RALEIGH – The headlines are almost always assigned as ‘Senate Leader Phil Berger,’ but there are other powerful forces within the relatively quiet chamber of the N.C Senate. Freshly elected Senate Majority Leader, long time Senator Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston), has a reputation of speaking little, listening a lot, and getting things done.
The Carolina Journal profiled Harrington, the first woman majority leader in the Senate (a distinction she rolls her eyes at), helping North Carolinians get to know this low key leader a bit more.
And, by the testimony of her peers and colleagues, she’s worth getting to know.
“Harrington has risen to the highest ranks in this culture. She is reserved with the press — but not with her constituents. She is famously private, but she admits her favorite part of politics is campaigning. She is also a devout Catholic. She used to sprinkle holy water on political consultant Jim Blaine’s desk, calling him the “Devil.” Blaine declines to say how he earned that nickname.
“She strongly adheres to the very wise political maxim that the closed mouth swallows no flies,” said Blaine, who now runs a political consulting firm. “She says little, but she listens carefully. She pays attention, and she files it away for later. Kathy does not forget.” […]
“It never works very well to bully her,” Blaine said. “She has a Margaret Thatcher-esque quality about her. She’s very tough. The first thing she wants to do is something people tell her she can’t do.”
The marble floors of the legislature are murder on the knees. Harrington had walked them almost a decade, and her knees were shot. One day she limped into Sen. Bill Rabon’s office, wearing what he describes as the ugliest shoes he ever saw — and he told her so, “old lady.”
She stalked back to her office, donned high heels, and threw the offending shoes on his desk.
“She said, ‘I’ll suffer the pain before I’ll suffer the humiliation,” Rabon, R-Brunswick, said. “I have them hanging on my wall. I say, ‘See that? Don’t mess with her. She’s tough.’” […]”
You’ll want to read more about Harrington, her rise, and her key role in the N.C. Senate here.