RALEIGH – While Republicans scrambled to override Governor Roy Cooper’s budget veto during a sliver of opportunity, two Democratic senators got into an argument so heated that they had to be separated, police reports were taken, and ethics complaints have been filed.
It was September 11, 2019, and the biggest drama in this pre-coronavirus world was the Governor’s refusal to sign the budget without Medicaid expansion included, and Republican’s clever attempts to override his veto. Or so we thought.
Something else noteworthy happened that day, when an argument between Democrat senators blew up, a reporter filmed Sen. Paul Lowe (D- Forsyth) being led out of a committee room, and then Lowe grabbed said reporter’s phone and chucked it across the room.
Many wondered what, exactly, transpired inside that room that led to Senator Lowe’s clearly aggravated loss of self-control. After an ethics complaint, and a public information request by the N&O and ProPublica, now we know that before Lowe chucked a reporter’s phone across the room, he got into a hostile shouting argument with Sen. Erica Smith (D-Northampton) that became so heated another senator had to break them up, and Lowe’s behavior was so aggressive that a police officer determined a simple assault had taken place inside that room.
Wow. And here we thought the biggest deal was Democrats’ lie that they were all at a 9/11 Memorial service when Republicans called the veto override vote.
From the N&O:
“[…] The documents were part of an investigation of an ethics complaint filed in late April by Sen. Erica Smith, a Democrat representing Eastern North Carolina. In the complaint, she accused lawmakers of bullying, sexual comments and verbal insults, and asked for expulsion from the Senate for two of them.
Smith said she has been trying to get recourse for years.
She said that other senators have been quiet as she has been bullied and disrespected. […]
Before the committee’s decision, The News & Observer and ProPublica obtained documents associated with the complaint — including a report summary written by a General Assembly Police Department officer and witness statements taken by police.
[…] Democratic senators met in caucus in the Legislative Building, and Smith and Lowe began arguing loudly.
Sen. Sam Searcy’s witness statement, which was obtained by The News & Observer, describes a “verbal dispute” between Lowe and Smith.
“Senator Lowe initiated the argument by making a statement directed towards Senator Smith. Senator Smith did not like the comment made and responded to Senator Lowe. A hostile, verbal back [and] forth between the two Senators ensued,” Searcy’s statement said.
Lowe approached Smith, according to the police report summary.
Searcy intervened. His statement says that he “felt the need to step in between both Senator Lowe and Sen Smith, fearing the possibility of a physical assault. I have witnessed Senator Lowe use profane and hostile language to Senator Smith and others before.”
In his report summary, the investigating officer, Lt. Francisco Flores Jr., said, “Although no physical contact took place, it is my understanding that Senator Smith feared for her safety, thus changing her course of action due to the behavior of Senator Lowe.” Then-Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. and Sen. Jay Chaudhuri led Lowe out of the room.
The result, the officer said: “a simple assault did occur.” […]”
Apparently these two senators have hostile history going back years. Searcy also reports that once in 2019 on the Senate Floor he heard Lowe tell Smith, “F*** You and F*** Cooper too!”
Furthering adding to the intrigue, is that these two senators are Christian ministers. And there is a lot more to the story, both concerning Lowe, and complaints Smith made against other lawmakers. You can find it all here.