“We have the most to gain if we participate and the most to lose if we don’t.”
Despite “Supermajority” By GOP, Sen. Lowe
Optimistic Heading in Midterm Elections
By Richard L. Williams
About two years ago, freshman North Carolina Sen. Paul A. Lowe Jr. says he was heartbroken to learn of the travails of a young Winston-Salem State University student who was in dire need of a kidney transplant.
The 23-year-old student, he says, had been robbed of living the normal life of a college coed because a failed kidney early on meant years of dialysis treatments. Lowe, who represents Forsyth County’s 32nd District, which includes Winston-Salem State, became involved when local hospitals cited issues associated with the student’s Medicaid paperwork as reasons for not performing the transplant.
The young lady, who shall remain nameless because of privacy issues, was having a difficult time before Lowe intervened.
“She was a student at WSSU, had been on dialysis most of her life, both of her parents were deceased, and she needed a kidney transplant,” Lowe says. “But because she was having problems with Medicaid, they wouldn’t give her a transplant. We were able to help her by getting in touch with Medicaid and working out whatever problems there were so she could undergo the surgery.
“To be a part of helping that young lady navigate through what she was going through and help her get that kidney transplant and to be able to go into that hospital room and know that she can now live a normal quality of life … that was a very important moment for me,” Lowe says. “That wasn’t a Senate bill, but it was one of the most important things that I have been able to participate in during my term in the North Carolina General Assembly.”
extension of ministry
Lowe’s story could easily have been told from the perspective of a church minister instead of a state senator. He joined the General Assembly in 2015 after being voted in by the Forsyth County Democratic Party to complete the term of Sen. Earline Parmon, who resigned to become an assistant to newly elected U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC).
As a longtime church pastor, Lowe has experienced his share of crisis interventions.
“The funny thing about Jesus is most of His healing took place outside of the synagogue,” Lowe says. “Our work is not done behind stained glass, but is conducted in the marketplace. As a pastor, people call upon me about a lot of different things – problems in the judicial system, problems buying food, problems paying rent. I see (Legislature) as an extension of ministry.”
He says it is important for African Americans to be involved in every phase of the political process since decisions are constantly being made that impact their lives. That, he says, is one of the reasons he stepped up to replace Parmon.
“I wanted to be able to sit at the table and try to make a difference,” Lowe says. “I have been involved in social justice causes for years, as early as college. At a certain point after you support people for so long that run for office, you begin to feel in your gut that you want to get more involved in helping your community and helping people in a larger context.”
Lowe, 59 and a Seattle native, was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 and 2012, and he and wife LaGail attended a White House dinner hosted by President Barack Obama in 2012.
“What I try to do when I sit at the table of the General Assembly is make decisions that make our community better,” he says. “As African Americans, we have the most to gain if we participate and the most to lose if we don’t.”
Lowe says he is pleased with last month’s ruling by a three-judge federal court that called the redistricting by the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly an intentional and partisan gerrymander “planned and executed to entrench Republican control.”
The ruling has an impact on districts in eight counties, including Senate and House districts in Guilford County. The challengers’ argument was that some of the 2017 districts were shaped to weaken the influence of African American voters.
“The courts spoke against much of this gerrymandering and it puts us in a position of having something that is fairer,” Lowe says. “A lot of districts were racially motivated in terms of how they were drawn, but it doesn’t negate the fact that we have to go to the polls in our local, state and federal elections – not just when it’s a presidential race.”
The court held that North Carolina Rep. David Lewis, architect of redistricting in the House, “acknowledged freely” that he sought to produce a potent political gerrymander. The court said Lewis proposed to “give partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and 3 Democrats because he didn’t believe it possible to draw a map for 11 Republicans and 2 Democrats.”
‘voice for the voiceless’
Lowe says it’s a challenge to govern in Raleigh when one political party has a “supermajority”, as Republicans currently control the House and the Senate.
“In some instances, because you’re part of the minority party, you have to make a bad bill better,” he says. “But even when you’re not the majority party, you still play a role by being a voice for the voiceless. There are people now trying to turn back the hands of time of what we’ve done.
“I was scolded by a colleague who told me I should not support a minimum-wage bill,” Lowe adds. “I told him that I know lots of people where a minimum-wage job is the only job that they’re going to get, and they have to be able to support their family just like anyone else.”
The mood in Raleigh among Democrats, however, is one of optimism heading into this year’s midterm elections, he says.
“Right now, there is optimism because we are pretty confident we’re going pick up some seats,” he says.
Lowe serves on several legislative committees including health care and transportation. Within his first few days as a member of the General Assembly, he introduced bills to revive tax credits, including historic preservation and film production, as well as numerous pieces of legislation to show that North Carolina is open for business and job creation.
He also has served on numerous commissions for the city of Winston-Salem and the state of North Carolina.
LEADER OF HISTORIC CHURCH
In January 1992, Lowe became the tenth pastor of historic Shiloh Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. He is a former pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Essex County, Va.
Lowe has served as an adjunct professor at Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, and is a denominational leader and member of the General Baptist Convention of North Carolina and the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. He is past moderator, or president, of the Rowan Baptist Association of North Carolina, is actively involved with the Minister’s Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, and the Missionary and Education Union of Forsyth County. He also is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and is a 33rd degree Mason.
Lowe received a Bachelor of Arts from Bishop College in Dallas, Tex., a Master of Divinity from the Samuel D. Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Va., and he earned a Doctor of Ministry from Drew University School of Theology in Madison, N.J. He also completed studies at Christ Church College at Oxford University in Oxford, England.
Lowe is married to the former LaGail Crews, a retired master sergeant of the U.S. Air Force.