Why is Rand stepping down?

RALEIGH "It just seemed like a good time for new challenges and new things," he told ABC 11.

Rand made the announcement late Wednesday and was already out of town Thursday. In a phone interview from an Atlanta airport, Rand himself danced around what was better: guiding state politics or the parole board?

"I'm sure there are lot of opinions about that. It's different," he said.

Some have asked if Rand is spooked by growing scandal. Rumors have swirled around Rand's close ties to Mike Easley, the former Governor now under more than one criminal investigation. Like Easley's son, Rand also drove a free vehicle from a rural car dealer where Rand serves on the board of directors. Some think Rand might leave elective office to make himself less of a target.

But experts question that.

"If there was something like that, he wouldn't go to the Paroles Commission. He would be more likely to disappear," offered Democratic consultant Gary Pearce.

Pearce says it's more likely Rand may see tough times for Democrats ahead. Marc Basnight, Rand's Senate partner in power, suffers a slowly progressing neurological ailment. There are growing questions if Basnight will run again.

Others say younger more liberal Democrats are tired of Rand's hard-line enforcer role.

"Politicians are like packs of lions. And there is always a hungry young lion that wants to kill the leader and be the leader of the pack," said Pearce.

Rand denies any worries of Easley probes or next year's elections.

"The political mood will change 150 times between now and next November. So nobody knows," he said.

But with Rand gone from the senate, the mood, for Democrats, will not likely be easier.

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