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Pate and Hise named to health care committees

Seators Louis Pate of Wayne and Ralph Hise of Mitchell have been named co-chairs of the Senate Health Care Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Servces.

The committee will have jurisdiction over public health, health care, Medicaid, and other health issues.

"Rapidly growing health care costs are taking an ever-larger chunck of money out of North Carolinians' wallets and oru state budget," said Senate leader Phil Berger. "Sen Pate and Sen. Hise are the right leaders to promoe the free market solutions our health care system needs in order to create a thriving economy.''

Senate encourages Cinco de Mayo celebrations

The state Senate unanimously adopted a resolution that encouraged Cinco de Mayo celebrations, noting growth of the state's Hispanic population and "the benefits from a vibrant Hispanic and Latino community."

Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville gave a history of Cinco de Mayo, mentioning that the resolution's sponosor, Sen. Louis Pate of Mount Olive, received some critical emails from "certain bigoted groups that do not understand what it means in Mexico - that do not understand the significance of this day."

Apodaca thanked Pate for filing the resolution. Pate didn't talk.

At the end of the session, a trio of Republican senators gave Apodaca a few gift-shop finds, including mini Mexican flags, a straw sombrero, and a red pepper-shaped pinata.

New Republican state Senate health care chairmen

State Sens. Harris Blake, Louis Pate, and Stan Bingham will lead their chamber's Health Care Committee when the legislative session starts, incoming Senate leader Phil Berger announced today.

Blake is from Moore County, Pate from Wayne, and Bingham from Davidson.

They will also be co-chairmen of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Important issues await the new chairmen.

The state will be looking to curb spending on Medicaid as it tries to fill a $3.7 billion budget hole. Republicans have also promised to pass a law exempting the state from provisions of the new federal health care law.

Who's your granddaddy?

Louis Pate, Republican candidate for state Senate in Wayne, Greene and Pitt counties, recruited his cute granddaughters to be in his campaign ad. Watch for the clever ending.

Davis says he does not believe lawmakers are above the law

State Sen. Don Davis has issued a statement clarifying his objections to a traffic stop that he said made him late for a meeting at the legislature.

Davis, a Snow Hill Democrat, was stopped for speeding in Zebulon on March 31. He complained to the town about the length of the traffic stop and wondered to reporter Johnny Whitfield whether there was a law that would exempt lawmakers on their way to do public business from such delays.

That question raised plenty of eyebrows in the North Carolina political scene. Louis Pate of Mount Olive, a Republican running for Davis' seat launched an attack on Davis, accusing the senator of believing he was above the law.

Today, Davis issued a statement. 

I do not believe that legislators are above the law or should be exempt from speeding laws. I take my work seriously, and was too focused on getting in to my committee meeting that day. The apparent confusion during the traffic stop arose from the amount of time it took to issue the citation. Certainly, I would have accepted the citation if it was offered to me sooner. In spite of any confusion on my part, I commend Officer Thomas and Lt. Grossman for their professionalism.

As a former mayor and now a state senator, I have a great deal of respect for our law enforcement community, and believe that it is important for everyone including myself to obey the law. I plan to pay this citation, and have never had plans of introducing legislation to exempt lawmakers from speeding laws.

Pate wants another chance

Former Republican state House member Louis Pate wants a rematch.

Pate, a former mayor of Mount Olive who served eight years in the House, has announced he is running for the Senate seat held by Democrat Don Davis, Lynn Bonner reports.

Davis beat Pate for the seat last year by 6 percentage points in the campaign to replace longtime office-holder John Kerr. The district that includes Pitt, Wayne and Greene counties.

Pate said the outcome could be different next year when Davis won't get a boost from President Barack Obama.

Crowd is gathered for Palin in Greenville

It's after 6 p.m. and the Gov. Sarah Palin show just got under way. It was supposed to begin about 20 minutes ago, but political events often run late.

But the arena in Greenville is looking not-quite-full, with plenty more space left on the floor around the podium, Barb Barrett reports.

The traveling press hasn't yet arrived, but most of the local press are here, including about a dozen satellite TV trucks outside.

Audience members are still arriving, wearing McCain/Palin t-shirts, hauling official campaign signs, waving gold-and-purple ECU Pirate pom-poms and sporting all kinds of stickers. There are some "handmade" signs too, those sketched out by volunteers last night and with sayings such as "Palin Nation."

The press has been cordoned off from audience members, so interviews with Palin fans aren't possible now.

The teleprompters have been set up for Palin's speech.

On the agenda tonight are brief speeches by State Senate candidates Jean Preston and Louis Pate, gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who is running for re-election. According to the schedule, she's on just before Palin and has 45 minutes.

That could just be cushion for the big event — Palin is scheduled to go on at 7:05 p.m., introduced by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

Donnan beats Brooks in labor runoff

Mary Fant DonnanMary Fant Donnan won by a two-to-one margin.

The Winson-Salem Democrat sewed up the nomination for labor commissioner in a runoff primary held today.

With all 100 counties reporting, Donnan has 43,217 votes, or 68 percent. Former labor commissioner John C. Brooks has 20,445, or 32 percent. She now faces incumbent Republican Cherie Berry in November.

Turnout was a paltry 1.9 percent.

In a runoff for the Democratic nomination in state Senate District 5, Don Davis beat Kathy Taft, 63 percent to 37 percent. The seat is currently held by retiring Democratic Sen. John Kerr III.

Davis, the mayor of Snow Hill, had slightly edged Taft, a member of the State Board of Education, in a six-way race in the May primary, but failed to garner a majority. He now faces four-term Rep. Louis Pate, a Wayne County Republican.

And in a runoff for the Republican nomination in state House District 67, Justin Burr defeated Rep. Ken Furr, 58 to 42 percent. Burr had slightly edged Furr in a three-way race on May 6.

Furr was appointed to the seat in August of 2007 after former Rep. David Almond resigned. Burr faces no opposition in November.

The GOP's Senate Top Nine

Republicans have high hopes in nine state Senate races.

Jim Blaine, director of the N.C. Senate Republican Committee, gave Dome a breakdown of the races he thinks the GOP will do well in, based on the filings so far.

Fifth: Rep. Louis Pate Jr., a Republican, faces the winner of a five-way Democratic primary for the open seat of retiring Democratic Sen. John Kerr.

Eighth: Former Wilmington Star-News reporter Bettie Fennell, a Republican, faces Democratic Sen. R.C. Soles Jr. in a district that is changing demographically.

Ninth: Wilmington attorney Michael Lee, a Republican, has filed to run against Democratic Sen. Julia Boseman, who has not yet filed for re-election.

24th: Commercial real estate broker Rick Gunn Jr., a Republican, squares off against Democratic Sen. Tony Foriest.

43rd: Realtor Kathy Harrington, wife of former Rep. Michael Harrington, faces Democratic Sen. David Hoyle in a district that leans Republican.

45th: Boone dentist Jerry Butler has signed up to face Democratic Sen. Steve Goss. Other Republicans may file in this race as well.

46th: State Rep. Debbie Clary, a Republican, faces either Phil Clark or Keith Melton for the seat of Democratic Sen. Walter Dalton, who is running for lieutenant governor.

47th: Former state Sen. Keith Presnell, a Republican, faces Democratic Sen. Joe Sam Queen in a seemingly never-ending grudge match.

50th: Republican Susan C. Pons, who works at a Christian training center, faces Democratic Sen. John Snow.

Smith's campaign contributions

Fred Smith has given $49,090 to Republican candidates and groups in the past 10 years.

According to a quick review of campaign contributions listed on Open Secrets and Follow the Money, the Republican gubernatorial candidate has been pretty generous.

As with Pat McCrory's donations, the biggest beneficiary was the state party. Between 1999 and 2007, Smith gave the party's executive committee $41,548. He's also donated $1,000 to the Republican National Committee.

The top candidate was Tony Moore, who received $4,000 for a state Senate bid in 2004.

He also gave $1,000 to Patrick Ballantine's unsuccessful bid for governor that year. And in a donation he may have come to regret, he gave $406 to Bob Orr's Supreme Court campaign in 2002.

Orr is now running against Smith for the GOP nomination for governor.

A complete list after the jump.

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