RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) – United States Representative GK Butterfield announced Thursday that he won’t seek re-election, another blow to Democrats looking to retain a House majority next year and win what is expected to be North Carolina’s closest congressional race.
Butterfield, 74, former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, has represented several rural counties in northeastern North Carolina since 2004, often winning by comfortable margins. But the state’s Republican redistribution puts him in a haphazard district with a smaller share of black voters who were more likely to revolve around his campaign.
Congressional boundaries could still be overturned by the courts, as Democrats and voting rights groups argue Republicans created racial gerrymanders and drew lines for purely partisan purposes. Butterfield told The Associated Press this month he would be running under a “fair card.”
“While I hope the courts will eventually overturn this partisan card and see that a fair card is passed, I have made the difficult decision not to represent myself in the United States House of Representatives,” Butterfield said. in a video. “It’s time for me to retire and let the torch pass to someone who shares the values of the neighborhood and who can continue the work I have worked so hard for the past 18 years. “
Butterfield becomes the second Democrat from North Carolina not to be reelected to the United States House. Representative David Price, who represents many communities in the Triangle region, announced last month that he would not be standing for re-election., weeks before the map drawn by Republicans held him back in one of the state’s safest Democratic neighborhoods.
Possible candidates to replace Butterfield include U.S. Senate candidate Erica Smith, a Democrat and former state senator who previously represented several counties in the Butterfield District. Smith made an unsuccessful 2020 candidacy for the US Senate. She pursues the post again, but struggled to gain momentum.
Morris Katz, campaign manager for Smith, said the candidate is seriously considering running for the Butterfield seat. The submission of applications for the March 8 primary begins in less than three weeks.
Pitt County Republican Sandy Smith, who has received support from allies of former President Donald Trump, including lawyer Jenna Ellis and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, is seeking the GOP nomination. She lost to Butterfield in the 2020 general election by 8 percentage points, or about 29,000 votes. But while those district boundaries slightly favored Democrats last year, the new lines make the seat very competitive, according to analyzes from outside groups.
Butterfield grew up in Wilson, the eastern North Carolina town that was once home to one of the busiest tobacco auction markets in the world. In 1988 he was elected a trial judge. Then-Gov. Mike Easley appointed Butterfield to a state Supreme Court seat in 2001, but then lost his candidacy for a full eight-year term.
He joined the United States House in July 2004 after winning a special election. As a state’s first-year lawmaker with one of the nation’s largest military presences, he joined the House Armed Services Committee. In that role, he visited the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base prison in Cuba and said he believed many of the accusations of abuse against suspected terrorists were false.
In Congress, he lobbied for affordable health care, support for rural communities and tighter environmental protections.
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Anderson is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.