End of Session Legislative Breakfast

State Sen. Louis Pate comments during the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce’s August legislative breakfast. Pate missed all seven votes during the recent legislative short session, leading to speculation about his health and ability to serve.

District 7 state Sen. Louis Pate of Mount Olive says that an unspecified health condition has forced him to curtail his re-election campaign.

Pate, 82, a Republican, has also announced that this will be his final campaign.

Senate President Phil Berger’s office provided the Messenger with an advance copy of a letter that Pate will be sending out to voters in Wayne and Lenoir counties in which he talks about his health and campaign.

He and Berger also are accusing unnamed political opponents of spreading rumors about Pate’s health and campaign status for political gain.

However, David Brantley, Pate’s Democratic opponent in the Nov. 6 election, blames the Republicans for causing the problem by trying to hide information from voters that they should be aware of before going to the polls.

Pate missed all seven votes during the special legislative session called by Gov. Roy Cooper earlier this month to address the Hurricane Florence disaster.

The missed votes include four dealing with the state’s Hurricane Florence disaster relief package.

A Republican, Pate had excused absences for the missed votes, according to the General Assembly website.

An excused absence is simply being absent with the permission of the body or the presiding officer.

Pate, who served as deputy president pro tempore during the 2017-2018 session, is seeking his fifth term in the Senate.

The missed votes have led some to question why Pate failed to vote on such important legislation for his district.

Pate’s Raleigh office was called for comment about his health and campaign status and was asked to have Pate return the call.

A call also was placed to Pate’s home, but it went straight to voicemail.

Pate did not return the call to his office or home.

Rather, Pat Ryan, who identified himself as being a part of Berger’s press team, returned the call.

Ryan said he was following up on the Messenger questions posed to Pate’s staff.

Similar questions concerning Pate, his absence during the special session, his health and campaign have been asked by other reporters, Ryan said.

He said Pate will send out a letter addressing what Pate calls some “terribly mean-spirited rumors” his political opponents are spreading about his health and campaign.

“First, I am not dead — not even close,” Pate writes in the letter. “As many of us know, getting old isn’t always easy or fun. I have recently been diagnosed with a condition that has kept me from getting out on the campaign trail as much as I usually do.

“I’m currently recovering and we hope you — unlike my political opponents — understand and respect our desire to keep some of the specifics of my health private.”

Berger’s office did not respond to a follow-up question as to what Pate’s unspecified health problem is.

Pate also says in the letter that this will be his final campaign.

“But if you choose to elect me again I look forward to being sworn in to a final term in the state Senate,” he writes. “Finally, thank you. Whether you’ve voted for me or my opponent has never mattered to me, I’ve worked hard to faithfully represent everyone.

“I want you to know it has been the honor of my lifetime for the citizens of Wayne and Lenoir counties to trust me to serve in the state Senate.”

Berger also commented on the rumors.

“I’m looking forward to visiting Louis and Joyce this weekend,” he said. “Louis is recovering well, and I am confident he will be re-elected. I understand Louis is a proud man and doesn’t like people seeing him when he is at anything less than 100 percent physically.

“I hate that some people are spreading rumors about his health seemingly for political reasons, and I pray people will respect his request for privacy as he completes his recovery.”

Brantley said he has no idea what Pate and Berger are talking about as far as spreading rumors or doing anything for political gain.

“The only issue was created by them in the sense that (Pate’s) not been responding to any public forums,” Brantley said. “He has not voted on either of the legislative special session votes for hurricane relief that seriously affected Lenoir County and Wayne County.

“The only speculation that arose from that was why would he not be present? Maybe he has a health problem. But that was the extent of it — people saying, ‘We have not seen him. We do not know where he is. He is not responding to anything.’”

Leaving those things open invites speculation, he said.

“It sounds like to me that they are going on the offense when in fact is they created the problem by just going dark or going silent, not discussing anything and then missing those votes,” Brantley said. “They just created the possibility that there may be a problem.”

If Pate does have a health issue, Brantley said he thinks voters have a right to know and to know how it might affect his ability to carry out his duties in the senate.

Pate currently serves as chairman of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services and co-chairman of the Appropriations on Health and Human Services Committee and Health Care Committee.