I have a strong record of fiscal accountability, reducing the tax burden, and a focus on growing an opportunity economy. This year I’ve helped secure passage of the first real entitlement reform in 20 years, repealed the Death Tax, passed legislation to stop forcing Common Core on local school districts ... and helped shape the first balanced budget in a decade.”
Rouco was born in Miami, where his parents had fled to in the early 1960s after Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba.
Rouco’s parents moved the family to Matthews when he was 10. There he helped his father with the family business, D’Rouco Foods. He graduated from East Mecklenburg High and went to East Carolina University. After law school at UNC Chapel Hill, he was a CIA officer for five years.
He and his wife Faith, a veterinarian, moved to her hometown of Mooresville after their son was born with a congenital heart defect and underwent open heart surgery.
“I feel like qualifications for Congress shouldn’t be based on someone’s net worth,” Rouco said. “It should be based on someone’s ability and skill sets to answer the issues at hand. I love this state and the district that gave my family the opportunity to succeed.”