The latest departure

·4 min read

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Good morning and happy Friday.

A fourth North Carolina state lawmaker announced this week that he will not run for re-election next year. While a legislative departure always peaks my curiosity, this latest one is particularly interesting.

Sen. Ben Clark, a Democrat from Raeford, is the latest legislator to announce that he’s leaving the General Assembly. He said he’s been considering it for “some time now,” but mentioned the fact that his district will change as one factor.

“The district that I would run in is already pre-determined,” Clark told me. “There’s nothing else that can be done about that.”

Clark’s district is not exactly set-in-stone, but we’ve seen hints of what it could look like, thanks to North Carolina’s unique redistricting process.

Here, lawmakers have to first group counties together before beginning to redistrict and draw districts within those groups. There aren’t many different ways to do that.

One Republican political consulting group’s analysis shows that, based on where Clark lives, he would have to run in the same district as Republican Sen. Danny Britt, of Lumberton, which could make a win much more difficult for Clark, or any Democrat.

More shakeups are likely in the coming weeks and months as the Republican-controlled General Assembly finalizes new political maps, but Clark’s announcement is a sign that a shift is underway in Raleigh and across the state.

BIPARTISANSHIP

Clark, who has served as a lawmaker since 2013, is one of just a handful of moderate Democrats who have voted with Republicans on some issues, like this year’s Senate budget proposal or 2019’s infamous “Born Alive” abortion bill.

That means Clark has, in some ways, been an asset to Republicans since the GOP lost its supermajority in 2018. Since then, Republicans haven’t had enough votes to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes. They’ve needed Democratic support for override votes, and Clark, whose policies are often a reflection of his district, has provided that at times.

Clark has also been one of the Democrats most involved in the redistricting process in recent years, making his departure before maps are even drawn all the more notable. Clark did say he may not be completely done with politics.

“All options are on the table,” he said.

Read more about the other lawmakers departing next year, including one in a situation much like Clark’s, here.

A special Under the Dome Podcast

One more thing I’m really excited about: My coworker, Tyler Dukes, launched a special edition of our Under the Dome Podcast called Monster: Math, maps and power in North Carolina. It’s about the redistricting process in North Carolina. I know I’m going to learn a lot from it, and I bet you will too.

Listen and subscribe to wherever you get your podcasts. (Pandora, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, Megaphone.)

2022 WATCH

  • U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn endorsed Republican Bo Hines in the race for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District. Cawthorn previously endorsed Rep. Virginia Foxx in the 5th District, who would’ve been Hines’ opponent. But when U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, the current representative in the 13th District, announced he would not run for re-election and instead run for the U.S. Senate, Hines switched to that race. (Worth noting that we don’t know what any of the Congressional districts will look like yet.)

  • Former U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, endorsed Budd in the contested Republican primary U.S. Senate race. Jordan is a close ally of former President Donald Trump, who also backed Budd.

  • Rep. George Holding also endorsed Budd.

WHAT WE’RE READING

MORE STORIES FROM THE TEAM

  • With redistricting just around the corner, four lawmakers have already said they won’t run for re-election next year, I reported.

  • UNC and ECU settle with feds after allegedly falsifying volunteer hours for AmeriCorps, Kate Murphy reports.

  • North Carolina Republicans aren’t responding quite as strongly to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate. I reported the reason behind that.

  • The state’s voter ID requirement to vote is blocked, for now, Will Doran reports, with a handy guide for what’s next.

  • Gov. Roy Cooper called for an end to threats, bullying and intimidation at school board meetings and in schools over mask mandates, Josh Shaffer and Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan report.

  • Agreement reached on NC high school sports bill, GOP lawmakers and Cooper’s office say, from Avi Bajpai (We love when he covers politics for us).

  • ‘Black history is literally everywhere.’ Archaeologists search Raleigh site for clues, Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan reports.

Thanks for reading. See you next week.

— Lucille Sherman, state government reporter for The News & Observer. Email me at lsherman@newsobserver.com.

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