WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Rep. Mike McIntyre is retiring after nearly two decades in the US House of Representatives.
He said he made the decision after talking with his family during the holidays.
"We had thought about it off and on, and you always do. I mean every two years you have to gear up and prepare for a new election, and we've done that over and over and over nine times now," McIntyre told WWAY during a phone interview this afternoon from Washington. "But we just felt that we were ready, like I said, for a new chapter. Of course, sure, the landscape has changed, and there's a lot of polarization and unfortunately vindictiveness. We saw that with redistricting last time."
McIntyre had been a huge target of the Republican Party in recent years. The GOP frequently tried to align the Blue Dog Democrat with liberal House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and President Obama. McIntyre, though, maintained that he was a centrist not beholden to party lines.
In 2012, Democratic and Republican groups pumped millions of dollars into North Carolina to buy ad time in McIntyre's race against David Rouzer. The former state senator lost by just a few hundred votes to the then eight-time incumbent in the redrawn 7th Congressional District. Legislative Republicans, having regained control of the legislature for the first time in more than a century just in time to control legislative redistricting redrew the 7th District to stretch it north to Rouzer's Johnston County home while moving the district's western boundary to leave out McIntyre's home in Lumberton. McIntyre decided to run for the seat again anyway and won for a ninth time.
It's been an honor to serve Eastern NC in Congress. Today I’m announcing my retirement at the end of this term: http://t.co/Brd9ktLdGi
— Rep. Mike McIntyre (@RepMikeMcIntyre) January 8, 2014
McIntyre said he is not running from a tough fight and that his decision had nothing to do with pressure from party leaders or the people who control money in Washington.
The move leaves New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield as the only Democrat who has declared his intentions for running for McIntyre's seat.
Rouzer also plans another run for the seat.
"I have genuine respect and appreciation for the work Congressman Mike McIntyre and his staff have done to help countless individuals across Southeastern North Carolina," Rouzer said in a statement this afternoon. "After falling just a handful of votes short in 2012, it is with great optimism that my supporters and I continue our mission to bring conservative leadership to Southeastern North Carolina."
New Hanover County Commission Chair Woody White said he will run against Rouzer in the Republican primary for the seat McIntyre has held since 1997. White had planned to officially announce his candidacy Monday, but went ahead after McIntyre announced his retirement.
The candidate filing period in North Carolina runs Feb. 10-28.
After his narrow victory two years ago, it was clear McIntyre would face another tough fight for his seat this year.
McIntyre once told WWAY he had been motivated to serve in office since visiting Washington as a young man and attending one of the House hearings on Watergate. Seeing the effects scandal was having on Washington, McIntyre said he believed he could serve the public the right way. He said today he believes he's done that. He also said he will leave Washington without regret.
"There's always challenges and always things that may have come out different than you thought, but we're very pleased with how well things went and how the record that we were able to accomplish and the difference that it's made in so many people's lives," McIntyre said.
McIntyre's departure from office could mean the district, anchored by Wilmington, would have a Port City resident as its representative for the first time since Alton Lennon stepped down in 1973 after 16 years in office.