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Any kind of iron implement is at risk of rusting over time, especially if it is exposed to moisture. In the case of cast iron cookware it is possible it was not seasoned properly when it was new, was stored in a damp area, soaked in water, or it was washed with soap which is not recommended since it will remove the oil coating protecting the skillet. The good news is rust can be cleaned off. After cleaning the rust though, the pan should be seasoned to prevent this from happening again.
Go to Westbend.com and download the instructions from there. I already went and this is the direct PDF file for it: http://westbend.com/media/catalog/product/doc/microsoft_word_-_l5474-skillet_care_and_use.pdf
Apparently you're not the only person to have trouble obtaining this part. I've read that GE does not make the power cord / thermostat assembly available for purchase separately, but you could consult the GE support page to contact them directly to see if they have other options available to you.
I found a reference here on FixYa that someone else wrote about and they were provided the following number to call: 877-207-0923
This will connect you to the GE / Walmart customer service group. Apparently, you must have purchased the appliance at Walmart for this group to help you out. Of course, if you say you bought it at Walmart - and they never sold that model - you won't get any help. Apparently Walmart has a pretty liberal return / replacement policy, so it can't hurt to try.
I hope this helps and good luck. Please rate my reply, thank you.
I lost my power cord for my Electric skillet and called Wal-Mart number on the back of the skillet and they said it would be able to be exchanged for a new skillet with a cord if purchased within 2 years even without a receipt or a box :-)