Rep. Grier Martin said today he won't run against fellow Democrat Deb Ross in a May primary. The two were drawn into the same district in the new GOP-drawn redistricting plan, a plan Martin called "abusive."
Martin said GOP mapmakers "have hit a new low" by targeting women Democrats for elimination. "They've tried to make me part of that plan by doublebunking me with my good friend Deborah Ross," Martin said. "But I am not going to play along with that game, and so I've decided not to run for a fifth term in the House."
The new House 34 is one of the most oddly shaped districts in the state, stretching up like crab claws into North Raleigh. Martin's house is near the center. At its southernmost point, the district boundary carves out a pendant and splits a precinct to pull in Ross's house.
"I'm mad. I'm not going to be a tool to what they're trying to do here," Martin added. "They wanted to take out an effective female legislator, and I am not going to be an instrument of that kind of abuse."
"We think, Representative Martin and I, that we've been targeted, so that the legislature will lose young, effective, energetic members from the Democratic party, and we think it's sad." Ross said.
"We've done a lot for this community, and we're good friends," Ross continued. "And it was intentional to try to pit us against each other, and it was intentional to take advantage of the voters by splitting them in these bizarre ways to create this district."
Martin contrasted the GOP maps with the Democrat-drawn voting plan for Pender and New Hanover counties he helped draw two years ago. He said it would have been simple for him to have double-bunked veteran Republican Reps. Carolyn Justice and Danny McComas "with the slip of a pen."
"We chose not to," he said. "We chose to move beyond that game because we recognized that that sort of thing is a disservice to their constituents and to the state as a whole."
"That's the direction we need to go in. Instead, they've gone not just back to the bad old days, they've gone far beyond it."
Questioned about how the decision came about, Ross and Martin, longtime friends, called it a "collaborative effort." They said they had been in constant contact about it.
Both Ross, in her fifth term, and Martin, in his fourth, said they'd been approached by party leaders about higher office. Martin had been rumored to be weighing a run for governor or lieutenant governor. But he decided against a statewide race this year. "It takes a considerable amount of effort, time away from your family, that I'm not willing to do at this moment."
"Sometimes you get a chance to take a break and recharge your batteries and move things in another direction. Politics is a tough business," he added.