RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A top leader for House Republicans said Monday he’s leaving the North Carolina General Assembly weeks before the final stretch of his re-election campaign, saying he needs to care for his aging parents and find other work to support himself financially.
House Majority Leader Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, said he was resigning effective Tuesday. Hager was facing an unaffiliated candidate — no Democratic nominee — in the strongly Republican 112th District. Leaving now should enable his party to get the name of a replacement nominee on the ballot.
“I haven’t had time to campaign. I haven’t had time to raise money,” Hager said, adding his resignation was “probably the toughest decision I’ve ever made.”
Hager said he’s stepping down mostly to focus on his parents — his father has had health challenges — and likely will move closer to their home near Lake Norman, nearly two hours away from his home in Rutherfordton. As other lawmakers have lamented, the former Duke Energy engineer also said it’s been hard to make a living while serving in the legislature, which pays a part-time salary. He said lobbying is one of the future work options he’s considering.
Republican activists in Hager’s district — covering all of Rutherford County and part of Burke County — plan to meet Wednesday to choose someone to fill out his two-year term through year’s end, as well as a nominee to replace him as a candidate. Spindale Town Councilman Ben Edwards is the unaffiliated candidate.
Hager, 53, joined the House in 2011 and moved up quickly to majority whip, then majority leader for the past two years. While a top lieutenant to House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, Hager was still considered a leader of hard-line conservatives who sometimes butted heads with Moore over fiscal issues.
Hager said he was happy to see tax credits for building solar energy projects in North Carolina get phased out last year. But his effort to freeze the percentage of energy that electric utilities must produce from renewable energy and savings has been unsuccessful.
Hager said he tried to avoid taking stands on other issues, so that the House Republican Caucus could build unity after members spoke passionately about their viewpoints.
“The diversity in our caucus is our strength,” Hager said. He said he was also pleased to see GOP legislation get passed to reduce government regulation and personal income tax rates.
“My colleagues and I owe a debt of gratitude to Mike Hager for his leadership of our caucus and for advancing the Republican agenda for the betterment of North Carolinians,” Moore said in a release.
Several veteran Republicans previously announced they would not seek re-election this fall. Retiring Rep. Rick Catlin, R-New Hanover, citing increased responsibilities at his company, also resigned from his House seat effective Monday, according to a letter he sent late last week to House leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory. Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, had been running for re-election but he resigned suddenly last month, citing family considerations. Mecklenburg Republicans also will choose his replacement Wednesday.
The legislature isn’t expected to reconvene until January, after the new 170-seat General Assembly is elected.