Raleigh, N.C. — House Democrats are losing one of their primary advocates.
Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said Wednesday that he will leave the General Assembly at the end of this year's session to become the executive director of the North Carolina Justice Center.
"I have been given an enormous opportunity to impact even further progress on issues that have dominated my work at the General Assembly – issues of poverty, equal opportunity and social justice – and although part of my heart will always be here with the incredible friends I have made in this House, friendships that I am certain will extend the remainder of my life, my heart now calls me to a different place to work with yet another set of outstanding professionals and colleagues on these same issues," Glazier said in a statement.
The left-leaning Justice Center is an advocacy group that lobbies for quality public education for all students, greater access to affordable health care, the creation of jobs that pay a "living wage" and benefits and a state tax structure that doesn't hurt the poor and middle-class. The organization includes the Budget & Tax Center, the Health Access Coalition and NC Policy Watch, a website and blog that report and comment on public policy issues statewide.
Melinda Lawrence retired at the end of 2014 after eight years as Justice Center executive director.
"When the opportunity came to work with a lawmaker respected across ideological lines and known to be a staunch advocate for North Carolina’s working families, we were ecstatic," the center said in a statement. "Rick Glazier has proven at every stage of his life to have a passion for building a brighter future here in North Carolina."
The North Carolina Republican Party called the Justice Center "the brain, mouthpiece and echo chamber for the radical left's obstructionism and criticism of Republican policies for years."
"Now that the attorney general's ally, Rick Glazier, will run this anti-Republican 'think tank,' you can expect it to push more false talking points to try and obstruct the 'Carolina Comeback,'" GOP executive director Todd Poole said in a statement.
Glazier has long been one of the most vocal Democrats during floor debates, known for his fierce support of education, from pushing for more per-pupil spending to sponsoring a far-reaching school safety bill. A lawyer who specializes in constitutional law, he also has been an outspoken critic of Republican-penned proposals to regulate abortion and to prohibit same-sex marriage – and later, after courts overturned the state ban, to provide government workers a way out of assisting in gay weddings.
Yet, he didn't let his ideology prevent him from working with House Republicans, recently backing the so-called "ag-gag" bill that allows businesses to sue employees who conduct undercover investigations in the workplace and a measure that would prohibit cities and towns from using their zoning authority to dictate the appearance of new single-family homes.
He currently chairs the House Ethics Committee and serves as vice-chairman of the Education Appropriations and Judiciary II committees.
"Though our party affiliations do not align, Rep. Glazier is a true friend and has been an unwavering advocate for the people of North Carolina and Cumberland County," House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement. "He stood firm for his convictions, yet was a key player in bipartisan negotiations in the House, and will be missed by colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I wish him the best in all of his future endeavors.”
Glazier is in his seventh term in the House representing District 44, which includes west Fayetteville and stretches south to Hope Mills. He said he has already contacted Cumberland County Democratic Party officials to begin work on naming his successor.
"For the remainder of this session I will continue to represent the community and people that I love with all my effort and capacity. When the session ends, and I leave public office, I will do the same in my new role," he said.