Congressman G.K. Butterfield won't seek re-election in 2022

WASHINGTON (WTVD) -- Congressman G.K. Butterfield, who has served in Congress since 2004, announced in a video Thursday that he will not seek re-election in 2022.

Butterfield, one of two Black representatives in the state's Congressional delegation, has won nine straight elections dating to 2004, often by wide margins in heavy minority and Democratic-leaning districts. However, newly drawn maps mean his seat will likely be far more competitive.

"The map that was recently enacted by the Legislature is a partisan map. It's racially gerrymandered. It will disadvantage African-American communities all across the first Congressional district," Butterfield said in his video.

The maps, which are being challenged in court, also include a 14th district, which the state received following recent Census results. Less than two weeks ago, Butterfield shared plans to run once again for his seat.

His announcement confirmed a report Wednesday by ABC11.

"It's a more competitive district. It adds counties he's never had to campaign in. Just the nature of campaigning probably made his calculation a little easier to retire," said Meredith College Political Science Professor Dr. David McLennan, who also serves as Director of the Meredith Poll.

Butterfield defeated Republican Sandy Smith in 2020 by more than 8 points, though the Cook Political Voting Index labels the newly drawn district as only a slight lean for Democrats.

"We're talking 10 districts clearly favor Republicans, three favor Democrats, and this one district can go either way," McLennan said of the newly drawn maps.

His retirement announcement comes exactly a month after colleague Rep. David Price's own retirement announcement; Price has represented the 4th District since 1997, as well as from 1987 - 1995. Replacing two influential and high-powered members of Congress presents a challenge for Democrats.

"Experience is hard to make up for because No. 1, they know the district and that's key. But also once you get into office, you can't replace seniority when it comes to committee memberships," said McLennan.
Analysts said they believe Price's seat will likely remain a hold for Democrats.

Wednesday night, ABC11's Jonah Kaplan reported that according to multiple sources, Democratic Senate candidate Erica Smith is "seriously considering" dropping out of the Senate race to run for Butterfield's seat, though no decision has been announced at this time.

While there will be plenty of discussion about potential candidates for Butterfield's seat, Raleigh-Apex NAACP President Gerald Givens Jr. expressed gratitude to Butterfield for his time in office.

"It's a bittersweet moment for us. I'm very happy for the Congressman because he's been in service to North Carolina especially to eastern North Carolina for such a great long time, and so it's a well-deserved time. But then it's a little bit bitter because right now we're fighting for so many different issues," said Givens Jr.

In a statement on Butterfield's retirement, Price wrote:

"G. K. Butterfield and I have been friends and political comrades-in-arms since we worked together on the 1984 campaign for the North Carolina Democratic Party. I receive news of his retirement with mixed emotions, but with wholehearted respect and gratitude for his years of distinguished service on the bench and, for the last sixteen years, as a colleague in the U.S. House of Representatives. G. K. is a visionary leader, a master of the art of politics, and a valued friend, and I wish him and Sylvia the best in the next chapter of their lives."
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