That's the question in the minds of many observers of environmental policy-making this week, as a wave of the greenest legislators in North Carolina decline to stand for re-election in the face of radically re-engineered district lines.
The latest worrisome retirement announcement came last week from former House Speaker Joe Hackney, long considered the leading environmental champion in the N.C. General Assembly. Redistricting had gerrymandered Hackney into a "double-bunking" of incumbents with fellow legislator Rep. Verla Insko (D-Orange).
The newly reconfigured House District 54, Hackney's old district, is likely to see a Democratic primary this May. Likely candidates include Jeff Starkweather of Pittsboro, a longtime citizen activist in Chatham County; and Deb McManus of Siler City, a member of the Chatham County Board of Education. Also rumored to be considering the contest is Sen. Bob Atwater (D-Chatham), another victim of redistricting in his state senate district.
Late and uncertain retirement announcements sparked in part by the redistricting, combined with the decision of other legislators to bid for higher office, are opening an unusual number of spots to new faces. The time for potential candidates to make up their minds is closing fast, however. The filing period for state offices opens at noon Monday, February 13, and will close at noon Wednesday, February 29.
On the Congressional level, U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC11) has announced that he will not seek re-election. Shuler's mountain district had been made more Republican through redistricting, but he was still considered by many observers to be a strong candidate for re-election. Although considered a relatively conservative Democrat, Shuler enjoyed a 75 percent positive rating by the national League of Conservation Voters for the most recently scored term. Shuler was well known in his first term in Congress for helping to close the door on the long-lived "Road to Nowhere" project proposal, which would have cut a swath of severe damage through the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He also stood against substantial pressure to vote for the House bill to adopt a climate change action plan in 2009.
In statewide races, the field for governor continued to develop. In addition to previously announced candidates, incumbent Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and N.C. Rep. Bill Faison (D-Orange), former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge has declared his candidacy for governor. U.S. Representatives Brad Miller (D-NC13) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC7) have said they are still considering the race, as is former State Treasurer Richard Moore. One big name ruled out a candidacy, former Clinton White House budget advisor and UNC system president Erskine Bowles.
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