State Sen. Lewis Pate (R-7th) has left the General Assembly. This is not news. Pate made it clear in October that if elected to a fifth term in November it would be his last.
The problem is that the people of Wayne County, and others in the 7th District who elected Pate to that fifth term, didn’t know nor expect that the term would last only one week.
One week after taking the oath, Pate was gone. But that decision to retire did not happen overnight, or even during his one week in office for his fifth term. Pate’s announcing to make his fifth term his last came in an Oct. 20 message to Wayne County supporters.
Pate said last week he resigned due to undefined health conditions. However, these same health conditions were going on in the fall before the November election. Pate handled his debilitating health problems during the campaign and was absent from campaign events because of it.
The News-Argus reported in October that Pate did not return phone calls to his home or office when reporter Steve Herring had questions about his campaign. Ray Martin, director for the North Carolina Republican Caucus, was contacted and asked if the reporter’s questions could be emailed. The News-Argus agreed but with a stipulation that Pate respond to questions concerning his ability to perform his duties if elected. Pate did not respond to the questions. Also, in October, the newspaper reported Pate missed all seven votes during the special legislative session called by Gov. Roy Cooper to address the Hurricane Florence disaster. The missed votes included four dealing with the state’s Hurricane Florence disaster relief package. Pate received excused absences in the General Assembly for the missed votes.
If because of his poor health Pate could not respond to phone calls, and could not be present during strategic votes affecting his district, then why did he continue in the race? Simple answer, the Republicans didn’t want to lose the seat.
If Pate dropped out, Democrat David Brantley most assuredly would have won the 7th District state Senate seat. Pate staying in the race, and winning the seat, even with no intention of serving a fifth term, allowed the Republicans to select a person to replace the Mount Olive senator.
This is precisely what happened, and six GOP candidates are vying for Pate’s old job. The party is set to select the replacement on Monday.
Here’s the rub. When people are having trouble trusting the government — Republicans, Democrats, independents, it doesn’t matter — it is dirty tricks and deceptive behavior, such as replacing Pate, that creates mistrust.
In the upcoming term, voters will not have picked the person who will represent them in the 7th District. The Republican Party picking a senator for the people smells as bad as the aroma of stale cigar smoke that filled the backrooms last century where cheap politics was played out.
Pate is gone, and someone needs to replace him. But voters need to be wary when their representatives play politics and do not do what they promise. Then they must hold them — and their respective parties — accountable for their bad behavior.