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Out with old, in with the new lawmakers
Remap, retirements will change General Assembly
Published Wednesday, October 3, 2012 2:56 pm
by Herbert L. White

Joel Ford will be part of the new guard among North Carolina lawmakers in 2013.

N.C. Senate candidate Joel Ford hugs daughter Trinity upon his victory in the May primary. With a district drawn for favor Democrats, Ford is virtually assured the seat against Republican opponent Richard Rivette.

Ford, a Democrat, will succeed incumbent state Sen. Charlie Dannelly in a district that all but decided its outcome in the May primary.
Ford, 42, chair of the Charlotte Housing Authority and a former Mecklenburg County Democratic Party chairman, faces Richard Rivette next month.

Of the 170 lawmakers in the 2011-12 General Assembly, 49 won’t be back next year. The majority – 26 – are Republicans. Three incumbents won’t return because they lost to another incumbent in the primaries. Combined with 46 freshmen from the 2011 session, more than half of the 2013 General Assembly will be made up of first- and second-term lawmakers.

“With this much turnover, a combined 481 years of institutional memory and policy expertise will be lost,” said Ran Coble, executive director of the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research. “On the other hand, there will be room for lots of new ideas.”

The record for legislative turnover was set in the mid-1970s as the Republican Party emerged as a political force followed by backlash to the Watergate scandal. In 1975, 70 newcomers were sworn in, breaking the standard set two years earlier.

Change affected the Mecklenburg County delegation when Dannelly, 87, stepped aside after 20 years to care for his ailing wife and Rep. Ric Killian quit to run a losing campaign for Congress.

In addition to legislators who quit to run for higher office or new jobs as lobbyists and state government, redistricting forced major changes. The maps drawn by the GOP-dominated General Assembly created 10 Senate races and 28 House campaigns between incumbents.

For all the inexperience heading to Raleigh, there’ll be little competition in gerrymandered districts.

Among the 170 legislative districts, 34 incumbents are running unopposed in the primary as well as general election and another 31 faced campaigns in their party’s primary. As a result, 19 Senate seats are already determined with 12 Republicans and seven Democrats guaranteed spots.

More than a third of the House is settled with 26 Republicans and 23 Democrats clinching seats in May.


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