House Minority Leader Joe Hackney announced today he will not seek re-election in 2012.
The Chapel Hill attorney is one of the state's longest-serving lawmakers. During his 16 terms in the House, he served as speaker pro tem, majority leader, and was House speaker for two terms before becoming minority leader after the GOP takeover in 2010. He was also president of the National Conference of State Legislatures in 2008.
In his statement this morning, Hackney thanked the voters of his district, his family and his staff.
"I enjoyed all of it immensely, and gave it my all. I think I made a contribution," he said. "At the end of this term, I look forward to a more predictable schedule for my family, my law practice, my family farm, and for the recreational activities I've been missing.
"I will serve out the remainder of my term with enthusiasm. As minority leader, I will work actively this year for a Democratic majority and a new Democratic speaker for the N.C. House in 2013. I will continue to assist our candidates' campaigns and will actively raise money for them, as I have in the past," he pledged.
State Democratic Party Chairman David Parker called Hackney a "principled leader (and) an outstanding lawmaker."
"He will be sorely missed," Parker said.
Under the new GOP-penned redistricting maps, Hackney was drawn into the same district as fellow Chapel Hill Democrat Verla Insko.
Gov. Beverly Perdue praised Hackney's devotion to the state and its residents.
"Joe Hackney never wavered from the principles that brought him to public service – to better North Carolina and its people by providing them a stronger education system and a government that truly serves the people instead of just the privileged," Perdue said in a statement. "Joe always stood firm on the foundation of what he believed, regardless of popular opinion. He fought relentlessly to keep our government more transparent and to protect our environment for future generations."
House Speaker Thom Tillis, who often sparred with Hackney during last year's legislative session, thanked him for his service.
"Speaker Hackney is a true public servant and has led a distinguished career in the legislature," Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said in a statement. "While we disagree on many policy issues, his respect for the traditions and integrity of the House has had a significant impact on my first year as speaker."
Noting that he and Hackney started their legislative careers in 1981, Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt praised Hackney for his honesty, drive and leadership.
"His leadership will be sorely missed in North Carolina. I was pleased to learn, though, that he will continue to serve and provide the leadership they need at this very important time," Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, said in a statement. "I look forward to working with him for the remainder of the year to regain control of the House and the Senate."