RALEIGH, N.C. — An eastern North Carolina senator won’t seek re-election next year, after proposed legislative boundaries drawn by fellow Republicans put him in a Democratic-leaning district with a Democratic incumbent.
Sen. Bill Cook announced his decision Tuesday, the day after the full Senate approved its remapping. The plan would no longer put Cook’s Beaufort County in the same district with the Outer Banks. Instead, Beaufort County would be joined with five inland counties, and Cook would reside in the same proposed 3rd District as Democratic Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram of Northampton County.
Cook, 72, said in a release that he wants to spend more time with grandchildren and the recent redistricting made him “reevaluate my commitment to my family.”
“As much as I love the folks of eastern North Carolina, I love my family more,” Cook said.
Cook was one of three Senate Republicans to vote against the chamber’s redistricting plan Monday. He lamented during the floor debate about Beaufort County, which borders the Pamlico Sound, being decoupled from the Outer Banks and joining a region with fewer common interests.
“This conservative-leaning county will be drowned in a sea of liberalism,” Cook said, adding it will cause Beaufort County “to wander in a political desert for years.”
Republican mapmakers said they had little wiggle room in how they created the new 3rd District because of legal precedents in state court designed to minimize the number of districts that cross county lines.
New House and Senate plans are expected to receive final legislative approval later this week. A panel of federal judges will then review the maps in light of their ruling last year striking down nearly 30 districts where they said race was relied upon too heavily. It’s possible the maps could be redrawn again, although the groupings of the counties aren’t likely to be altered.
Cook was initially elected to the House in 2010 and won his current Senate seat in 2012 by defeating Democratic Sen. Stan White by a mere 21 votes.
In his retirement release, Cook highlighted Republican legislation he’s supported on tax reductions and teacher pay, as well as his efforts to promote aquaculture and to help fishermen. Cook “has advanced important priorities for the people of his district,” Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said in Cook’s release.
GOP Sen. Chad Barefoot of Wake County also said earlier this month he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2018. The announcement came about an hour before the public release of a preliminary Senate map putting him in the same district with Sen. John Alexander, another Wake County Republican. Barefoot cited responsibilities at home with young children for his departure.
This story has been corrected to show that Sen. Bill Cook defeated Sen. Stan White by 21 votes, not 19.