Raleigh, N.C. — Senate Democrats on Tuesday selected Wake County Sen. Dan Blue as their new caucus leader, replacing Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt.
Nesbitt stepped down after receiving an undisclosed medical diagnosis that will require him to seek treatment and cut into his time on the Senate floor.
“After a recent diagnosis, it has become clear that I will need to take some time in the coming weeks and months to focus on my health," Nesbitt said in a statement. "This year’s elections are too important to the future of our great state to not have all hands on deck. I am therefore pleased and proud that my friend, Sen. Dan Blue Jr., has agreed to lead the Democratic Caucus while I seek further medical treatment.”
Nesbitt hasn't yet decided whether he will resign his seat representing the Asheville area, caucus director Ford Porter said.
"Sen. Nesbitt felt the prudent thing to do was step down from leadership now and evaluate his options moving forward," Porter said in an email to WRAL News.
Blue praised Nesbitt's leadership and wished him a speedy recovery before sounding familiar Democratic themes that the Republican-controlled General Assembly is hurting the state's economy and schools.
“Martin has served our caucus with remarkable dedication, and his decision to step down from leadership while seeking treatment is a testament to his desire to get North Carolina back on track," Blue said in a statement. "There is no doubt that the Republican agenda has hurt education, health care and economic opportunity for middle-class families, and the incredible group of Democratic candidates who filed to run for Senate last week proves that folks are ready for a change."
Blue is in his third term in the state Senate. He previously served 26 years in the state House, including a stint as House speaker.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger set aside his differences with Nesbitt to likewise wish him a speedy recovery.
"Sen. Nesbitt and I share a deep respect for the institution of the Senate, and he can rest assured his colleagues from both sides of the aisle will stand with him as he focuses on getting well," Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a statement.