RALEIGH — Several North Carolina state lawmakers and two longtime congressional lawmakers have announced their retirement ahead of the 2022 election cycle.
Those in the North Carolina House of Representatives who are leaving include state Reps. Charles Graham (D-Robeson), Verla Insko (D-Orange), Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus), and James Gailliard (D-Nash).
Graham, who served for six terms, departs his seat at the legislature in order to run for Congress. Graham is a Lumbee Native American, and his first campaign ad detailing his county’s stand against the KKK has gone viral.
Prior to serving in the legislature, Graham was a special-needs teacher. According to his campaign site, Graham is the “owner of a companion home-health company.”
On Sept. 15, Insko announced on the floor of the House that she will be retiring at the conclusion of her current term. Insko, 85, has been considered a progressive leader at the legislature over the course of her 12 terms spanning 24 years. She was first elected in 1997.
During her tenure at the General Assembly, Insko’s work included health care policy, in particular, mental health issues and Medicaid Expansion. She also was active in policy, promoted additional education spending related to the long-ongoing Leandro case and was a proponent of the controversial Common Core Standards.
After five and a half terms in the House, Pittman has said he will not seek re-election in 2022. Pittman was appointed to the District 82 seat in October of 2011 and was subsequently re-elected in 2012. During redistricting in 2018, his seat became District 83.
“I want to thank everyone who has supported me in this office. It has been my privilege to serve the people of my district and of this great state, and I will continue to do all I can to take care of constituent needs, protect our citizens’ rights, and uphold our State and US Constitutions during these two years,” Pittman said.
During his tenure, the staunch conservative and pastor has been known as a constitutionalist and a constant protector of the Second Amendment, as well as a school-choice proponent.
In a Facebook post, Pittman threw his support behind Robert M. Freeman, who has filed to run for Pittman’s seat. Others running include North Carolina Federation of Young Republicans Chair Catherine Whiteford and Holly Grimsley, a Cabarrus County school board member.
Gailliard, who has won several close races in his Nash County district, is joining the Democratic field in the 2nd Congressional district following the retirement of G.K. Butterfield.
In the North Carolina Senate, Sen. Ben Clark (D-Cumberland) will not be seeking another term at the conclusion of his fifth. He was first elected to the seat in 2013.
In a statement issued on Twitter, Clark said serving Cumberland and Hoke County citizens was the “blessing and honor of his life.” He also stated his focus through the end of his current term will be on the state budget as well as drawing congressional and legislative district maps.
Following the publishing of new district voting maps, Clark has said he is exploring a run for the new Fourth Congressional district seat covering Cumberland, Harnett, Johnston, Sampson and Wayne counties.
Prior to serving at the General Assembly, Clark was an assistant professor of aerospace studies at North Carolina A&T State University and served in the United States Air Force for 20 years.
Both Clark and Graham have drawn fire from their party for voting with the Republican majority on topics such as abortion, the state budget and education-related bills.
Buck Newton, the former state senator for Wilson County is eyeing a return to the legislature. Newton is likely considering the newly drawn Senate district spanning Greene, Wayne and Wilson counties, which is currently held by Democrat Toby Fitch.
On the federal level, U.S. Rep. David Price (D-NC4) announced on Oct. 18 that he will not seek re-election in 2024.
Price was first elected in 1986 and served for four terms before losing his seat in the 1994 midterm elections. He took back the seat in 1996 and has held it ever since. Price has been a fixture on the House Appropriations Committee and is one of the longest-serving members of Congress.
Within 24 hours, state lawmaker Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) had already thrown his hat into the ring for Price’s seat. Nickel, an attorney, opened a federal campaign account long before the state was certain to even add a new seat following the 2020 census. His departure from the General Assembly opened a state Senate seat in Democratic-leaning Wake County.
Nickel will have to contend with a fellow senator as Orange County lawmaker Valerie Foushee announced she would run for the renumbered seat.
Most recently, 74-year-old Democratic U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield announced his retirement, blasting the new maps on his way out the door.
Butterfield won a special election to replace Congressman Frank Balance in 2004, following Balance’s resignation during a corruption investigation.
In an Associated Press report, Butterfield said he would only run under a “fair map.”
“While I am hopeful that the courts will ultimately overturn this partisan map and see that a fair map is enacted, I have made the difficult decision that I will not seek reelection to the United States House of Representatives,” Butterfield said in a video announcement. “It is time for me to retire and allow the torch to be passed to someone who shares the values of the district and can continue the work I have labored so hard for the past 18 years.”