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Ballance Resigns From House, Effective Friday

Freshman Rep. Frank Ballance (D-N.C.) tendered his resignation from Congress today, citing ongoing health problems. The 62-year-old lawmaker, who will leave the House on Friday, had already announced he would not seek re-election in November.

In a short statement, Ballance said his declining health makes it impossible for him to continue to serve.

“I made this decision because I am no longer able to carry out the responsibilities of this office due to my current health condition,” Ballance said. “It has indeed been an honor for me to represent the constituents of the First Congressional District of North Carolina.”

His office delivered a letter informing Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) of his resignation today.

The decision comes just one month after Ballance withdrew his candidacy having previously filed to run for re-election.

At the time, he said he had been diagnosed in early February with myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease. He said he began to reconsider his re-election plans after suffering a setback that required him to seek treatment at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

He had recently been hospitalized again in North Carolina and missed votes in the House last week. He was resting at his home in the district Tuesday.

Ballance spent much of his time in Congress under the shadow of an ethics cloud. Since November 2003, a federal grand jury and the FBI have been probing a nonprofit substance-abuse prevention program run by a foundation Ballance founded and once chaired.

Democratic sources indicated that North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley (D) is likely to call a special election to fill the vacancy in the 1st district, a solidly Democratic seat that spans much of northeastern North Carolina.

The sources said Easley is currently looking at the possibility of holding the special on July 20 or Aug. 17, the dates of the state’s primary and runoff elections, respectively.

If a special election were called, the Democratic and Republican parties in the 1st district could each nominate one candidate for the race. Otherwise, the seat would remain vacant until the November general election.

Former state Supreme Court Justice G.K. Butterfield (D) leads the field of candidates vying to succeed Ballance in November.

Other Democrats running are college professor Christine Fitch, businessman Sam Davis and attorney Darryl Smith.

Republicans are not expected to contest the majority-black seat.

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