Republican Sen. Neal Hunt, a five-term state senator from Wake County and a top Senate budget writer, said Monday he won’t run for re-election in 2014, opting instead to endorse Republican Rep. Jim Fulghum in Senate District 15.
Fulghum, the freshman House member and retired neurosurgeon who had filed to run for re-election in House District 49, filed papers Monday to run for the 50-member Senate instead.
Hunt said in a phone interview Monday that he had been thinking about retiring from the Senate at the end of 2014 but wanted to find someone to endorse to take his place. When Fulghum agreed to run, Hunt, who had already filed to run for re-election, withdrew his candidacy. Hunt is in his 10th year in the Senate. Before that, he served on the Raleigh City Council and Raleigh Planning Commission.
Hunt, 71, described himself as “old and creaky,” adding that he is a proponent of term limits.
“Ten years is a long time. I just think you need some fresh blood in there occasionally. They don’t need Neal Hunt in the Senate, but they need people like Neal Hunt,” he said.
Hunt said his past three years in the Senate have been dominated by his role as a top state budget writer. He is a co-chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Last year, he sponsored legislation that would have allowed the state Department of Transportation to set speed limits up to 75 mph on some highways. The bill passed the Senate but died in the House.
Fulghum, 69, couldn’t be reached Monday. In his first year in the House, he sponsored legislation to prohibit people younger than 18 years old from using tanning beds, a bill that passed the House but stalled in the Senate.
So far, no Democrats have filed to run in District 15, which includes much of northeastern Wake County. Marjorie Fields Harris, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Democratic Party, said the party is still seeking candidates. The candidate filing period ends Friday.
Fulghum’s entry into the Senate race means House District 49 becomes an open seat. As of Monday afternoon, Republican Gary Pendleton, a former Wake County Commissioner, and Democrat Kimberly Hanchette, founder of Raleigh-based Diabetes Management Solutions, had filed to run in the district.
Hunt said in an announcement to constituents that he looks forward to spending more time with his wife, two children and his dog. He said he still plans to serve as a co-chairman of Senate Appropriations during the legislative short session, which begins in mid-May.
“I will continue to be the same conservative leader that you expect from me as I finish out this term,” Hunt wrote.