Several influential members announce retirements in 2019

Christine T. Nguyen | The North State Journal
Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) discusses the Senate’s budget proposal during session at the General Assembly on Thursday

RALEIGH — As 2019 ends, amid changes to voting maps, several members of the General Assembly have announced either their retirement or candidacy for a new office.

State Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) surprised many when he announced that after eight terms, he will not seek re-election in 2020. Brown was first elected in 2004, has been the lead budget writer in the Senate for the last five years and currently serves as majority leader for the Senate Republicans.

“After nearly 16 years in the Senate, I feel like it’s the appropriate time to focus on my family and businesses,” said Brown. “When I was first elected, I ran on three things: do something for career and technical education, tax policy, and term limits.”

Brown’s district includes multiple military bases, which he often sponsored legislation to protect while maintaining North Carolina’s status as one of the most military-friendly states in the nation.

Other notable departures include Sen. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance), a pro-business, regulatory reforming and tax-cutting senator. Gunn was well-known for championing the “brunch bill,” allowing restaurants to serve alcohol after 10 a.m. on Sundays.

“Serving the people of Alamance and Guilford counties has been a tremendous honor, but it’s time for me to focus more on my family and my business,” said Gunn. “I’m so grateful for my constituents and my colleagues and I’m proud of all we accomplished together in 10 years.”

Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, who championed environmental causes and steered fiscal policy, is also retiring.

“Serving in the North Carolina House of Representatives has been one of the greatest honors of my life; my gratitude to the people of Henderson County for providing me with that opportunity goes beyond measure,” McGrady said in a statement.

McGrady, who has served since 2010, has been well-known for his tenacity on alcohol reform bills and privatization of liquor sales, currently controlled by the state. He was also instrumental in redistricting debates, having introduced legislation for independent redistricting during all but one of his five terms.

Multiple General Assembly Democrats have decided to run in the race for lieutenant governor, including Sen. Terry Van Duyn and Reps. Chaz Beasley and Yvonne Lewis Holley.

The lone House Republican in Wake County, John Alexander, announced he will not seek reelection in 2020, as did Reps. Michele Presnell (R-Haywood) and Debra Conrad (R-Forsyth).

Rep. Maryann Black (D-Durham) will also not seek reelection. Black was picked in 2017 to fill Larry Hall’s seat when he was appointed veterans’ affairs secretary.

One of the most conservative members of the House is also retiring. Rep. Michael Speciale (R-Craven) announced on Constitution Day that he will not seek another term. He was first elected in 2013.

Four House members resigned this year: Ken Goodman (D- Stanly), Cody Henson (R-Henderson), Rena Turner (R-Iredell), and Greg Murphy (R-Pitt). Murphy resigned to run for the 3rd District U.S. congressional seat, which he won in a special election.