News: CJ Exclusives

Redrawn SD 7 pits veteran lawmaker Pate against retired judge Brantley

CJ file photo
CJ file photo

Senate District 7 (Lenoir and Wayne counties).

• Louis Pate, Republican (four-term Senate incumbent, four-term House member). Occupation: Retired businessman. Education: Golden Gate University, bachelor’s degree, Master’s of Business Administration. Career highlights: Senate Deputy President Pro Tempore. Co-Chairman of Senate committees on Appropriations on Health and Human Services,  Health Care, and Rules and Operations of the Senate. Twenty-year Air Force veteran, navigated B-52 bombers in Vietnam, retired as a major. Former Mount Olive mayor and City Council member.

• David Brantley, Democrat. Occupation: Retired chief judge of District Court. Education: Wake Forest University School of Law, juris doctorate, and bachelor’s degree in history. Career highlights: Clerk of Superior Court. Attorney in private practice.

Democrat David Brantley wants to unseat longtime incumbent Republican Sen. Louis Pate, and flip Senate District 7 from red to blue in a contentious race.

The nonpartisan North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation, which closely tracks state elections and voter behavior patterns, rates the district competitive.

Nov. 6 will be the first general election with a redesigned district. Formerly it incorporated most of Lenoir and Wayne counties, and a substantial portion of Pitt County. It now covers all of Wayne and Lenoir counties, but no longer includes Pitt County precincts. The shape was changed in 2017 to comply with a federal court order that said 28 House and Senate districts were unconstitutional because they relied too heavily on race when drawing them.

Pate, 82, is a Mount Olive native. He has not been visible on the campaign trail, and his campaign websites have not been updated.

Attempts to schedule an interview with Pate were not successful. In a recent letter to his constituents he wrote:

“We want to address some terribly mean-spirited rumors my political opponents are spreading about my health and my campaign. First, I am not dead — not even close. 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.

“The realities of age mean this will be my last 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 stated.

Pate, co-chairman of the Senate Health Care Committee, was instrumental in state Medicaid reform, helping to steer changes that led to four straight years of budget surpluses after four years of cost overruns totaling $2 billion.

“We needed to do something to rein in the out-of-control costs that were eating into other critical programs,” Pate said in a Sept. 25 press release.

Pate, a veteran, has been an advocate for military and health care issues in the Senate. In the current two-year session he sponsored bills to increase health care access, including one to expand nurses’ medical scope of practice, and another to set standards for greater use of telemedicine.

Born in Pine Level in Johnston County, Brantley, 66, stepped into the race after Wayne County Democratic Party Chairwoman Barbara Dantonio withdrew her candidacy in mid-July.

The former District Court judge addressed Pate’s campaign absence on Facebook, saying “it answers some of the questions I have been asked about my opponent’s whereabouts. Now we know why he has not been actively campaigning, but instead has been relying on years-old television commercials and deceptive and untrue attack ads sent by the NC Senate Majority Fund.”

After canceling an interview with Carolina Journal, Brantley answered some questions via his campaign’s Facebook messenger page.

“My top priority is fully funding schools including putting aides back in early grades,” Brantley said. “Lower reading scores are [a] direct result of this short [sighted] move to eliminate aides. I am not a fan of charter schools because they siphon too much from traditional schools.”

Brantley said he opposes all six proposed constitutional amendments that are on the ballot because “they are vague, misleading and unnecessary.”

He has been quoted elsewhere as supporting a nonpartisan, independent redistricting commission to end gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts. He said he wants to increase access to health care by expanding Medicaid.