Musical chairs at the General Assembly as some retire, some run for other seats

General Assembly - Raleigh - May 2020
N.C. General Assembly as seen from the grounds of the Capitol building. (A.P. Dillon, North State Journal)

RALEIGH — Over the past two months, multiple members of the General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegation have announced either retirement or that they are running for a different elected office. 

On Dec. 6, Sen. Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston), the first female state Senate majority leader, said in a statement that she would be retiring. The statement was not clear whether or not she plans to continue through the end of her current term. 

“I’m immensely proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish over nearly 12 years in the Senate. It’s been an honor to serve the people of Gaston County,” Harrington said. “Looking back at my tenure I can say for a fact that I’ve accomplished all my goals and worked tirelessly on behalf of my constituents. North Carolina is in a vastly different position than it was when I first took office. We have lower taxes, balanced budgets, and working families can send their children to schools that best fit their educational needs. With that in mind, I felt like it was the right time to retire.” 

Harrington endorsed longtime Republican activist Brad Overcash as her replacement. 

Eight-term state House Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret) also announced she will not seek reelection in 2022. McElraft, who will turn 75 heading into the 2022 election cycle, first assumed office in 2007 and has easily won reelection every cycle since. She replaced Rep. Jean Preston in 2006, who at the time ran for the state Senate. 

Celeste Cairns, a first-time candidate from Emerald Isle, will be seeking the Republican nomination to replace McElraft. 

Some of the top Democratic fundraisers in the North Carolina House of Representatives departing including Buncombe County Democrats Reps. Susan Fisher and Brian Turner.  

Additionally, state Reps. Verla Insko (D-Orange) and Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus) announced their retirements,  

State Reps. Charles Graham (D-Robeson) and James Gailliard (D-Nash) both depart the legislature with the intent to run for Congress. 

Another Republican, Randolph County state Rep. Allen McNeill, will not run for re-election. 

State Rep. Rachel Hunt (D-Mecklenburg), daughter of former Gov. Jim Hunt, announced her intent to run for state Sen. Jeff Jackson’s seat, which spans part of southeastern Mecklenburg County. Jackson is one of several candidates who was seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2022 U.S. Senate race. Jackson, however, ended his campaign for the Senate seat, which could change Hunt’s plans.  

State Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Orange) will be attempting to secure state Sen. Valerie Foushee’s district, which after redistricting now includes all of Orange, Caswell and Person counties, as Foushee seeks a seat in the U.S. Congress. The newly drawn state Senate District 23 has also attracted Jamie DeMent Holcomb, a former restaurant owner and cookbook author from Hillsborough, as well as Orange County Commissioner Renée Price. 

Meyer’s attempt to move to the Senate has drawn Hillsborough Town Commissioner Matt Hughes as a candidate for the Orange County House seat.   

In the N.C. Senate, Sen. Ben Clark (D-Cumberland) will not be seeking another term and later announced he will be running for the redrawn Fourth Congressional District seat.  

U.S. Congressman David Price, an Orange County Democrat who has served the Triangle area since 1997, announced on Oct. 18 that he will not seek re-election in 2024. In addition to Foushee, current state Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) has also said he will run for the seat.  

Nickel has already run into some controversy over a false claim he made regarding his experience as a “former prosecutor” on both his campaign website and his law firm’s website.  

FOX News reported they obtained records showing Nickel only served as a prosecutor for 25 days in 2006. According to FOX News, “Those references were quietly deleted from Nickel’s law firm website and campaign website after this article was published.” 

In November, Democratic U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC-01) also announced his retirement. State Rep. James Gailliard (D-Nash) has said he will run for the seat, and state Sen. Don Davis (D-Greene) has already filed the paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to do the same. Former state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Northampton) issued a statement that she is ending her bid for U.S. Senate in order to run for Butterfield’s seat. 

About A.P. Dillon 565 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_