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Butterfield Sworn in to Fill Out Ballance’s Term

Former state Supreme Court Justice George Kenneth Butterfield (D) was elected to the House from eastern North Carolina’s 1st district in a special election Tuesday.

Butterfield’s win marks the third straight victory for Democrats in special elections this year — though the first two were in competitive districts. Butterfield won in a Democratic stronghold.

Long active in North Carolina politics, Butterfield was first elected to the Superior Court of North Carolina in November 1988 and served there for the next 12 years.

He was appointed to the state Supreme Court by Gov. Mike Easley (D) in 2001, but was defeated in the general election in his bid to retain the seat in 2002. Later that year, Easley appointed Butterfield a special Superior Court judge.

He retired from judicial life in May, after then-Rep. Frank Ballance (D-N.C.) announced that he would leave Congress after serving just one term for health reasons.

That same month, Butterfield entered the Democratic primary race to succeed Ballance. But weeks later, Ballance announced that he would leave Congress in June, and Butterfield tossed his hat into the special election, gaining the Democratic nomination in a vote of local party leaders.

Simultaneously running in both the Democratic primary and the special election on Tuesday, Butterfield handily defeated three opponents in the primary and GOP candidate Greg Dority in the special election. He faces a rematch with Dority in November.

Butterfield was sworn into office on Wednesday in a ceremony attended by fellow Members of Congress in Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office.

A lifelong resident of the district, Butterfield sees his priorities as strengthening the economy of rural areas in North Carolina and reversing the flow of jobs leaving the country. He is also critical of the No Child Left Behind Act, telling a local newspaper that while it is a program with “potential,” the underlying problem of poorly funded schools has not yet been solved.

While Butterfield’s committee assignments have not been announced, sources said he was likely to finish the term filling Ballance’s slots on the Agriculture and Small Business committees. Unlike the victors in the previous two special elections, Reps. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) and Stephanie Herseth (D-S.D.), Butterfield is heavily favored in November and does not need strategic committee assignments to help his re-election effort.