PROCTORVILLE — State Sen. Michael Walters will not seek re-election to his District 13 seat, which encompasses Robeson and Columbus counties.
“This was a difficult decision as I have sincerely enjoyed representing the citizens of Robeson, Columbus, and Hoke counties and fighting for the legislation that is important to them,” Walters said in a statement released this morning. “I value the friendships I have made during this time, and have the greatest respect for the dreams and aspirations of my fellow citizens.”
When he finishes out the remaining year on his current two-year term, Walters, a Democrat, will have served in the Senate five years. He was appointed in 2009 by former Gov. Beverly Perdue to replace Sen. David Weinstein, who gave up his Senate seat to head the Governor’s Highway Safety Program,. Walters, the president of Claybourn Walters Logging Company, which is involved in agriculture, timber and real estate development, was then elected to two-year terms in both 2010 and 2012.
At the time of his appointment in 2009, District 13 included Robeson and Hoke counties.
Walters said this morning that his decision not to seek re-election is something he has been considering since the end of the General Assembly’s long session this past summer. He said his decision is all about “personal and business reasons.”
“I want to come back home to spend time with the family and business I love,” he said.
Walters feels one of the highlights of his years in office was being the primary sponsor of a bill protecting the private property rights of landowners. This bill, he said, protected property owners from hunters using their property without their permission.
He said he also is working on getting a bill passed that would restrict anyone from using headlights on their vehicles that do not meet standards of the Department of Transportation.
Walters also said he is proud to have been a primary sponsor of a fracking bill that would allow the state to search for natural gas and use the product as an alternative energy source.
“This will also allow us to become energy independent,” he said. “That’s very important.”
Walters said he will continue working “diligently” for the people of Robeson and Columbus counties during the remaining year of his current term.
“… I will continue to promote an agenda that is compatible with the needs of rural Southeastern North Carolina,” he said. “The needs are pressing and this is a crucial time in our state’s history.”
John McNeill, chairman of Robeson County’s Democratic Party, said that there will be “big shoes to fill ” when trying to replace Walters.
“He has done an outstanding job for the citizens of Robeson and Columbus counties, as well as the state of North Carolina,” McNeill said. ” … Michael is liked by everyone. He has the unique ability to be the easiest person to talk with. He has a folksy way, but he is as sharp as a whip, intelligent, and has insights and understanding of the process of how to get things done. These are phenomenal assets and why it is going to be hard to find someone to replace him.”
Lumberton City Councilman John Cantey, who was involved in both the senator’s campaigns in 2010and 2012, called the announcement of Walters not seeking re-election as the “saddest day in Robeson County.”
“He has been instrumental land attentive to the needs of the constituents in his district,” Cantey said.
Bo Biggs, a Lumberton businessman and longtime observer of Robeson County politics, said he was surprised by the news. He suggested that this might be an opportunity for U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, who earlier this week announced he will not seek a 10th two-year term in the House, to seek a seat in the state Senate.
“They are ideologically lined up,” Biggs said. “This is perfect if Mike (McIntyre) wants to come home and have a little slower life.”
The filing period for the May primaries begins on Feb. 10 at noon and ends Feb. 28 at noon.