House Democrats to lose 15th incumbent ahead of 2022 midterms with latest retirement

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Democratic Congressman G.K. Butterfield will retire from his North Carolina district, according to two sources with knowledge of his plans. 

He is the 15th House Democrat to either announce retirement or a run for another office this cycle. It also comes after a gerrymandered map passed by Republican state legislators in North Carolina turned his district into one that leans Democratic by just one point. 

He’s also the second Democratic Congressman from North Carolina to retire: David Price, who represents the “Triangle” area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, announced in October he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2022.

Butterfield, who has represented northeastern North Carolina in Congress since 2004, won his most recent election in his current district by 9 points after winning by close to 40 points in 2018. His office had not yet responded for comment.

Google 4 NMAAHC
 Representative G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) attends Google 4 NMAAHC celebrating the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on September 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for Google)

Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for Google


The new Congressional map in North Carolina could create 11 Republican and 3 Democratic seats, despite about 30,000 more Democrats voting in House races in 2020 and former President Trump winning the state by less than 2 points. It also cracks up the district of freshman Democrat Kathy Manning, which includes the Democratic-leaning city of Greensboro, and connects them to more solidly Republican rural areas. 

The map also decreased the percentage of African-American eligible voters in Butterfield’s seat, taking away its status as one of two majority-minority House districts.

The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, as well as plaintiffs supported by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, have filed lawsuits in North Carolina alleging racial and partisan gerrymandering.

“The Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly has once again deliberately silenced large numbers of voters to create politically and racially imbalanced maps that provide a baked-in advantage for Republicans,” Butterfield wrote in a statement with the North Carolina Congressional delegation. “The proposed maps cannot stand, and the voters must have a speedy resolution to this clear injustice.” 

The past configuration of North Carolina’s Congressional lines, which was tweaked throughout the decade due to numerous lawsuits, was an eight  Republican, five Democratic seat split.

Butterfield currently serves as chair on the House Subcommittee for Elections, as well as a member of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce. He is close friends with House Whip Jim Clyburn and serves as one of two Senior Chief Deputy Whips.

He was chair of the Congressional Black Caucus from 2015 to 2017 and served as a state Supreme Court judge in North Carolina from 2001 to 2002. 

On Tuesday, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California also announced she wouldn’t be running in 2022. House Republican campaign groups jumped on both retirements, suggesting Democrats are heading out before they lose their seat or have to serve in the minority.

“House Democrats’ retirement crisis is quickly becoming a five alarm emergency,” said Calvin Moore, communications director of the Congressional Leadership Fund.

So far this cycle, 10 House Republicans have announced their retirement or run for another office. Ohio Congressman Steve Stivers resigned earlier this year to lead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

By this point in the 2020 House cycle, 17 House Republicans announced their retirement, three resigned and three had announced runs for a different office. 

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