Davis will be next senator in District 5
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 5, 2008 1:46 PM
Don Davis speaks to his supporters Tuesday night in Snow Hill, joined by his family, wife Shawnte Davis, right, and sons Justin and Ryan as the margin of votes between himself and Louis Pate in the District 5 Senate race seemed wide enough to declare a victory in Davis' favor.
For the first time in long memory, Wayne County will not have a senator in the state General Assembly come January after Snow Hill Mayor Don Davis beat out state Rep. Louis Pate for the District 5 seat.
Claiming the seat that will soon be vacated by the retiring Sen. John Kerr, D-Wayne, Davis, a Democrat, won all three of the district's counties -- Wayne, Greene and Pitt -- by a 4,000-vote margin.
"I'm just really pleased with our support across the district. We mobilized residents in all three counties, and we carried all three counties," he said. "I attribute the victory to a grassroots effort reaching out and taking our message to ordinary residents."
And it was a message that he described as "centered on the family" and on the real needs and concerns facing the district.
"It's not just the campaign, this is about giving a voice to average residents," Davis said.
And he reassured residents again that Wayne County should not fear the loss of its senator.
Pointing to his support locally, where he won more than 54 percent of the vote, and to the fact that he has family ties to the area, he emphasized that he plans to be a senator for the whole district.
"I commend Sen. Kerr for his legacy, and the legacy of Henson Barnes ... (and others). They were some great leaders, and I am committed to doing everything I can to lead us into our future," he said.
That means, he explained, being the senator for everyone, not just one county or one group of people.
"We'll look at ways to collaborate with each other (the three counties) and draw strength from each other," he said. "And I want to reach out to Republicans and work for the people."
But he acknowledged the tough road ahead, specifically in terms of education, job creation and the economy.
"There are going to be some challenges," Davis said. "But I'm up to it."
And he is not planning on resting on his victory. With slightly more than two months to go before the opening of the 2009 session of the General Assembly, he is planning to begin work immediately.
"The most important step now is two-fold," he said. "One, I'm going to meet with Sen. Kerr to begin mapping out a transition. We don't want to lose anything.
"And two, I'm going to have to resign (as mayor) at some point and manage that transition."
For Pate, however, the next two months will be slightly more bitter as he finishes out his fourth term in the state House. It is a seat he gave up when he decided to attempt to replace Kerr, and he will be replaced by Republican Wayne County Commissioner Efton Sager.
"He just got more votes than I did. He had an organized campaign and he apparently got out and worked hard. He had a good turnout," Pate said.
He does not, however, regret the decision to seek the higher office.
"In looking at the results this morning, you always wonder about what might have been, but I was recruited to run for this seat because it looked like a winnable seat for the (Republican) party," he said. "I'm sorry I'm not going to be the standard bearer, but I gave it my best. It just looked like we were swimming uphill against the national results. I don't have any regrets."
And Pate believes that it was, in large part, those national and statewide returns that hurt him.
"I think at the national and state level the party suffered," he said. "There were a lot of voters who came out who hadn't been politically active before. I think that was the telling point and I think the national level had a lot to do with that."
But, after congratulating Davis Tuesday night, he said he "hope the people of District 5 will demand that we reduce our spending on the state level."
"I believe they're looking at a $2 billion shortfall, and I hope the right solutions will be found for that," he said.
He also said that he's hopeful that Davis will indeed represent Wayne County as fairly as he does the others.
And as for himself now, he said, he is not sure what his future in politics will be, whether he will run again or not.
"That's awfully far in the future right now," he said.
Overall, Davis won 55.11 percent of the vote (22,025), while Pate claimed 44.89 percent (17,940).
In Wayne, Davis took 54.62 percent of the vote (17,452), compared to Pate's 45.38 percent (14,502). In Pitt, Davis won 50.45 percent (18,543), while Pate took 49.55 percent (18,211). And in Greene, Davis held 57.08 percent (4,573), and Pate received 42.92 percent (3,438).
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