Robeson County suffered a one-two punch last week with the announcements, both of which were unexpected, that Mike McIntyre will not seek a 10th term as the U.S. House representative for the 7th District, and Michael Walters will not seek re-election for the District 13 seat in the state Senate.
We will hold most of our applause for when they actually leave office, but today we will go a few steps down that road by saying McIntyre and Walters have been strong and effective advocates for their native county, although as moderate Democrats, an endangered species, they have in recent years been swimming in shark-filled waters.
Both McIntyre and Walters cited personal reasons for their decisions to retire from their respective political offices, which only ensures conjecture.
McIntyre, who was raising money for re-election in late December, would have faced a difficult campaign. After enjoying a series of landslide victories following his initial election in 1996, he won close races in 2010 and again in 2012, when his margin of victory, about 600 votes, was the closest of any congressional race in the country.
Had he run this year, he would have almost certainly faced a rematch with state Sen. David Rouzer. Rouzer would have enjoyed plenty of resources from the National Republican Party, which has targeted the 7th District seat in an effort to pad the GOP’s majority in the U.S. House.
McIntyre, we believe, was probably also pushed toward leaving Congress by the redrawing of congressional districts, which robbed him of plenty of votes in his home county, but also limited his ability to work on behalf of Robeson County, which we believe led him to Washington, D.C., in the first place.
There are plenty of rumblings that McIntyre’s political days are not numbered, and that he is considering a run for the governor’s office or perhaps the U.S. Senate.
Walters’ decision might have been more surprising as he would have been a strong favorite to win re-election for a third time after being appointed in 2009 to fill the remainder of former Sen. David Weinstein’s term. Unlike with McIntyre, it is easy to believe that Walters is exiting politics for good in favor of spending more time with his family and his business.
The bigger loss for Robeson, with all due respect to Walters, is McIntyre. Whoever replaces Walters will be working on behalf of Robeson County, all of which is in the 13th District. With McIntyre’s departure, it could be a long time or never again until a U.S. congressman has such a keen interest in working on behalf of this county.
Each has a year remaining on his term and more work to do. When the time comes they will be missed aplenty and, depending on who replaces them, perhaps even more so.