10/22/06 — Pate, Griffin battle for District 11 seat

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Pate, Griffin battle for District 11 seat

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on October 22, 2006 2:09 AM

Ronnie Griffin said he is running for the District 11 seat in the state House because district residents need more effective leadership.

Griffin, a Democrat, former Marine and retired National Guard general, pointed to incumbent Rep. Louis Pate's effectiveness ranking and said Wayne residents deserve better. Pate, a Republican, was rated in the bottom half of the House membership by the North Carolina Independent Public Policy Research Group

"I believe the citizens of Wayne County deserve strong, effective leadership in the North Carolina House," said Griffin, who has never held public office.

Pate, a Republican seeking his fourth term, defended his record and said he concentrates on the issues the voters in Wayne County are most interested in.

"It's an honor to serve the people. When I cast a vote, I try to discern what's best for about 68,000 people. It's the feeling you get from that. It's an honor," Pate said.

The district includes the northern and western sections of Wayne County.

Pate noted his strong support of the military and said the legislature needs to continue to make North Carolina the most-military friendly state. A former Air Force officer, Pate served as mayor of Mount Olive and said his understanding of local government issues also helps make him an effective representative in Raleigh.

Pate said that if re-elected he would continue to push for tax breaks for military personnel stationed in the state. Legislation that would have provided more tax benefits for the military failed to get approval in the recent session, Pate said. He said he would work to see that it is approved in the next session.

Griffin also said he would be a strong supporter of the military's presence in the state.

If a person is disabled while in service for his country, Griffin said that person should be exempt from property taxes. Veterans' homes and their transportation is specialized for them, which causes the property value to increase. Many of those veterans have a hard time living day to day and shouldn't be expected to pay more, he added.

Griffin said he has been disappointed by some of the Democratic leadership in Raleigh in the wake of scandals involving House Speaker Jim Black and the handling of the state lottery. He said if elected, he would not vote for Black to remain as Speaker. In fact, he said, he believes there should be limits on how long any legislator can serve as Speaker.

Griffin said immigration is an issue that legislators should tackle head-on. Federal authorities have done little to stem the tide of illegal immigrants and the states need to step up and do something, he said.

"Congress has failed us on this issue. If they don't deal with it in the next session, states like North Carolina are going to have to deal with the issue the best they can," he said.

Both candidates said improving the infrastructure of eastern North Carolina is crucial to its continued development.

Pate, who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Expanding Rail Service, said railroad lines could play a large part in the future of the state's economy and transportation needs -- especially in the East.

"Our two ports only have 2 percent of the East Coast's shipping. We could do better than that with a better infrastructure. We could create more jobs -- thousands of jobs -- for North Carolina," he said.

The state approved two railroad routes for transportation, one of which runs through Goldsboro. If the city revamps its Union Station, Pate said he believes the state Department of Transport-ation would begin to pay more attention to the area.

Highway and secondary road transportation is also important for the growth of the state. Pate said if he had say over the legislature's recent $2.4 billion surplus, he would have paved secondary roads, fixed major thoroughfares and expanded the state's rail system. And he would have worked with private companies to provide broadband Internet access to as many residents as possible.

Adequate water and sewer lines across District 11 are a crucial need for every resident, Pate said. Whether the money comes through a state bond or other means, more lines should be added because eastern North Carolina rests on a high water table.

"We'll need to push away from septic tanks and create more lines," Pate said. "It'll be a huge expense, but maybe through a bond or federal funding we can work on that."

Griffin also said that lawmakers need to focus on infrastructure improvements.

"The only way eastern North Carolina can increase jobs is to build a better infrastructure. We needs better roads, sewer, water and four-lane highways for businesses and their transportation," he said.

If eastern North Carolina legislators can't work together to improve the region, other areas in the state will continue to improve while residents in the eastern part of the state continue to lag behind, Griffin said.

Griffin said he would have used the state's $2.4 billion surplus this year to shore up the education system for the state's children.

He said he would first create incentives for more students and teachers to study science and mathematics. Instead of North Carolina students competing with other state's students, many are now competing with international students who have degrees in science and engineering, Griffin noted.

He also suggested that some of the surplus could have been used to create a technical high school program to teach students carpentry, automobile mechanics, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics. Students could take these courses at a local community college while in high school and graduate ready to work in a technical field. If students want to further their education after high school, they could do so, he added.

"I think we need a way to produce more machinists, carpenters, mechanics and jobs in other technical fields," Griffin said. "We assume everyone is going to college and that's not the way it is anymore."

Griffin said he is not interested in a political career and that his only aspiration is to help get the state moving in the right direction.

"I'm not indebted to anyone. I haven't received any money from the Democratic Party," he said. "I want to be able to go to Raleigh and serve the people of Wayne County and do what's best for them. I want them to know they have a representative there with the integrity and character they deserve. I promise I'll be effective for the citizens of Wayne County."

If given the opportunity to return to the capitol, Pate said we would work to see that state government is run more efficiently and legislators stop wasting the taxpayers' money.

"We need to look at where the money goes and make sure it serves its purpose. We need to continually do that," Pate said.

There are several polls that annually judge legislators' effectiveness, but Pate said there is only one that he pays attention to -- the voters.

"I think North Carolina is at a place where we can feel the growth. Now people are demanding services and we have to be ready to provide that for them," Pate said.