North Carolina Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield officially announced his retirement Thursday, blasting his state’s Republican lawmakers for approving a “partisan” and “racially gerrymandered” map of congressional districts that dramatically altered his majority-Black district.
“I’m disappointed, terribly disappointed, with the Republican-majority legislature for again gerrymandering our state’s congressional districts and putting their party’s politics over the best interests of North Carolina,” Butterfield said in a video.
News of Butterfield’s retirement had been circulating since Wednesday, and several media outlets had already reported it when Butterfield’s office distributed the video.
The slow rollout guaranteed two days of headlines focusing on the new North Carolina maps, which already face legal challenges from the NAACP and other groups. It also gave Republicans an extended period to gloat about the growing number of high-ranking House Democrats who have opted against seeking reelection in 2022, a midterm in which the party that controls the White House traditionally loses seats.
Butterfield, a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in the video that he hoped the state’s new maps would be overturned in court.
The senior chief deputy whip of the Democratic Caucus, Butterfield joins more than a dozen House Democrats who have decided this month to retire or seek a different office. Republicans need a net gain of five seats to flip the House, and some analysts have said the party could make that up through redistricting alone.
The National Republican Congressional Committee responded to Butterfield’s announcement with a tweeted picture of the handwritten note the committee said it had sent to his office, along with a tote bag and a beach towel imprinted with the NRCC logo.
“Congratulations on making the smart choice and retiring,” the letter read. “We included a few items to help you adjust to your new life as a retiree.”
The tone was not unusual for the NRCC, which has adopted a snarky style famously deployed by former President Donald Trump. But it attracted a reprimand from high-profile GOP strategist Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee spokesman. “Guys, show some class,” Heye responded in a tweet, saying it would help if the committee wants “a good reputation moving forward.”
Butterfield received praise from Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who said in a statement that they had worked together securing “key wins” for historically Black colleges and universities, infrastructure projects and economic development.
“Representative G.K. Butterfield has been a key member of the North Carolina delegation and he will be missed,” Tillis said.
In earlier elections, Butterfield’s majority-black 1st District was the most Democratic in the state, with two-thirds of its voters registered as Democrats. Before last year, he had won every election by double digits since he was first elected in a 2004 special election.
The state redrew its district lines before the 2020 elections after a court ruled that Republicans in the state legislature had gerrymandered the previous map. In November, Butterfield beat Republican Sandy Smith by just 8 points, the same margin by which President Joe Biden carried the district.
The map adopted earlier this month by the GOP-controlled legislature virtually erased the Democrats’ partisan advantage, taking it to a single percentage point in what would become the 2nd District, according to an analysis by fivehthirtyeight.com.
Democrat Kathy Manning’s district, which would become the 11th, was also reconfigured to become a Republican bastion rather than solidly Democratic.
“While I am hopeful that the courts will ultimately overturn this partisan map and see that a fair map is enacted, I have made the difficult decision that … it is time for me to retire and allow the torch to be passed to someone who shares the values of the district and can continue the work,” Butterfield said.