Rep. Jim Fulghum, ill with cancer, withdraws from NC Senate race

cjarvis@newsobserver.comJuly 3, 2014 

Representative Jim Fulghum, M.D.

— Dr. Jim Fulghum, a first-term member of the state House, has withdrawn from his campaign for a seat in the state Senate, citing ongoing treatment for cancer.

He filed a letter on Thursday afternoon with the state Board of Elections and the Wake County Board of Elections immediately withdrawing from the race. He also posted this announcement on his campaign website:

“It is with great regret that I must withdraw from my campaign for N.C. Senate District 15 due to ongoing treatment for cancer, effective immediately. So many have been so supportive as we have undertaken that effort but I have decided I must give up the campaign because I cannot give it a 100% effort. ... I will stay in the NC House as I undergo treatment. Mary Susan and I thank everyone for your continued gracious support.”

Fulghum, 70, a Republican from Raleigh, had been tapped to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Neal Hunt, another Republican from Raleigh, who has held the position for the past 10 years.

Members of the state Republican Party executive committee in Senate District 15 will select a replacement candidate. Several potential candidates have been discussed, sources say, and Hunt has said he doesn’t plan to run again.

Fulghum’s illness has been known for some time among colleagues but not discussed publicly until Thursday, when a member of the House of Representatives asked Speaker Thom Tillis on the floor if there was further word on his condition.

“He is ill and I would ask you to keep him in your prayers,” Tillis said.

Afterward, Tillis said House members were informed in a caucus meeting this week about his illness.

Hunt’s Senate seat has been considered safe for Republicans to retain. It wasn’t clear if Fulghum’s departure from the race might change that. Tom Bradshaw, a former state transportation secretary and mayor of Raleigh, is the Democrat who is running for the seat in the Nov. 4 election.

Even if that does make the race closer, Republicans still control the Senate with 33 of the 50 seats. The Wake County delegation is comprised of Hunt and Sens. Chad Barefoot of Wake Forest and Tamara Barringer of Cary, all three Republicans, and Sens. Josh Stein and Dan Blue, both Raleigh Democrats.

Republicans face a deadline to choose a substitute. State law doesn’t allow for a replacement candidate after the date that the first military and overseas absentee ballots are mailed out – which in this case is Sept. 5. Ballots for the general election are usually printed at the end of August.

Fulghum is a retired neurosurgeon who since his election in 2012 has focused primarily on health legislation. Most recently, on June 19, he spoke on the House floor on behalf of a bill he co-sponsored to allow medical use of hemp oil to treat a seizure disorder.

But he has been absent from voting over much of the past week.

Two candidates are facing off to replace him in the House: Republican Gary Pendleton and Democrat Kimberly Hanchette.

Earlier this year, Hunt told The News & Observer that he wanted to find someone he could endorse to replace him before leaving the Senate at the end of this year. He said when Fulghum agreed to run, that completed his decision.

State elections board spokesman Joshua Lawson said Thursday, “Our thoughts are with Rep. Fulghum during his ongoing treatment.”

Fulghum and his wife, Mary Susan, have two grown children, Molly and Emily. One of his daughters, Emily Fulghum Roberson, serves as his legislative assistant.

Patrick Gannon contributed to this report

Jarvis: 919-829-4576; Twitter: @CraigJ_NandO

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