Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, resigned from the North Carolina General Assembly in an Aug. 4 letter to N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory.
Goolsby’s spokesperson Dee Stewart said it is hoped with Goolsby’s early resignation that the governor will appoint Michael Lee to Goolsby’s unexpired term, giving Lee a leg up in the upcoming election. Sam Ibrahim, New Hanover County GOP chairman, said during an Aug. 6 phone interview, an executive committee of almost 100 members will gather Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. to name Goolsby’s successor. Only members from District 9 can participate. The discussion is closed to the public. Lee is the Republican candidate running opposite Democrat Elizabeth Redenbaugh for Goolsby’s seat.
Redenbaugh, who declared her candidacy for the District 9 seat in January, said Goolsby’s resignation was unexpected.
“I was completely shocked … to hear that an elected official would not fulfill their term that they were elected to serve,” Redenbaugh said during an Aug. 5 phone interview.
The tactic has worked in the past. Former Rep. Danny McComas, R-New Hanover, also vacated his seat early, during his ninth term, to make way for former New Hanover County Commissioners Chairman Ted Davis Jr. who was elected to his first term in 2012.
But Redenbaugh said her campaign viewed Goolsby’s resignation as a cheap political stunt to seat her opponent, Lee.
“Our voters deserve so much better,” she said. “This is a game the Republicans have played before. It’s clearly a manipulation of the political process. This happened in 2004 when Patrick Ballantine stepped down for the seat and Woody White was appointed to it. He ran against Democrat Julia Boseman and was later defeated that November.”
Of the difference in the political climate 10 years ago, Redenbaugh said, “Our political process is much more polarized. The GOP is clearly less popular. They have been treating our citizens of North Carolina without the dignity, value and respect that they deserve. They have slashed half a billion dollars from public schools that really put in jeopardy our public education system, which is the foundation of our state. I think people are waking up to that and realizing we need a real change.”
In addition, Redenbaugh said she felt the move to unseat Goolsby and appoint Lee was motivated by fear on the part of the GOP.
“They, I think, saw the writing on the wall,” she continued. “This race is a statistical dead heat, however I have the edge there and I think they saw that in their poll results as we have seen that in ours.”
The Redenbaugh campaign released its poll results Aug. 5. Conducted by Myers Research and Strategic Services, it shows Redenbaugh with a 47 percent share of 400 voters polled to Lee’s 44 percent.
With the N.C. Senate meeting next week, it’s possible the Republican Party could feasibly nominate Lee for the District 9 seat followed by a swift appointment from Gov. McCrory.
“If [Lee] has an opportunity to get to Raleigh, then he certainly gets a shot at having his name in the news and being a part of that process,” Redenbaugh said. “I’m assuming that’s part of their strategy.”
Goolsby served two terms. Earlier this year he announced he would not seek reelection to spend more time with his family in Wilmington. He timed his departure with the adjournment of the General Assembly’s short session. Stewart confirmed Goolsby will step away from the political arena while remaining a member of the Governor’s Crime Commission.
“I pledged to be the Jobs Senator and I have been the Jobs Senator,” Goolsby wrote in his resignation letter. “I’m proud of the conservative fiscal reforms I have helped enact during my tenure. These policies have gotten our local economy moving again. Since the day I was sworn into office, New Hanover County’s unemployment rate has dropped dramatically, from 10.3 to 5.8 percent.”
Redenbaugh, who supports the film industry and North Carolina companies that she said deserve the first chance to bid on state contracts, said she did not know what Goolsby had specifically done to create jobs during his tenure.
“Any improvement in our economy I don’t think you can link to Senator Goolsby,” Redenbaugh said. “What you can link to this GOP, or the GOP controlled legislature, is they’ve taken the motto on our state license plate, First in Flight, and given it new meaning. You have so many teachers, for example, that are leaving the state to find better paying jobs. You have so many people leaving our state for a better life elsewhere, and that includes the film industry, that are going to places like Georgia and Louisiana.”
Michael Lee’s spokesperson, Robert Andrews, said in an Aug. 5 email, “Michael is out of town right now with his family. He won’t be available until next week.”