Two local Republicans were sworn in Sunday as members of the N.C. General Assembly.
Norman Sanderson, who previously served in the N.C. House, became state senator of District 2 after he took the oath of office with his wife and family surrounding him; and Michael Speciale, also surrounded by his wife and family, took the pledge to represent the realigned N.C. House district seat that Sanderson is vacating.
N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby administered the oath of office at the Havelock Tourist and Events Center with about 400 people in attendance.
Among the attendees were newly elected Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, commissioners and GOP Party chairmen from Craven, Pamlico and Carteret counties, state representatives and judges.
Before the oath of office was given, Sanderson and Speciale stood near the door of the room where the ceremony was held and shook hands with everyone who arrived to help them celebrate.
So many people came they had to open another room.
Sanderson said the swearing-in ceremony in Havelock was “very special” to him, allowing him to share the election victory with people who helped him get there.
“This is what they worked for, a lot of them,” said Sanderson, who runs a day care in Havelock. “A lot of them prayed. A lot of them worked polls. A lot of them sent money. A lot of them talked to their neighbors. Everybody here has a part in this somewhere.”
And the support was obvious from those in attendance as they stood to applaud both men when they took the oath.
Trent Woods Commissioner Bill Joiner was savoring the moment.
“I worked hard to get Norm Sanderson elected,” he said. “It’s a thrill to see them both in.”
Tom Braaten of New Bern was also in attendance.
“I know both the senator-elect and Michael Speciale,” Braaten said. “I’m here to congratulate them and wish them well and hope they serve all of us during their terms up there.”
Speciale said he has talked to many conservative legislators during the last session and received advice from Sanderson also.
“I’m thoroughly looking forward to it,” Speciale said. “And I’m a lot more prepared now than I would have been had I won the last time I ran by staying involved and more trips up to the legislature, sitting in the committee meetings — they are open to the public; most people don’t realize that, but they are — and this is where things are really done.”
Chuck Tyson, mayor of Trent Woods and chairman of the Craven County Republican Party, said Sanderson and Speciale had their work cut out for them.
“They’ve got a lot of heavy lifting to do in the next couple of years to turn things around,” Tyson said. “I know they are going to do the right thing for this state and vote their convictions.”
Forest said now the fighting begins for education, simplifying the state’s tax code and improving the economy.
Newby said he was humbled when he looked out at the people who helped him win re-election to the Supreme Court.
Speciale said he would conduct himself in Raleigh the way he expected representatives he has voted for in the past to conduct themselves.
When Speciale went to the polls, he wanted a representative to read the bills before they voted and to read the N.C. and U.S. Constitutions. He wanted honor for everyone who built the country.
Sanderson said what started his understanding of how government should work was watching his children and grandchildren growing up.
“What this country is about is the next generation,” he said.
Sanderson, who already represented Craven and Pamlico counties in the House, ran for the seat opened when Sen. Jean Preston of Carteret County decided not to seek re-election. He now adds Carteret County to his constituency.
Sanderson of Arapahoe won the seat in November over Democratic opponent Greg Muse.
Speciale of New Bern, a retired Marine, won the redistricted District 3 House seat. This marked his first successful bid for elected office. He is a former Craven County Republican Party chairman and one of the founders of Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association.