Local News

Former N.C. Agriculture Commissioner's Daughter Will Not Seek Post

Posted July 25, 2003 11:15 a.m. EDT

— Alice Graham Underhill of New Bern has announced Friday she will not be a candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

"Over the past few days I have decided that my family responsibilities will not allow me to run for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This has been a very difficult decision," Underhill said.

"As I've explored a possible candidacy, the support and encouragement I've received from leaders across North Carolina have been enormous. I will never forget it.

"During my service in the North Carolina House of Representatives, living in my District and working part time in Raleigh, I was able to fulfill my responsibilities to both my family and my constituents. Since I began exploring the Commissioner's race over the Memorial Day weekend, it has become clear to me that to campaign and then to serve effectively would require essentially that I work full time based in Raleigh. At this time in my family's life, I've decided that's a commitment I cannot responsibly make," said Underhill.

"North Carolina needs the strongest possible Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. I hope our Party makes sure we elect such a Commissioner.

"I will continue to serve my community and our state in the months and years ahead. I want to thank my supporters for giving me the privilege of working with them," Underhill said.

She said she also wanted to spend more time with her 82-year-old father, who has had health problems since retiring in 2000.

During his five decades in office, Jim Graham was one of the most popular politicians in the state, particularly among the farmers his department served. His straw hats, half-smoked cigars and low grumble of a voice made him a recognizable figure across North Carolina.

Since he retired, the agriculture department has been in turmoil. His successor, Meg Scott Phipps, resigned in June and faces perjury and other state charges related to illegal campaign fund-raising. Three of her former aides have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that include extortion.

Gov. Mike Easley has named longtime department employee Britt Cobb as interim commissioner.

Republican Steve Troxler, who lost to Phipps in the 2000 election, is to make an announcement Saturday on a possible campaign bid.