State News

Basnight leaving NC Senate for health reasons

Posted January 4, 2011

— The man who's been North Carolina's most powerful state senator for the past 18 years said Tuesday that he plans to resign from the chamber, rather than remaining in the Senate for one more term as he previously announced.

Outgoing Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, told reporters that he decided Monday to leave for health reasons. His resignation is effective Jan. 25.

Basnight, 63, said he was diagnosed three years ago with a degenerative nerve disease that affects his balance and speech. Looking back, he said, he probably first started showing symptoms eight years ago.

He said he doesn't think he can be an effective member of the new Democratic minority because his condition would hinder his ability to engage in floor debates.

"I (have) to be able to debate, and my disease presents a challenge that I cannot overcome," he said. "My speech is slow and retarded. The words get jumbled up and will not flow."

His decision comes two months after the Republicans won a majority in the chamber for the first time since 1898. The GOP majority means Basnight wouldn't have kept the president pro tempore's job he's held since 1993.

Basnight, who has served in the Senate for 26 years, said earlier he would retire at the end of his term in 2012. Now, Democrats in Basnight's northeastern district will choose his successor immediately.

"It's a new day – a new leadership – and I welcome that," he said. "They do not need me. I'm the past."

Basnight resigning Basnight leaving NC Senate for health reasons

Current and former legislative colleagues were quick to praise Basnight for his commitment to higher education, the environment, health issues and economic development.

"They ought to name one of the universities after him or something because he meant that much to the university system," said state Revenue Secretary David Hoyle, a former senator from Gaston County.

Gov. Beverly Perdue, who served in the Senate and later presided over it as lieutenant governor, called Basnight "a man of principles, of dignity and with a truly generous spirit" and said she had never met anyone quite like him.

"He stood up for the people of this state – all people – regardless of money or titles. A Dare County oyster fisherman was as important to him, maybe more so, than the CEO of a Fortune 500 company," Perdue said in a statement.

Outgoing House Speaker Joe Hackney said Basnight made North Carolina a better place through his public service.

"Few people have contributed as significantly to this state as Sen. Basnight over the past two decades," Hackney, D-Orange, said in a statement.

Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, who succeeds Basnight as Senate president pro tem when the General Assembly reconvenes in three weeks, said that Basnight has smoothed the transition of power from the Democrats to the Republicans.

"The grace, respect and cooperation he and his staff have shown Republicans will be the standard by which all future transitions are measured," Berger said in a statement.

Basnight got engaged over the Christmas holiday to Sue Waters, a high school librarian in his hometown of Manteo, and he said Monday that he looks forward to a future out of politics.

"I'm just going home right where i started," he said.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • btneast Jan 5, 2011

    If the Universities want to keep raising tuition 6% or more a year, then cut them off from state support. They can compete in the market with other wonderful private Universities. obviously have not priced college tuition lately. Let's pray that the University of NC System colleges don't charge like private colleges do. My youngest is finishing at UNC-CH this year. The UNC system colleges are WAY less money than ANY private college.

  • thewayitis Jan 5, 2011

    LOL, he's leaving right before the Republicans take over. He surely does not want to participate in cooperative government.

  • redwolfone Jan 4, 2011

    "So explain how you are going to do that. What are you going to cut? Education? the University System? Public infrastructure like roads and highways? Healthcare? 30% across the board? Do tell." Scottie

    1. If the Universities want to keep raising tuition 6% or more a year, then cut them off from state support. They can compete in the market with other wonderful private Universities. We pay our taxes to support these, but its never enough.

    2. If the 15 cent a gallon tax was not raided, we would have good roads, so get rid of the DOT and make it nothing more than a planning and oversight unit that will hold contractors responsible for junk work, like the I40 fiasco that occurred a few years ago sticking the tax payer with millions in repairs. They are supposed to do this, but can't, thus wasting millions every year.

    3. State employee structure must be examined and duplication eliminated and consolidated. Also, eliminate all duplications of state agencies.

    4. ABC board gone, nuf

  • colleenjanel Jan 4, 2011

    There are some vile, cold, heartless human beings on this board. A man is suffering a debilitating disease. If he were to pass away tomorrow, would you dance on his grave too?? Have some compassion.

  • vernonhill Jan 4, 2011

    Certainly after 19 years his ego had nothing to do with him resigning. 19 years is why term limits are needed..........

  • Scottie Jan 4, 2011

    notstupid: Mr. Fetzer, bless his heart, stepped away to set up his own lobbying firm. Call it a spade. Mr. Fetzer is going looking for pork from the guys he helped elect.

  • blackdog Jan 4, 2011

    NC is one of 7 states with a Moody's rating of AAA.

  • notstupid Jan 4, 2011

    Another crook will be gone from N.C. government!!!! YAHOOOOO!!
    Reading previous comments.... yes, this may be an excuse to get out before the investigation gets ugly, while he is still in office. But, It will still get ugly.
    Unfortunately, like Easley, it will just be a slap on the wrist.
    "Good ol'boys" ya-know.
    Drag him thru the mud anyway.....
    I wish Tom Fetzer wasnt stepping away... he wasnt afraid to call a spade a spade...

  • the people Jan 4, 2011

    Repubs time to get some pork!!!!

  • the people Jan 4, 2011

    Cut waste; cut out Crony spots in Raleigh NC..... Limit time in Office now this helps balance Budget it don't take a panel to fix government ,just VOTES for real people not FAKErs !!!! No more pork for porkers on public till !!!!!!