Senate Democrats elected Sen. Martin Nesbitt, a racing crew chief and self-described mountain populist from Asheville, as their new majority leader today.
Nesbitt quickly tried to quell any fears – or hopes, depending on the perspective – that he would steer the Senate down a more liberal course.
"I’m changing roles now," Nesbitt said after his unanimous election. "I’ve been a warrior…I’ll still have my opinions, and I’ll express them…but at the end of the day I’ll be about trying to help this caucus get where it wants to go."
Nesbitt’s tenure in the legislature started in 1979 and was interrupted once, when he lost his House seat in 1994 during the Republican tide that year. The GOP has hopes of riding voter discontent to a similar sweep next year, and Nesbitt said the lessons learned from 15 years ago will be invaluable as he helps Democrats prepare.
"There are very few things that I’m the most qualified for," he said, "but getting us through this election is one of them."
Nesbitt, a lawyer, also runs the racing operations for his son, Mart, who races in the USAR Pro Cup series.