12/27/07 — Pate ponders run for Kerr's seat in Senate

View Archive

Pate ponders run for Kerr's seat in Senate

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 27, 2007 2:17 PM

Since state Sen. John Kerr, D-Wayne, announced his retirement plans earlier this month, five Democrats have lined up to battle for their party's nomination. Now, state Rep. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, is considering jumping in on the other side. So far, he is the only Republican to show any interest.

"I've been approached by a lot of people. Both Republicans and Democrats have asked me to run for it and I'm strongly considering that," Pate said. "I think this Senate district is a conservative district and I think my conservative credentials have been proven."

But, he continued, before he makes a decision and gives up his state House seat, he wants to make sure that he'll at least have a fighting chance at winning.

To that end, his campaign commissioned a survey by national polling company Telopinion Research to test the waters throughout Senate District 5.

"There are a number of qualified people running on the Democratic side, so I don't want to jump right into the middle of things without knowing where I'm going," Pate said. "I had heard some rumors about Sen. Kerr not running again a few months ago, and I'd been doing some contemplating about it when my advisor said that maybe we'd want to take a poll."

So, he explained, Telopinion polled a representative sample of the district and now he's waiting for the final results. He hopes to make a decision within a few days.

"We're still in the decision-making process, but from the preliminaries, it's beginning to look more and more positive," he said.

He explained that he's interested in the Senate seat primarily because of its wider reach.

"It's a chance to serve more people. My district is just Wayne County, but the senate district is part of Wayne -- most of Wayne -- and part of Pitt and all of Greene counties. It's a larger area," Pate said. 'I just feel like it would be a good move for me to make if the numbers come out all right and I hope they will.

"I think I would be a good candidate for it."

He added that he's not too concerned about the depth of the Democratic field at this point. After all, by the time of the general election, it will be one versus one.

"Both sides will get a chance to make their case to the public," he said.

He believes his legislative experience will prove to be his biggest advantage.

"I think having current legislative experience as a sitting member of the General Assembly would give me an advantage as far as knowing the current events going on in our government and in our region, and I would think that framework would bode well for my chances."

Of candidates on the Democratic side, only two have legislative experience, neither current.

Pate said that he would continue to champion the same issues in the Senate as he has in the House, including education, transportation, the military, the need to fight against illegal immigration and the need to reform the criminal justice system.

"Education is the No. 1 issue in the state," he said. "And we've got to continue to get ready for the next (base realignment and closure process). The military is very important to our economy around here."

He also said that he thinks he'll be able to bring a new perspective to the Senate on transportation issues, particularly the need for rail improvements and increased freight and passenger capacity.

"I think that's a view the Senate has not seen yet," Pate said.

He said, though, that if it was not for Kerr's retirement after more than 20 years in office, he likely would not seek the Republican nomination for the seat.

"Sen. Kerr has had a good record in the Senate and it would be good to follow him in the Senate," Pate said. "Although we did not always see eye to eye, we did work well together.

"Certainly I'm not likely to live up to his shoes, but I'd like the opportunity to try."

In the meantime, though, Pate, 71, still has to finish out his fourth term in the House.

"I've got a year to go in that seat and I fully intend to be in my seat for the short session," he said.

The short session will begin in May.

The primaries also will be in May, with the official filing period for those seats beginning in February.