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N.C. Rep. Paul Luebke dies at 70

Paul Luebke, who represented Durham’s District 30 in the N.C. House of Representatives, died from lymphoma on Saturday at 70 years old.

He was a primary sponsor of North Carolina’s 2009 Racial Justice Act, a driving force behind the elimination of the grocery sales tax and served as the chairperson of the N.C. House of Representatives finance committee.

Luebke’s name will remain on the ballot on Election Day next week, meaning that if he wins, a near-certain outcome according to N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, his vacancy will be filled by another candidate chosen by the N.C. Democratic Party.

“Basically, the way this works is there is a special committee whose job is to take applications from people who want to be interviewed after the election to fill the spot and the person they choose will be sent to the Governor, who will make that appointment,” said Insko.

Insko said there is currently no one candidate in mind to fill the seat, but all applicants will be given consideration, noting that this type of candidate search is routine.

“We have someone die in office almost every year," she said. "Replacement has always been a fair process and I have no doubt we will get him replaced quickly."

Insko said filling his seat by January will be the logical thing to do.

“But no matter who they choose, he is nearly impossible to replace," she said. "He was a mentor to me and so many others. His leadership, as well as his friendship, will be missed.”

Luebke, who served Durham in the House for 25 years, was the acting vice-chairperson of the finance committee, and served on the committees for education and the environment, among others.

“Paul was well liked by members of both parties,” said Insko, “He was an old-school liberal: he wanted to win on the issues, not by tearing down the character of his opponent — he was so caring and compassionate.”

One area of policy focus for Luebke, a professor of sociology at UNC-Greensboro, was education. Among other bills, he sponsored legislation to increase textbook funds for public schools, as well as a bill that would have provided public school teachers with an across-the-board 10-percent raise in salaries.

"Representative Luebke was a dedicated servant whose long career in education and in the General Assembly reflected his undeniable passion for serving his district and helping the people of North Carolina,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement.

North Carolina Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper also released a statement on Luebke’s passing.

“Saddened to hear of the passing of Rep. Paul Luebke, a friend and dedicated public servant,” Cooper said. “Paul never wavered from advocating for justice and fairness for the people of his district and North Carolina.”

During his tenure in the House, Luebke sponsored bills including legislation that challenged the landmark Citizens United Supreme Court decision, and focused on environmental protection and legislation that would outlaw the use of the death penalty in North Carolina.

“He was a gregarious, happy guy,” said Insko, “He was so gifted, and had such a brilliant mind. He loved people and was so passionate about equality and social justice.”

state@dailytarheel.com

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