Those people happen to be us

Published 8:08 pm Monday, January 12, 2015

Last week, Rep. Paul Tine announced he was changing his party affiliation to Unaffiliated. He’d been a lifelong Democrat and was elected twice by eastern North Carolinians in Beaufort, Dare, Hyde and Washington counties.

Two months after winning his second term, he made the switch, throwing his hat into the Republican ring: he was accepted to caucus with the Republicans shortly after the announcement was made. Republicans have welcomed “a moderate voice” amongst them.

Many Democrats, however, are fuming — and rightfully so. Tine has left behind the party that put him in the North Carolina House. What may have been a long, thought-out decision for Tine came as an abrupt about face for many of his constituents.

So, why was he elected to begin with?

As all elected officials at the state level, Tine was elected to represent eastern North Carolinians, to be a strong voice for those often not heard amongst the louder, big city voices. He was elected to be a voice for farmers, for fishermen, for teachers, for the elderly and the uninsured in this little corner of eastern North Carolina. He was elected to listen to their issues and represent their causes at the state level. He was elected to get things done.

And he has. From the first, Tine said he would work with all comers to get results for the people living in the four counties he represents. From day one, he said he would “work across the aisle,” that oft-repeated, hopeful phrase calling legislators to wade through party lines and work to do what’s best for the people of North Carolina.

But it turned out “across the aisle” was too far away. By switching party affiliation, Tine has effectively crossed a barrier and now stands firmly in the middle of the aisle — apropos considering he’s always defined himself as a moderate. To really get the work done, to have his voice heard — a voice that represents four rural, economically challenged counties — he felt he had to take that leap.

Now he’s asking everyone to take the leap with him. By planting himself smack in the middle of the aisle, blue on one side, red on the other, an unaffiliated Tine is making a statement: he doesn’t represent Democrats, nor does he represent Republicans. He neither represents a conservative agenda, nor a liberal one.

He represents people — very real people with very real issues.

Those people happen to be us.