As the UNC system faces pervasive state budget cuts and tough choices to compensate for the loss, one of its allies in the legislature has announced the end of his political career.
N.C. House Minority Leader Joe Hackney, D-Orange, said in a statement Thursday morning he would not run for re-election.
“Joe has always been a tireless supporter of the University and his retirement leaves a big hole that will be hard to fill,” said Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the UNC- system Board of Governors.
Hackney is one of the last prominent University supporters to leave the N.C. General Assembly.
Former Sen. Marc Basnight, once the UNC system’s key supporter in the state legislature, resigned in January 2011, only two years after another ally, former Sen. Tony Rand, resigned.
Gage said their years of experience had helped them to understand the role and the challenges of a public university.
“Joe respected that role, and that doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.
Hackney affirmed his commitment to finishing his term, which ends this year.
“At the end of this term, I look forward to a more predictable schedule for my family, my law practice, my family farm and for the recreational activities I’ve been missing,” he wrote in a statement published on his Facebook page.
But after 32 years of serving in the legislature, including stints as majority leader and speaker, as well as president of the National Council of State Legislatures, Hackney’s decision also seems to reflect the state’s shift of power to the right.
Hackney’s announcement came just a week after Gov. Bev Perdue, another Democrat, announced she wouldn’t run for re-election.
“Joe Hackney never wavered from the principles that brought him to public service: to better North Carolina and its people by providing them a stronger education system and a government that truly serves the people instead of just the privileged,” Perdue said in a statement about his retirement.
Perdue was trailing Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory in the polls before she quit the race. And Hackney — like many other Democrats in the General Assembly — was affected by the redistricting maps drawn by Republicans last session.
Hackney called the divisions “partisan” and “race-based” before the courts approved the maps. He represents the 54th district, but the new map combines it with the 56th district — which is represented by another Democrat, Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange.
The two would have faced each other in the next election.
Despite his retirement, Hackney said in his statement he would continue to work for the Democratic Party.
“I will continue to assist our candidates’ campaigns and will actively raise money for them, as I have in the past,” he said.
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