MONTGOMERY — A GOP candidate for statewide office said this week he was never violent toward his ex-wife and his opponent’s peddling of 32-year-old divorce records is the ugly side of politics.
“He’s trying to stir something up because he’s desperate,” Richard Pate, who goes by Rick, said Thursday about his July 17 GOP runoff opponent Gerald Dial. “He’s been mailing this out for a couple of months.”
Pate, a businessman, farmer and mayor of the town of Lowndesboro, and Dial, a long-time state senator from Lineville, are running for Alabama commissioner of agriculture and industries.
“He can speak for himself on what happened and how it happened. We just know what the court records are,” Dial said this week about Pate’s 1986 divorce.
This week, a letter was sent to the Alabama Republican Party asking it not to certify votes for Pate. No Democrat is running for commissioner, so the winner July 17 is the likely winner in the November general election.
Richard and Carolyn Pate were married in Lowndes County in 1982 and lived in Montgomery at the time of their divorce.
The June 1986 petition for divorce filed by Carolyn Pate states “the Wife avers that the Husband has committed actual violence to her person and from his manner and conduct toward her, she is reasonably convinced that he will commit further violence upon her person, intended with danger to her life and health.”
Richard Pate denied that in responding documents.
The same month, a circuit judge ordered Richard Pate be “strictly enjoined and restrained from assaulting, threatening or intimidating the Wife in any manner whatsoever.”
“I denied that then and I deny that now,” Richard Pate said about any alleged violence. He said he and his ex both said nasty things to each other during their divorce, but now exchange Christmas cards. He said in May, his ex-wife, who now lives in California, wrote a note “to whom it may concern” that said they had a good marriage until the divorce, when hurtful words were exchanged.
Dial said the judge’s order indicates there was some kind of abuse. He also said it didn’t matter the divorce was more than 30 years ago.
“If you robbed a bank a long time ago, you still robbed a bank,” Dial said.
The couple had no children and both said in court filings, which are available online through the state’s judicial record system, there had been an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.”
Richard Pate also said his wife “has committed misconduct during” the marriage. He filed for a restraining order in June 1986, asking Carolyn Pate not to remove any property or furniture from their residence and “not to interfere and/or harass him during the pendency of this cause.”
A circuit judge in Montgomery ordered both Pates not to remove any property from the house and not to “interfere with each other and/or harass each other during the pendency of this proceeding” or interfere with the other’s business or employment.
Richard Pate was running a business from the home at the time of the divorce.
Pate on Thursday said there are no public records, such as police reports, indicating any violence, and there was no restraining order language in the final divorce documents.
Richard Pate has been married to Julie Pate for 30 years. They have two grown sons.
“It’s all preposterous and it’s all politically motivated,” Julie Pate said Thursday. “He’s probably the least-angry person I know. My boys probably can’t name five times that he actually punished them.”
Pate received 40 percent of the vote in June’s four-candidate GOP primary. Dial received 30 percent.
This week, Ken Burroughs, of Ashland, asked via written letter that the Alabama Republican Party refuse to certify any votes for Pate.
Campaign finance records show Burroughs worked on Dial’s 2014 campaign, but Burroughs on Thursday said he isn’t currently working for Dial and didn’t send the letter at Dial’s request. Burroughs said he’s worked on several Republicans campaigns in his life.
“If you’re going to run for something, you have to make sure you’ve got a clean slate, in my book,” he said.
Katie Lansford, spokeswoman for the Alabama Republicans, Thursday said the party generally doesn’t discuss internal matters.
In May, the organization said it would not certify the votes for Jim Bonner, who was running for the utility-regulating Public Service Commission, because he’d made comments on social media and radio that could be offensive to women, blacks, Jews and Muslims.
Pate has been mayor of Lowndesboro since 1997, according to his campaign website. He said in 36 years of business, he has never been sued by an employee, customer or vendor.
He’s vice-chairman of the Lowndes County Republican Party and on the ALGOP Executive Committee.
Dial, who has been a state lawmaker for 44 years and had a 37-year military career, has spent about $328,000 on this race and Pate about $262,000, according to campaign finance information available Thursday through the Alabama Secretary of State.