06/03/04 — Wayne's state legistlative influence waning

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Wayne's state legistlative influence waning

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on June 3, 2004 2:01 PM

Wayne County has lost influence in the N.C. General Assembly, according to a survey of legislators, lobbyists and reporters.

N.C. Sen. John Kerr III, a Goldsboro Democrat, was the sole Wayne County representative to rank among the best at guiding bills through the Legislature and persuading fellow lawmakers to vote for them.

John Kerr


The survey by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research ranked Kerr the fifth most influential member of the N.C. Senate. It was Kerr's highest ranking in the 18 years he's been in the Legislature.

But no other local representative ranked even in the top half of their body.

N.C. Sen. Fred Smith, a Johnston County Republican in his first term, was ranked 30th in the 50-member Senate.

N.C. Sen. Tony Moore of Pitt County, who is challenging Kerr this year, was rated 49th.

N.C. Rep. Stephen LaRoque was rated 62nd in the House.

N.C. Rep. Larry M. Bell was 72nd and N.C. Rep. Louis Pate was 91st among the House's 120 members.

LaRoque, of Kinston, and Pate, of Mount Olive, are both Republicans who weren't in the General Assembly in 2002, the last time the survey was conducted. Coincidentally, Pate was rated 91st in 1995, the only survey during Pate's 1994-96 House term.

Bell, a Democrat from Sampson County, improved his standing from the 2002 survey when he was rated 90th.

In contrast, the man Pate replaced, Phil Baddour Jr. of Goldsboro, was ranked the fourth most influential House member in 2002. Baddour, a Democrat, was one of a string of powerful House members from Wayne County, including Carolyn Russell of Goldsboro, a Republican who was ranked in the top 10 in the 1990s.

Representing Duplin County, Sen. Charles Albertson was rated the 16th most effective member of the Senate this year, which is nearly his best rating in 16 years in the Legislature.

Every two years, the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research, an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that studies issues facing North Carolina, surveys legislators, lobbyists, capital correspondents every two years.

The polls asks respondents to rate legislators based on their participation in committee work, their skill in guiding bills through the legislative process, the respect they receive from fellow legislators, perceived power, and overall aptitude, among other factors.

Attendance rated

This year was only the second time that the center has also tracked each legislator's overall attendance and how often they missed votes.

Kerr had one of the better attendance rankings in the Senate, missing only one full day and two partial days of the 109 days the Senate was in session last year. He was in the Senate chambers more than 97 percent of the time when it was in session.

He voted 952 times out of a total 975 opportunities, for almost 98 percent participation.

Smith was close behind. He missed parts or all of four days, for a 96 percent attendance mark. But he cast a vote 996 times in 999 roll calls.

Albertson was absent six full days and missed part of another. He only missed one of 946 opportunities to vote.

Moore missed all or parts of eight days but only two of 978 chances to vote.

Among local representatives, Bell had the best attendance record in the N.C. House. He missed one day and part of another during the House's 107-day session, for better than 98 percent attendance. Bell passed up the chance to vote 28 times in 1,099 roll calls.

Pate missed four days completely, or around 96 percent attendance. He voted 1,172 times in 1,182 opportunities.

LaRoque missed all or parts of five days. He did cast 1,100 votes in 1,104 roll calls.