Politics & Government

Patel goes his own way, even to the Caribbean

Rajive Patel isn’t a conventional campaigner.

He doesn’t raise money. He shuns endorsements. He skips many forums.

“I’m going to stay with my campaign,” he says. “Everybody can get on my website and see what I’ve done.”

Patel, 66, is going his own way as he runs for Congress in the 12th District.

He’s a former mayor of East Spencer and the only one of seven Democrats who chose not to run in the special election for the seat vacated by Democratic Rep. Mel Watt. He’s running only in the regularly scheduled election.

While most candidates will appear on the May 6 primary ballot twice, Patel’s name will only appear once. If he goes on to win the general election, he would succeed whoever takes office after winning the special election.

He says he’s relying on fellow veterans and other supporters to get the word out on the campaign. He doesn’t worry about money or endorsements.

“I don’t stand with people in power to get noticed,” he says. “Powerful people stand with me.”

The veteran

In 1968, Patel went to Vietnam with an Army airborne brigade. He’s a disabled veteran and has made help for fellow vets a top priority.

This month, at a Guilford County forum sponsored by disabled veterans, he said he’s the candidate who best understands veterans.

“I don’t want to hear no more pretty words, I want some action,” he said at the forum. “I’m mad. … What I need is someone in Washington that can feel my pain and know what my family has been through. I want someone who will defend me and fight for me with passion.”

The mayor

In 1997, Patel was elected mayor of East Spencer, an economically disadvantaged town in Rowan County. In his only term, he takes credit for bringing economic development to town.

While in office, he made trade visits to the Caribbean. On a visit to Trinidad and Tobago, he met with the acting prime minister and other officials about business deals, including the export of asphalt to North Carolina.

Patel lost a re-election bid two years later, finishing a distant third in a five-way race.

Records show he formed a company called Par Marketing in 2001. The company was administratively dissolved in 2005 for failing to file an annual report.

The awards

Prominent on Patel’s website and Facebook page are two awards.

In 1998, he and his wife were named “Parents of the Year” in North Carolina. Then-Gov. Jim Hunt presented the plaque.

Two years later Patel was honored at a Capitol Hill dinner with an American Century Award for public service, presented by the Washington Times Foundation.

The program featured remarks by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, former Secretary of State Al Haig and Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church. Among the people photographed congratulating Patel were Watt and two other North Carolina congressmen.