Under the Dome

Goolsby won’t seek re-election to Senate

One of the most visible Republican politicians in the General Assembly last year, Sen. Thom Goolsby of Wilmington, announced Friday he will not run for re-election. His term expires at the end of this year.

Also, state Sen. Michael Walters, a Democratic legislator who represents Robeson and Columbus counties, said he will not run again, either.

Goolsby shepherded the repeal of the Racial Justice Act through the legislature, promising to kick-start executions in North Carolina, and he successfully promoted legislation imposing tougher penalties for human trafficking.

Goolsby, a criminal defense attorney and sometimes firey speaker on the Senate floor, made a point to publicly criticize Attorney General Roy Cooper last year. Cooper is a presumed Democratic candidate for governor, but Goolsby once ran for attorney general and lost in the GOP primary.

That has led to speculation that Goolsby will make a run for another public office. But not so, according to the news release he sent out; at least not now.

“My wife and I are blessed with two wonderful young daughters and they need me at home more often than service in the Senate allows,” Goolsby said. “For this reason I will focus on my family and law practice and not seek-re-election this year.”

Yet ...

“I will look for other opportunities to serve in the future,” he said.

He will complete his second term in the Senate this year. He is the co-chairman of a Senate judiciary committee and an appropriations subcommittee on justice and public safety.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger released a statement in response:

“Thom Goolsby is the epitome of a public servant – a self-employed father who for the past four years has spent significant time away from his wife, young children and business to serve his state. His personal sacrifice and tireless work on issues such as justice and public safety, tax reform, and education reform have made North Carolina a far better place. The people of New Hanover County are losing one of the most effective, energetic and bold members of the state Senate, and my colleagues and I join them in wishing Sen. Goolsby well in his future endeavors.”

Several Democrats had already expressed an interest in challenging Goolsby this year.

The Democratic Party jumped on the announcement:

“Thom Goolsby represents everything that is wrong with the reckless Republican agenda, from gutting public education to his cold-hearted support of ending benefits for thousands of jobless North Carolinians. Rather than face the voters in his district, Sen. Goolsby chose to retire, instead,” said Micah Beasley, party spokesman. “It’s time to replace Sen. Goolsby with a real leader who values public education, will fight to create jobs, and get our state back on track.”

Walters was appointed by Gov. Bev Perdue in 2009 to fill a vacancy in the Senate, and he was elected twice. He said the decision not to run again was due to “personal and business reasons,” The Robesonian newspaper reported.

“I want to come back home to spend time with the family and business I love,” he said.

Walters is a small business owner.

Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt released this statement about Walters:

“Michael Walters has been a tireless advocate for his constituents and a valued member of our caucus. Nobody has done more to support small businesses, farmers, and students in North Carolina than Michael. I’m truly sorry to see him go, but wish him the very best.”