RELICH, North Carolina (AP) – U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election, another blow to Democrats seeking to maintain a majority in the House of Representatives next year and win what is expected to be North Carolina’s next congressional race.
The 74-year-old Butterfield, former head of the US Congress Blacks, has represented several rural counties in northeastern North Carolina since 2004, often winning by an acceptable margin. But the state’s Republican redistribution of constituencies places him in a constituency with fewer black voters who are more likely to be drawn to his campaign.
Congressional boundaries may still be lifted in court, as Democrats and voting rights groups argue that Republicans created racial gentlemen and drew the line solely for party gain. Butterfield told The Associated Press this month that he would work on a “fair card.”
“While I hope the courts eventually turn over this guerrilla card and see the fair card accepted, I made the difficult decision that I will not seek re-election to the United States House of Representatives,” Butterfield said in the video. “It’s time for me to retire and hand over the baton to someone who shares the values of the district and can continue the work that I’ve worked so hard for the past 18 years.”
Butterfield becomes the second North Carolina Democrat not to be re-elected to the US House of Representatives. Rep. David Price, who represents many of the communities in the Triangle, announced last month that he would not seek re-election, weeks before a Republican map placed him in one of the state’s safest democratic districts. In a statement Thursday, Price called Butterfield “a visionary leader, a master of political art and a valued friend.”
Butterfield is a 15th House Democrat who said they will not seek re-election in 2022. The accumulation of pensions is an ominous sign for Democrats, highlighting the reality that the winning party in the White House usually loses its seats in Congress in the next midterm elections. More members are expected to leave as they grapple with the reality that they may be outnumbered.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Butterfield a “respected and effective leader and a” lifelong civil rights activist … “spearheading initiatives to create jobs and tackle poverty in black communities and driving progress in our own institution, including enacting removal legislation statues of those who fought in the Confederation from the halls of the US Capitol. ”
Alex Nolly, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said Butterfield’s decision proves once again that next year “the red tide is coming to North Carolina.”
Potential candidates to replace Butterfield include US Senate candidate Erica Smith, a Democrat and former state senator who previously represented several counties in Butterfield County. Smith made an unsuccessful bid to join the U.S. Senate in 2020. She pursues the position again but struggles to gain momentum. Smith said Butterfield is leaving Democrats “a bigger role in Congress.”
Morris Katz, Smith’s campaign manager, noted that Smith is seriously considering running for Butterfield’s seat. Candidates for the March 8 primaries begin in less than three weeks.
State Senator Don Davis, a Democrat representing Pitt and Green Counties, also expressed his interest in running, noting in a press release shortly after Butterfield’s retirement that he would reveal more about his future plans “in due time.”
Pitt County Republican Sandy Smith, backed by former President Donald Trump’s allies, including attorney Jenna Ellis and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, is pushing for the GOP nomination. She lost to Butterfield in the 2020 general election by 8 percentage points, or about 29,000 votes. But while these parish boundaries were slightly favored by Democrats last year, outside group studies show that the new lines make places highly competitive.
Butterfield grew up in Wilson, a city in eastern North Carolina that was once home to one of the world’s busiest tobacco auction markets. In 1988 he was elected judge of first instance. Then the Governor. Mike Easley appointed Butterfield to the State Supreme Court in 2001, but he later lost his bid for a full eight-year term.
He joined the US House of Representatives in July 2004 after winning a snap election. As a rookie deputy from the state with one of the heaviest military personnel in the country, he joined the House Armed Services Committee. In this role, he visited the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba and said that he believed many of the allegations of ill-treatment of suspected terrorists were false.
In Congress, Butterfield pushed for affordable health care, supporting rural communities, and strengthening environmental protection.
“I am proud of my work in Congress on behalf of my constituents, and I know that my life’s work to fight for greater justice and equality will not stop even after the 117th Congress closes,” Butterfield said.
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Anderson is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that sends journalists to local newsrooms to cover hidden issues.