Under the Dome

Western NC House member, possum drop supporter won’t run again

State Rep. Roger West, a Republican who represents the four most western counties in the state, announced this week that he won’t seek reelection.

West has been in office since 1999 and said Tuesday that he’s ready to give up the 350-mile commute to the General Assembly.

“I’ve just gotten too old,” he said. “I’ll be 68 when this term ends, and it’s time to step aside. After awhile, it’s gotten to be a chore for me to get back and forth to Raleigh every week.”

West’s district includes Cherokee, Clay, Graham and Macon counties. He’s perhaps best known in the rest of the state as the sponsor of legislation aimed at keeping Clay County’s odd New Year’s Eve possum drop tradition.

Animal rights groups have sued over the event, arguing that lowering an animal in a cage in front of a cheering crowd is abusive. West disagreed and filed a series of bills with titles like “The Opossum Right-to-Work Act.”

Inside his district, though, West says he’s proud his friendships with major politicians in Raleigh have helped draw attention to North Carolina’s western corner.

“Sen. (Thom) Tillis has been a great friend as far as the mountains goes,” West said. “He was very much interested in things we did out there, and that was a plus for us.”

West joins seven other members of the House Republican caucus who won’t seek reelection next year.

Within hours of West’s announcement, Macon County Board of Commissioners Chairman Kevin Corbin announced that he’ll seek the seat. Corbin, a Republican, owns an insurance agency and performs in a gospel music group.